‘Tis the season to prepare for winter driving

Icy roads and snow covered hills can make driving in Pullman especially hazardous during the winter months. Preparing for winter weather conditions is the first step for preventing an accident, said auto repair service writer Sue Herdering.

Maintain the car inside and out

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends checking a car’s battery, tire tread and windshield wipers, putting no-freeze fluid in the washer reservoir and checking levels of antifreeze for winter.

Herdering, a service writer for Pro Tech Auto Repair in Pullman, said windshield wipers should be replaced at least every few years.

She said the fastest way to wear down wiper blades is to run them while they are frozen to the windshield. That’s the job of the defrost setting on the heater.

“When they rip away from the windshield, you are shortening the life of your wiper blades significantly,” Herdering said.

Stay in control of the car

OSHA instructs drivers to slow down when driving on icy roads and increase distances between cars. If the car begins to slide, drivers should steer in the direction of the slide, tapping the breaks lightly and slowing gradually.

“Don’t try to spin the opposite way,” Herdering said.

She also suggested accelerating slowly and shifting into a low gear.

Properly remove snow

Herdering recommended a small ice scraper with a soft-bristled brush on the end to remove snow from vehicles.

Windshield wipers can remove only a small amount of snow, which is heavy. Too much weight will damage the gears in the wiper mechanism, she said.

“If there’s a really thin layer of ice that you’d have to scrape off, sometimes it’s easier just to defrost,” Herdering said.

A large push broom is another option, so long as it won’t scratch the paint or windshield.

Start the car five to ten minutes before driving

If it’s especially cold outside, this will melt any ice that might have formed on the engine and prevent additional stress that occurs when cold metal expands in the presence of heat.

Herdering cautioned drivers never to leave their vehicles unattended, as that is how many thefts occur.

OSHA warned not to idle for a long time with the windows up or in an enclosed space. Doing so can cause carbon monoxide to build up in the passenger area.

Stock supplies

The essentials include a flashlight, jumper cables, flares, and blankets. For longer trips, bring food, water, and medications.

An abrasive material like sand or kitty litter will help to free the car if it gets stuck in snow. Simply pour some in front of each wheel to gain traction. Herdering recommended using sand because kitty litter forms inconvenient clumps when wet.

All-weather tires are a must, she said, and snow chains or studs are recommended in extreme conditions. Smaller cars can achieve additional traction with weights or sandbags in the trunk.

A shovel is handy, but not necessary. Herdering said a small one that folds for easy storage.

“It never hurts to be prepared,” she said.