Winterize Your Car

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Knoxville (WVLT) - Here in East Tennessee we've really been able to enjoy some really warm temperatures, but we all know that's changing as we speak.

You might be getting ready, but how ready is your car?

You know, you make sure you've got a coat on when you go outside.

Those in the automotive business say winterizing your car is very important because that's the coat that protects your car in cold weather.

John Higdon winterizes his 1999 Ford F-150 religiously.

"Yeah, I do it every year. Because I've got 140,000 miles on this truck," Higdon says.

But Fisher Tire owners say there are many vehicles on the road not winterized each year.

"Really, probably close to fifty percent," says Ray Fisher.

Not winterizing your vehicle can be a recipe for disaster.

Fisher says it's important to have all of your fluids checked, especially the anti freeze. Antifreeze he says not only keeps your coolant from freezing but also has lubricants in it. Over time antifreeze begins to be a danger to your car.

"It wears down over a period of time and that will cause, you know, swelling in the seals of the water pump, water pump go out," Fisher explains.

The days of multiple belts on vehicles is pretty much over and now just one is used. So keeping an eye on it is especially important.

"Now they are all serpentine belts. If your rubber belt breaks you're stranded on the side of the road," Fisher says.

And then there are radiator hoses. Fisher says they need to be checked for swelling and dry rot, because if you don't, something very inexpensive can lead to engine damage.

"The minute all the flow of antifreeze stops there's potential for extreme expenses there," adds Fisher.

And that's advice John Higdon has always applied to his truck. "Yeah, I want to drive it for a while. I want to put a 100,000 miles on it."

But driving correctly is equally as important in wintry weather.

A couple of tips from triple a include making sure your vehicle is ready but you also are prepared in case something happens so make sure your cell phone batter is charged.

Also, leave plenty of room between you and other vehicles. And finally, watch out for obstacles.

Bottom line when driving, officials say patience and common sense are your friends.

AAA recommends the following winter driving tips:

  • Avoid driving while you're fatigued. Getting the proper amount of rest before taking on winter weather tasks reduces driving risks.
  • Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  • Make certain your tires are properly inflated.
  • Never mix radial tires with other tire types.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
  • If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).
  • Always look and steer where you want to go.
  • Use your seat belt every time you get into your vehicle.

    Tips for long-distance winter trips:

  • Watch weather reports prior to a long-distance drive or before driving in isolated areas. Delay trips when especially bad weather is expected. If you must leave, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
  • Always make sure your vehicle is in peak operating condition by having it inspected by a Auto Repair facility.
  • Keep at least half a tank of gasoline in your vehicle at all times.
  • Pack a cellular telephone with your important phone numbers, plus blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication in your vehicle.
  • If you become snow-bound, stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Don't try to walk in a severe storm. It's easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
  • Don't over exert yourself if you try to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe isn't clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
  • Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps.
  • If possible run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.

    Tips for driving in the snow:

  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Appling the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for retraining traction and avoiding skids. Don't try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning - nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
  • The normal dry pavement following distance of two to three seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety in front will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don't stop if you can avoid it. There's a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until the light changes, do it.
  • Don't power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill as slowly as possible.
  • Don't stop going up a hill. There's nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
  • Stay home. If you really don't have to go out, don't. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don't tempt fate: If you don't have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.
    (source: AAA)