Mechanically sound

Keep your car running safe and efficiently in the winter months

photo by amy beck

Perform a six-point checkup. Checking the health of the battery, brakes, tires, oil, antifreeze and wiper blades is essential for driving safely in winter. Make sure battery connections are tight and free of corrosion. The brake system is crucial to safely driving on ice. Have a mechanic check to make sure the break system is functioning at optimum levels. Tire pressure drops as the air in the tires condenses in cooler weather. During the winter season, check tire pressure at least once a week. Change the oil at the proper intervals. Consider changing to a lower viscosity as it will allow the oil to flow better in the cold. Antifreeze should be replaced every two years; make sure the car has an adequate amount of the typical half-antifreeze, half-water mix. Finally, be sure to check the status of the wiper blades. Considering the possibility of heavy snowfall in the area, proper wiper functions could mean the difference between a safe commute and a deadly crash. Car Care News Service

A commonly practiced misconception is that, in cold weather, it is necessary to warm up the engine prior to driving. In carbureted engines, a few minutes of warming up the car is necessary for the engine to operate at optimum condition, but these days, fuel injection engines have all but done away with the carburetion system. Not only is it unnecessary to let a fuel injected engine idle, but it also creates extra wear on the engine, and costs the driver money in wasted gas. Instead of letting a car idle in the morning, easing onto the road and avoid excessive engine revving. Because it is no longer true that restarting a car is hard on the battery, turn the car off and restart it if idling for more than 10 seconds to save gas and reduce fuel emissions. Environmental Defense Fund

Should your car get stuck in a blizzard, be sure to keep a window cracked. Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas expelled when exhaust is released from a car. While awaiting rescue, it will become necessary to start the car for short periods to warm the interior temperature. To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, make sure that the exhaust pipe is clear of obstructions and that a downwind-facing window is cracked for ventilation when the car is running.

A foggy windshield can be a huge and dangerous distraction when driving in winter. A quick solution is to apply shaving cream to the inside of the car windshield, and wipe it off with a dry cloth. The shaving cream leaves behind a clear soap residue that keeps water from condensing on the glass.

A do-it-yourself windshield solution is a great alternative to spending minutes in the cold scraping a frosty windshield. Applying a formula of 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water to the windshield the night before the freeze will keep ice from forming during the night.

When driving in icy and snowy conditions, especially without 4WD, it is imperative to invest in a traction aide like chains or studded tires. For infrequent hazardous driving, chains are an inexpensive and reusable way to create road traction. However, if hazardous, icy driving is a daily occurrence, studded snow tires are the way to go. Although they’re more expensive than chains, the metal stud in the snow tire is great for gripping icy surfaces, and studded tires are more time efficient than repeatedly installing chains. Because studded tires can rip up asphalt, use is restricted to the winter season. In Nevada use of studded tires is permitted Oct. 1 –April 30.,