If you’re driving a newer car this winter, chances are it hasn’t seen the inside of a carwash recently. Winter driving can cover a vehicle with snow, slush, ice, mud, and road salt, which can obstruct the sensors and cameras designed to keep you safe.
Clean cars are safer, as well as better-looking, according to Consumer Reports. A little extra cleaning in the wintertime is definitely required to get the utmost benefit from the safety features you paid for when you purchased your vehicle.
Winter debris can obscure the view from a backup camera, creating blurry images and even rendering it useless. While cleaning the lens after every road trip can seem a bit much, most manufacturers recommend cleaning the lens with a soft cloth moistened with water or a nonabrasive cleaner after driving in messy road conditions.
Automakers are developing technology to eliminate the need for manual cleaning.
- Nissan’s Altima has the option of a self-cleaning rear camera, a feature that became available in 2013. The process works this way: a small amount of windshield wiper fluid is routinely deposited onto the backup-camera lens, and an air compressor releases a burst of air to dry it.
- The rear camera of the Volkswagen CC sedan is mounted inside the rear VW emblem, protecting it from dirt and debris. The emblem swivels when the car shifts into reverse to uncover the camera lens.
But it doesn’t seem to matter what brand of car you drive in frigid temperatures — backup cameras produce blurry, foggy, or dark images during subzero weather.
Most of the time, when you’re having issues with your parking assist sensors, it’s because grime has accumulated there. When parking assist sensors get clogged, they will not work properly, and your electronic vehicle information center (EVIC) will send you a warning. The sensors are located along the rear bumper and fascia; clean those areas with a soft cloth, freeing them of clumps of dirt and debris. After you’re done, the warning will disappear.
Blind Spot Monitors and Lane Departure Warnings
Even though you’ve scraped and defrosted your windshield and windows, your work is not done until your car can see well enough to avoid blind spots. Blind spot monitors help you avoid a car accident by allowing your car to “see” other vehicles or pedestrians well before you see them. You should keep the blind spot sensor and the surrounding area on the bumper clean at all times, especially in winter driving conditions.
If your vehicle has forward-collision or lane-departure warning capability, keep the windshield, where the camera and sensors are typically mounted, clear of snow and ice. Many newer cars also have radar sensors behind the front grille, so keep that area free of debris as well.
Other simple ways drivers can stay safe when navigating winter roads include checking tire pressure on a monthly basis and always keeping a full tank of gasoline.