We still have a couple more months of winter, and for those living in Colorado — especially in the mountain areas — you know what that means. Some of the coldest days of the year may still be ahead. When you venture out you can bundle up, but your vehicle usually bears the brunt of extreme cold, and that can lead to serious issues.
Easy Ways to Avoid Costly Winter Repairs
The Weather Channel is always on top of changing weather patterns and alerts its viewers to local forecasts. The station’s website is also loaded with a lot of good information, including tips on how you can keep your car running properly during the winter months. A few common mistakes drivers tend to make during the coldest season include:
- Warming your car too long. Yes, warming your car can be costly if not done properly. There’s nothing worse than getting into a freezing car, so a lot of people will idle the car to warm it up. Auto experts say warming the car for a few minutes is fine, but car engines are not meant to idle for long periods. Doing so can cause buildup on the spark plugs, making them less efficient.
- Continuing to use summer tires during winter months is a common mistake. Summer performance tires have treads that are engineered to provide traction in warm to hot ambient temperatures. They were never intended to be used in freezing temperatures. Even temperatures in the 40s can cause summer tires to perform badly in both handling of the car and braking, which can cause auto accidents.
- Forgetting to check tire pressure can also cause problems. According to the NHTSA, maintaining proper air pressure is the single most important thing drivers can do to keep their tires road-worthy. Underinflation is the worst enemy for a tire. Experts say that air pressure in a tire typically goes down 1-2 pounds for every 10 degrees of temperature change.
- Not keeping your gas tank as full as you can. During colder months, a near-empty gas tank can cause problems: Moist air can crystallize or even freeze fuel lines, which makes it harder for a car to start.
- Not keeping your battery fully charged. Another way to keep a fuel line from freezing is keeping your battery fully charged. An easy way to charge a battery is to drive the vehicle for longer periods of time and try to avoid a lot of short, start-and-stop trips.
- And finally, never pour warm or hot water on a windshield to de-ice it! The temperature difference between the water and the ice on your windshield is just too great, and that can cause the windshield to crack, especially if you already have a ding in the windshield.
Winter-Proofing Yourself and Your Passengers
We’ve all seen news reports of motorists stranded in the snow. Because you never know when driving conditions could change for the worse, it’s crucial to be prepared during the winter months, no matter how experienced a driver you are.
According to the Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA), cold temperatures can have a dramatic impact on the body, and may lead to serious health problems, such as tissue damage, or in extreme cases, death.
The travel center on Colorado’s Department of Transportation website gives motorists a good list of items that should be in your vehicle during the winter month. They include:
- A survival blanket or sleeping bag
- Chemical hand warmers
- An extra set of clothes, including coat, hat, mittens, boots, etc.
- A gallon jug of water and nonperishable food
- A first-aid kit and essential medications
In some counties, state troopers are handing out “Comfort and Assist Bags” as a reminder that you can’t be too prepared when heading out during winter months — especially if you are driving where there is not much traffic. If anything should happen and you need to wait for help, having the right supplies is essential for your safety.