By: Nawal Samdani
IU South Bend is a commuter campus, and now that parking on campus is free, it’s no secret how many students drive. So, how can you make sure you stay road safe when the famous lake-effect snow comes to town?
Most car owners tend to focus on staying warm and cozy inside their vehicles with their heated steering wheels and seats, gloves and a warm drink. However, it is critical to make sure your vehicle can handle the slippery, hazardous conditions the road offers us as frigid temperatures quickly approach us. Plan ahead and make sure your vehicle stays in great shape all winter long.
LIGHTS: Proper visibility should be your top priority, especially in the winter. As your first winter car maintenance task, you should make sure your lights are working properly. Many garages will check your lights with an oil change; however, if you’re in a pinch, ask a friend to stand outside the car while you check your headlights, taillights, high-beams, turn signals, and brake lights. Replace dull and broken bulbs.
TIRES: You will need the best possible traction for your tires when dealing with risky road conditions. If the treads on your tires do not have sufficient depth–you can check it with a penny–you should consider a new set. Tire pressure also decreases during cold weather, and under-inflated tires wear faster and reduce traction. Check your tire pressure regularly. Also, be mindful of the temperature; at zero degrees, roads may be safer than at 32 degrees, when melting can cause ice and slippery conditions.
GENERAL MAINTENANCE: If your car is old or has had problems with certain parts in the past, this is a good time of year to get them serviced. Having your brakes checked, as well as other belts, hoses, spark plugs and cables, will prevent them from failing and leaving you stranded in the cold. Also, test your car’s window defroster and climate control system to make sure they both work properly. The climate control system will help keep you warm in winter and keep your windows from fogging up while the defroster will keep your windows from icing up. These items are pivotal to maintaining safety and comfort throughout the winter seasons.
OIL: It can be beneficial to change your oil from conventional to synthetic. Synthetic oil can be easier on your vehicle’s engine as it flows freer at low temperatures and does not need any time to warm up, providing protection to the engine’s moving parts.
BATTERY: Car batteries tend to fail in winter, as your vehicle’s battery is working overtime in cold weather and will gradually lose power over time. If your battery is old or has had problems recently, consider replacing it, especially if you have any long-haul drives in the winter weather.
GAS: When possible, try to keep your gas tank at least half full. This lowers the chance of a gas line freezing, and having enough gas can keep you warm if you are stranded for a long time.
IN THE CAR: It’s a good idea to have a safety kit in your car all year round that contains a first aid kit, jumper cables, nonperishable food, water, a flashlight, car tools, and more. However, in winter, make sure you add an extra set of warm clothes, a blanket, an ice scraper, and air-activated hand warmers.