Preventative measures may ease winter driving woes

Getting stranded in a vehicle this winter is the last place many motorists want to be, and local mechanics said drivers may reduce the odds of getting stuck in the cold by taking a few preventive measures.

Checking the status of an engine's coolant and battery are two of the most important factors that motorists need to take inventory of, said Doug Willems of Precision Auto in Craig.

"There's quite a few things that people need to check for, but the two major things that get overlooked are the engine's coolant and the battery," he said. "A lot of times the coolant will break down during the summer or the battery will get weak and can't turn over when the weather turns cold."

Checking the coolant only takes a few minutes and can be done with an antifreeze strip tester available at local car parts store, Willems said.

Ensuring that a car's cooling system has the proper concentration of half water, half coolant will help it from freezing in the winter, said Craig Gullett, brand manager for PEAK Performance Products.

"Think of antifreeze as your system's lifeblood, which must be properly maintained to ensure engine longevity," he said. "Cooling system failure is a leading cause of engine related breakdown, which can cost thousands of dollars and leave you and your family stranded at the worst possible time."

Gullett recommends drivers check their owners' manuals to determine the correct antifreeze level. Most vehicles use conventional green-colored ethylene glycol-based antifreeze, which provides maximum freeze-up protection down to --84 degrees Fahrenheit, and boil over protection to 276 degrees Fahrenheit.

Checking hoses for wear is another good idea to make sure a car runs well throughout the winter, added Willems.

"If your hoses are starting to break down, you'll find out about it in the winter," he said.

For drivers on the road a lot, snow tires or studded snow tires may be almost mandatory, he added.

"Be sure that your tires have the right amount of pressure," Willems advised.

According to a website called Emergency Essentials, 70 percent of all winter deaths occur in cars.

"Several years ago the nation was riveted by the plight of a young couple from Idaho that got stranded in the snow," the site said. "Their experience serves as a warning that winter storms can hit suddenly and severely." Winterizing a vehicle can help take the edge off of getting stranded, but unfortunately, Willems said, many people don't know how to do it.

"Half of the people are really good about it, but half the people don't know they have to winterize their car," he said. "People would have a lot less trouble if they knew about."


Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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