January 14, 2020
Wisconsin winters are no walk in the park for drivers, whether you are driving in Downtown Kenosha or out by the Brat Stop. Besides mastering the skill of navigating snow-covered roads, it is vital that those of us who choose to stay here from November through March understand the damage winter can cause to our vehicles.
Most customers of the Valeri Agency are lifelong residents of Kenosha or Racine and are usually pretty adept at getting their car ready for that first cold blast. Younger people just starting to drive and transplants coming here from southern climes might need some tips to appreciate the steps you should take to avoid issues this winter.
There are a number of systems in your car that operate differently when the temperature drops. These include:
BATTERY/ALTERNATOR: Cold weather can wreak havoc on your battery. Wisconsin residents know all too well that grinding, churning sound of a cold battery being turned over for the first time in subzero weather. If your battery light on the dashboard is illuminated it is essential that you address it immediately. It may be the alternator. So the first thing you should do is decrease the drainage by shutting down those things that might be contributing to your car using more electricity than it is able to generate. Heated seats are a big drain. Fans and a radios also contribute to draining a battery. If the light stays on be sure to get the car to your mechanic as soon as you can. You may need a new battery.
TIRES : You need good tread on your tires to navigate Wisconsin’s snow and ice covered roads. Many tires today are designed for winter weather. Be sure yours are. If not, it’s worth the investment. Cold weather can cause the tire light on your dash to come on. If it does, check the tire pressure. The correct pressure can be found in your car’s manual as well as on the tires themselves. If the light goes off when you air the tire up, it may be temporary. If it comes back on within a day or two, have your tires check – you may have a slow leak.
WINDSHIELD WIPERS: Wipers should be checked and changed regularly. This is especially important in states like Wisconsin where freezing weather causes them to deteriorate faster. Also, be sure your wiper fluid is full. With the salted highways so common to this area, you will need it more than ever in the wintertime.
HOSES/BELTS: Cracks in your hoses and belts happen more often when the temperature gets below freezing. Have your mechanic check them, along with fluid levels, before the weather turns. Some mechanically-inclined people carry extra hoses or belts with them. Besides doing the necessary preparations of the vehicle itself, it is important that you stock up on items in your car that will help you survive should you encounter issues on the road. These include:
JUMPER CABLES: Jump-starting your car is not as easy as it used to be. It makes sense to carry jumper cables but if you are not familiar with how to use them, get help. Jump-starting a car can be dangerous.
FLARES: If you are traveling after dark, keeping a flare on board can help keep you safe in the event of a stall. Again, familiarize yourself with how to light it.
FIRST AID KIT: Basic first aid items like bandaids, antiseptics, ace bandages, Benadryl (for bee stings), and other items can come in handy at any time of year.
RADIO/PHONE: Depending on where you are traveling, if your car acts up you could find yourself in remote areas where a fully-charged radio and/or cell phone may be your only means of communication.
SCRAPERS: Removing the ice from your windows (all the windows) can keep you safe. Don’t forget to remove all of the snow from your car – including the roof – before venturing out.
FLASHLIGHT/BATTERIES: Changing a tire in the dark or finding items in your trunk will be a lot easier if you have a good flashlight. Change the batteries regularly.
SAND/SHOVEL: Sometimes in icy conditions a little sand can go a long way to get your car off of an icy patch. Kitty litter can work as well. A small shovel on board can help remove snow from immediately underneath your tires if you get stuck. Be careful.
SNACKS: On longer trips especially, it is always recommended that you carry some nutritional essentials in the event you have an emergency. Bottled water, peanuts, snack bars, fruit – anything that will last and will help get you through a few hours if you find yourself stranded.
EXTRA CLOTHES: Nobody likes to wear a heavy coat or big boots in a heated car on a long trip. You should, however, have them in the vehicle in the event you need to spend some time outside. Gloves, scarf and a good blanket are also recommended.
We all laugh at those southerners when they close the schools with an inch or two of snow on the roads. That’s because up here, in the land of the frozen tundra, we deal with much more than that every winter.
The professionals at the Valeri Agency are here to help you make it through the winter safely.