By Bob Blake
We love our cars! They develop personalities and become our best friends. When treated correctly and pampered a little, they are reliable companions…even in freezing weather.
How many friends like enduring cold nights and being rudely awakened on a dark morning with a jolting electric shock? So…be kind to them and provide four decent shoes for winter, clean the road grim from their bright eyes, and keep their belly tank full of fresh nutritious gasoline. This extra weight on their hind feet gives better traction! Remain on their “good side” so they will be dependable family members.
In cold weather, everything slows down. A good battery is essential. The chemical reaction that generates power becomes 35% weaker at 32 degrees. At zero – not unusual in the mountains – it loses 60% of its efficiency. A good rule: If the battery is weak when it is warm, it is “dead” when it is cold!
The task of spinning the engine becomes much harder as the lubricants thicken in the frigid air. Dark mornings also require lights that drain additional current.
Remember that the window lifts, heating fan, backup camera, and other accessories also feast on electricity. Personally, I will replace my battery in three years even if it seems to be fine.
Cars like well-soled shoes. Their only ground contact is four points about the size of the palm – not much! The tread must be good. Winter tire pressure drops about 2 psi for each ten-degree fall in the temperature. Maintain the owner’s manual recommendation regardless of season. Check the spare tire pressure as well. You cannot fix a flat with a flat! Low pressure in the spare often triggers the low tire pressure warning light when the others are fine.
Begin cold morning trips ten minutes earlier and scrape more than just a peephole through the icy windshield. Clear the other windows as well. De-icing sprays work, but a good scraper is better. Remember the backup camera lens ices as well!
It is tempting to use steaming hot water but the rapid temperature change risks cracking the windshield. Warm water? Lukewarm solutions quickly freeze and only compound the problem.
A cell phone is essential for safe travel as it is continuously pinging off cell towers so you have an emergency locator beacon. If you must leave the vehicle, take it with you. When traveling to remote areas, carry a fully charged phone battery pack that permits several recharges. Many cost less than $10. A strong flashlight is essential.
While packing, throw in a couple of bottles of water for each occupant. The car trunk is also a great place to store an old blanket – it can be cargo padding during the summer months.
To really be safe, buy a prepackaged automobile emergency kit that has reflectors, a jumper cable, and first aid items as well.
Stay warm and safe this winter. Stalled on the roadside in a snowstorm is not the time to say, “Well…preparing for disaster is a great idea!”