Winter driving can produce some rather severe demands on an automobile. Cold temperatures, rain, fog and snow all make driving more of a challenge than during the warm and sunny months. Breakdowns or accidents can be harrowing when the weather is nice. During a raging snowstorm they can turn deadly.
In order to minimize your chances of having that harrowing experience follow these simple guidelines.
Look at your tires. Tires are the only part of your vehicle that connect you to the road. A blowout or a bald tire can cause your car to lose traction, and control of steering and braking.
Check the overall condition of your tires. If there are any tears or rips on the side have them checked. Look at the tread depth. It should be even across the tire, and have more than 3/32" of tread depth (the distance between the edge of a quarter and the top of Washington's head). If you have any concerns, have them checked at a repair shop or tire dealer.
Have your brakes checked. Any problem with your braking system is magnified in wet or icy weather. Noises, pulling to one side when you stop, or a mushy brake pedal can be indicators of a serious problem. Many repair facilities do complimentary brake inspections. If you're not sure of the last time the brakes were checked, take advantage of the offer.
Make sure your battery is up to the task. Batteries tend to fail during changes in outside temperatures, such as autumn to winter. With all the complex electronic equipment on today's cars batteries are taxed more than ever. If your battery is over three years old it's primed for failure. Most auto parts stores will test your battery and provide you with a printout of the results.
Check your lights. Replace burned-out bulbs. Look for cracked housings that can allow water to leak into the light assembly. If your headlight lenses are pitted or hazed over get an estimate on having them polished. Dim headlights can dramatically reduce your ability to see in rainy conditions.
Replace your windshield wipers. Install a new set of inserts each year before rainy season. Make sure your washers work and the washer nozzles are correctly aimed. Have the washer reservoir filled with an alcohol based cleaning solution that will not freeze.
Repair your climate control system. You can't drive safely if you're shivering. Test your heater out before it gets so cold that you need it. Tend to your air conditioning system as well. Air conditioning de-humidifies air and is how your defroster clears the windows. Your radiator and cooling system provide heat for the interior, so have the belts and hoses checked as well.
These six items are no substitute for common sense driving. But if you follow these guidelines you will have a better chance of avoiding problems that can leave you stranded, or worse.