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November 2009

Winter, Your Car, and You

Driving in the winter means snow, sleet, and ice that can lead to slower traffic, hazardous road conditions, hot tempers and unforeseen dangers. To help you make it safely through winter, here are some suggestions from the National Safety Council to make sure that you and your vehicle are prepared.

Weather
At any temperature - 20 degrees Fahrenheit below zero or 90 degrees Fahrenheit above - weather affects road and driving conditions and can pose serious problems.

It is important to listen to forecasts on the radio, TV, cable weather channel, or read forecasts in the daily papers.

Your Car
Prepare your car for winter. Start with a checkup that includes:

  • Checking the ignition, brakes, wiring, hoses and fan belts.

  • Changing and adjusting the spark plugs.

  • Checking the air, fuel and emission filters, and the PCV valve.

  • Inspecting the distributor.

  • Checking the battery.

  • Checking the tires for air, sidewall wear and tread depth.

  • Checking antifreeze level and the freeze line. Your car should have a tune-up (check the owner's manual for the recommended interval) to ensure better gas mileage, quicker starts and faster response on pick-up and passing power.

Necessary Equipment
An emergency situation on the road can arise at any time and you must be prepared. Following the tuneup, a full tank of gas, and fresh anti-freeze, your trunk should carry:

  • A properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and tripodtype jack

  • A shovel

  • Jumper cables

  • Tow and tire chains

  • A bag of salt or cat litter

  • Tool kit

Essential Supplies
Be prepared with a "survival kit" that should always remain in the car. Replenish after use. Essential supplies include:

  • Working flashlight and extra batteries

  • Reflective triangles and brightly-colored cloth

  • Compass

  • First aid kit

  • Exterior windshield cleaner

  • Ice scraper and snow brush

  • Wooden stick matches in a waterproof container

  • Scissors and string/cord

  • Non-perishable, high energy foods like unsalted canned nuts, dried fruits, and hard candy

In addition, if you are driving long distances under cold, snowy, and icy conditions, you should also carry supplies to keep you warm, such as heavy woolen mittens, socks, a cap, and blankets.

If You Become Stranded

  • Do not leave your car unless you know exactly where you are, how far it is to possible help, and are certain you will improve your situation.

  • To attract attention, light two flares and place one at each end of the car a safe distance away. Hang a brightly colored cloth from your antenna.

  • If you are sure the car's exhaust pipe is not blocked, run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour or so depending upon the amount of gas in the tank.

  • To protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia use the woolen items and blankets to keep warm.

  • Keep at least one window open slightly. Heavy snow and ice can seal a car shut.

  • Eat a hard candy to keep your mouth moist.

Permission to publish granted by the National Safety Council, a membership organization dedicated to protecting life and promoting health. For more information, please visit www.nsc.org

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