Maintenance Makes Perfect
- Make sure you're current on oil and antifreeze changes. Each ensures your car is running as well as it can in bad weather. A quick oil change can make the difference between a car that gets you home and waiting on the side of the road in a storm. Try to get this done before any big storms if you can.
- When you bring it in for an oil change, have the battery inspected. It's very quick to gauge a battery's efficiency and life. A battery that runs out in the winter can mean getting stranded almost any time you stop – whether you're lucky and at home, or unlucky and in a parking lot or on the side of the road.
- If there's any problem with your heater or thermostat, have it checked out stat. If you end up delayed or stranded, it can make the difference between life and death.
- Make sure your tire pressure is full. Low pressure on icy roads is a recipe for disaster. Many gas stations have free air. If you don't know what the pressure should be, simply have it checked out at a car shop – it's quick to get done, and they can also assess the life on your tire tread.
- You may want to consider changing to snow tires. These increase safety at a slight cost of fuel efficiency. Snow tires grip the road much better than regular tires, but they do more than this alone. They're also built so that the snow, ice, and slush that becomes impacted in the treads of regular tires is shunted off to the side. That means you'll always have that same tread, and it won't be obstructed or smoothed by conditions.
- Start by brushing off the snow covering the ice. If you try to break up the ice without getting the snow off first, much of your impact will be dampened. This makes you hit harder to break up the ice, which can result in damage to your car.
- Do NOT use a snow shovel on your car. This is a recipe for scratching paint off or taking a chip from the windshield or a window. That chip can quickly spread to a crack, especially in the cold, which means pricey window or windshield replacement. It doesn't matter if the shovel is plastic or not. Just don't use it.
- You MUST make sure the exhaust pipe and the radiator grille are both clear before starting the car. If the exhaust pipe is iced over or clogged with snow or slush, that exhaust will back up and make it so your engine can't draw fresh air in. Similarly, if the radiator grille is blocked, fresh air is blocked. Both are quick ways to damage the engine and stall your car.
- Once the exhaust and radiator grille are clear and you can enter the car, start it. You can use the heater and defrosters (both front and rear) to make your job much easier. Turning on your headlights can also heat up the lenses and make them easier to clear. If you're worried about battery life, drive the car around afterward for 15 minutes, if it's safe to do so.
- Use your hand to break up those thin layers of ice that will easily sheet off the car's surface. Do NOT use a hammer or any other instrument. Hit a layer of ice with the corner of an ice scraper and you can dent metal or even shatter a window. Ice scrapers are meant to scrape, not gouge.
- Above all, do NOT pour boiling water on your car. When something very cold suddenly meets very hot liquid, that quick shift can crack surfaces like glass. Imagine putting an ice cube in hot water – the first thing it does is develop a crack – this is what will happen to your windows.
- Clear your entire car. Do NOT leave a sheet of ice or mound of snow anywhere on the roof. If you slow down or stop, that snow can glide forward over the roof and settle over the windshield, making it so you can't see. Alternately, if you speed up, that snow or sheet of ice can glide backward and into an oncoming car. Even if it's difficult to get off, you must do so. Your car will heat up as you drive, unsticking the ice and snow. If you send it into another driver's windshield, you're responsible.
The best advice for driving in ice is to stay home! If you can avoid traveling, please do so.
Get your car winter-ready so you can weather ice storms. And if you do incur damage to your body, let us know. We’ll get you back on the road quickly.