The Winter Driving Hazard Most Drivers Don’t Think About

Driving during the winter months can be downright stressful. In our last post, we looked at preventable problems associated with cold weather driving, but, no matter how prepared you may be, slick roads are potentially dangerous for everyone. While road salt provides an effective way to deal with ice on the roads, it also creates an additional winter driving hazard that most people do not even think about.

icy-roads

Road salt exposure throughout the winter season has a punishing effect on the metal components of your vehicle. Most auto designs have an exposed underbody, which means the majority of salt damage occurs underneath the car, where it goes visually undetected. Rust on essential parts of your car can leave you with huge problems ranging from brake system leaks to frame damage. Rubber tires are mostly resistant to salt damage, however, your metal wheels are highly vulnerable to salt damage.

Vehicle manufacturers understand this winter driving issue, so the coatings and paint finishes used in today’s automotive manufacturing do a much better job of providing protection against salt damage. Also working to our advantage is the fact that corrosion and rust do not happen quickly. This means that you have time to undo salt damage potential with regular car washes.

Car Wash

It does not take long for salt and dirty snow to make your car virtually unrecognizable. But washing your vehicle when it’s just going to get dirty again the second you hit the road probably seems like a waste of time and money. On the contrary, regular washes are definitely worth the investment because they are the best way to remove the road salt that is a serious corrosion hazard. 

How frequently should you wash your vehicle? That depends on how much salt and road sludge it is exposed to on a regular basis. If you have really expensive wheels, consider swapping them out during the winter season, since salt is particularly hard on chrome. For extra protection, make it part of your fall routine to wax your vehicle. Waxing in the fall will help make your winter washes more effective.

3 Cold Weather Car Problems You Can Prevent

Depending on where you live, you may be one of the many who must face the potential dangers of driving through winter snow, ice, and sleet. Unfortunately there is not much you can do about winter weather driving, other than proceeding very cautiously and giving yourself extra time to get where you need to go. There are, however some cold weather driving problems that you can take charge of, to protect yourself and your vehicle.

Winter Driving

Cold temperatures can make your vehicle vulnerable to issues beyond what you may encounter on the roadways.The following are three cold weather car problems and how you can prevent them from leaving you stranded:

Problem: Lost Tire Pressure

Tires typically lose 1 pound per square inch (psi) for every 10 degrees of temperature drop.  Under inflated tires do not perform well, plus the tire pressure loss can eventually result in a flat tire. 

Prevention: Be sure to check inflation more frequently as the air gets colder.

Problem: Weak or Dead Batteries

Extremely low temperatures strain your car battery because the chemical reactions needed to make it work happen more slowly. If you already have an old battery, this can cause it to fail even more quickly. 

Prevention: Have the battery tested. Replace it if necessary.

Problem: Thickened Fluids

Freezing temperatures cause thickening of fluids your car needs to run properly, including transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, oil, and antifreeze. 

Prevention: Make sure these fluids are maintained at proper levels to avoid trouble.

Even after taking these preventive measures, always be prepared for a road emergency. During the winter months, travel with items in your trunk such as a roadside emergency kit, blankets, gloves, boots, packaged hand warmers, and a folding shovel. 

Stay warm, stay safe, and be prepared!

Snow Tires, Winter Tires, All-Season Tires. What’s the Difference?

winter roadDrivers who grew up in the North or Midwest regions of the U.S. are likely to have heard of “snow tires” and are probably familiar with the concept of making the seasonal tire swap. Today, snow tires are increasingly being referred to as “winter tires”. While conceptually the same, the term “winter tires” has become more of a general description than “snow tires”. Winter tires are engineered for all kinds of cold weather conditions, not just snow, so the term “winter tire” more accurately represents the road-gripping capabilities of these tires.

While the name may be a bit misleading, “all-season tires” are not the best choice for winter. Though they do provide good traction for mild conditions, all-season tires fail to offer the ice control, stopping power, and superior traction of winter tires.

Not sure if you need winter tires? 

Think about the weather in your region. Are winter conditions typically snowy or icy? Do you often find yourself waiting to leave until the roads in your area have been cleared? If so, then you probably do want to invest in a quality winter tire that provides superior grip when driving, stopping, and cornering. Winter tires do have the drawback of faster tread wear than all-season tires. Since the tread is designed to grip into snow and ice, and the softer rubber is formulated to stay pliable at freezing temperatures. Be sure to  change back to your all-season tires in the spring, and your winter tires should last for many seasons.

If you decide you do need to invest in winter tires, now is the time to shop for them. Retailers begin to stock the newest models of winter tires in the fall, so you will have the best selection. When shopping for winter tires, keep in mind that they have a mountain/snowflake symbol on the sidewall. It assures you they have passed industry testing for severe snow use.

If your tire retailer does not have the tires you want in the size you need in stock, you can typically order them. If you order in the fall, your retailer will most likely be able to install them, at your convenience, before the winter weather rolls in.

 

Road Salt Blues

road saltWinter road salt is critical for preventing accidents and keeping roadways safe. Salt lowers the freezing/melting point of water, making it a fast and inexpensive way to melt slippery snow and ice on the road. Unfortunately, salt is also a highly corrosive element, and its affects can be extremely damaging, leaving your car with the road salt blues.

Road salt exposure throughout the winter can wreak havoc on the metal components of your car. Most vehicles have an exposed underbody, so most salt damage occurs underneath the car, where it goes visually undetected. Rust on essential parts of your vehicle can leave you with huge problems ranging from brake system leaks to frame damage. While your rubber tires will suffer little or no damage from salt, your wheels are highly vulnerable, since the metal areas of your car are most at risk for salt damage.

Fortunately, the coatings and paint finishes used in today’s automotive manufacturing do a much better job of providing protection against salt damage. And since the process of salt leading to corrosion and rust takes awhile, you have time to undo salt damage potential.

The best way to protect your car from road salt corrosion is to take it in for regular washings during the winter months . Base the frequency of your car washings on how much salt and road sludge it is exposed to on a regular basis. If you have really expensive wheels, consider swapping them out it the winter months, since salt is particularly hard on chrome.

For further protection, make it part of your fall routine to wax your vehicle. Waxing in the fall will help make your winter washes more effective.

The Cold Facts About Tire Pressure

It is always alarming to see one of the gazillion warning lights on your dashboard illuminate. If you drive a newer vehicle that has an integrated Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) you may find you’ve been recently haunted by the light shown on the right. Seeing the TPMS light more often in winter is not uncommon, but it is also not something you should ignore.

First, it is important to understand how your TPMS works. The system use sensors technology to alert drivers when tire pressure in one of the tires goes below a predetermined level. When tire pressure in one or more of your drops, the light comes on.

Since air pressure decreases in frigid temperatures, drivers tend to see the TPMS light illuminate. According to tire experts, air pressure in a tire goes down 1-2 pounds for every 10 degrees of temperature change. While you need not necessarily be surprised if  you see the TPMS light come on during cold spells, you should be sure to manually check the air pressure of your tires.

It is very important to check the pressure of your tires when it is cold outside and to keep tires inflated to the proper levels. Reasons include:

  • Low tire pressure can make a vehicle handle poorly
  • Tires tend to wear out much faster when they are not  properly inflated
  • Under inflated tires tend to overheat, which could lead to a blowout
  • Low tire pressure reduces gas mileage and costs you money

Check the pressure of your tires monthly. In order to obtain the most accurate pressure level, wait until tires have cooled – about 30 minutes after parking.

Are You Ready for Winter Driving?

We are well into fall, and winter weather is just around the corner! Get ready for winter driving with these simple winter maintenance tips:

  • Inspect Your Tire Tread & Check Tire Pressure 
    Be sure to check your tire tread depth. Make sure you have at least 2/32″ of depth for best tire performance.  It is also important to check tire pressure. This should be done on a regular basis, but it is especially imperative to check tire pressure before winter arrives. Remember to also check your spare – you never know when you’ll need it.
  • Make Sure Your Antifreeze Tank Is Full
    It is important to maintain a full tank with a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze. Clean, quality antifreeze will deliver the winter protection your vehicle needs.
  • Test and Inspect Your Battery
    Extreme cold temperatures can degrade car batteries internally and accelerate the rate of battery terminal corrosion. This will lead to a battery that is more likely to die. Don’t risk getting stranded! Check your battery cables to make sure they are clean and firmly attached to the terminals.
  • Check Your Washer Fluid & Wipers
    We use much more washer fluid in the winter, when dirty slush and snow continually hit the windshield. Keep the washer fluid tank full. Choose a winter cleaning formula that contains sufficient antifreeze ingredients to keep it from freezing. Also, be sure that your wipers are in decent shape to do their job. The blades should make full contact with the glass to thoroughly clean it. If you live in an area with heavy snow fall, consider installing winter wiper blades that wrap the blade frame in a rubber boot to reduce ice and snow buildup, and promote good contact between the blade and the glass.

Once you have take these maintenance steps, you will be ready to face the ice and snow. Most importantly, in seriously hazardous winter driving conditions, remember to take it slowly and drive safely!