The winter can get brutally harsh in the DC area.
Driving conditions are at their worst, and I-95, the Beltway, and I-66 get a little crazy. Braving the snowy, icy roads demands your full attention. You'll want to practice good winter car care throughout the chilly season and on the roads.
What can you do to practice safe driving during winter? Keep reading, you'll learn what's needed to get around without an incident.
Why You Need to Winterize Your Car
Let's just say that the DC area has its fair share of car accidents every winter. In fact, some 3,000 accidents happened in 2018 during big snowstorms. Many of these accidents may have been avoided if their drivers prepared better.
"Winterizing" your car is simply getting it ready for the winter months. The intent is to avoid a potential accident that could get caused by:
- Unsafe driving conditions like icy roads
- Low visibility and sudden loss of visibility
- Erratic drivers (you know the ones)
- Faulty parts that could leave you stranded
The actions you take before the heavy storms can and will prevent dangers. It prepares you for the harsh conditions so you're not caught off guard. It also aids with how you'll react if something were to happen, so everyone stays safe.
How to Practice Winter Car Care
The winter season can turn any DC resident sluggish. Well, it happens to vehicles, too, as the cold weather has it running less than optimal. Get behind the wheel of a vehicle not at its 100% and you've got trouble.
Here are some of the many things you can do to winterize your car.
Get a Feel for the Vehicle
More specifically: Get a feel for how your car handles in the snow.
Try taking your car to a parking lot and do a few laps. Get a feel for how it handles stopping, going, and turning. This will also help you notice anything wrong with its function, or if the check engine light came on.
Have Its Battery Checked
Batteries have optimal operating temperatures. If it gets too cold then the battery won't perform so well. Old batteries get affected the hardest, so it's a good idea to get it checked before cold temps are the norm.
Check the Fluids
Pop open the hood and check the fluids:
- Power steering
Swap over to fluids designed for cold weather. Coolant, for example, should be a 50/50 water and antifreeze. You may want to get a non-freezing wiper fluid. Or, go with a different oil so it doesn't thicken up when it's hellishly cold.
Get the Tires in Order
Two options here:
- Ensure the tire treads are good and tire pressure is optimal
- Swap into winter tires, tire socks, or some other tire traction device. "Tire socks" or chains should only be used when the road is covered in snow or ice, and then limited to low speed and distance.
Install Winter Wipers and Get a Scraper/Brush
Late Fall and early Winter are a good time to install new wipers.
Go with winter-ready wipers if you can afford it. These are heavier duty and can handle the snow piling up. If anything, at least get new ones on so they're effective at keeping snow off the windshield.
Get a quality ice scraper and snow brush. You'll need to clear the windshield before taking to the roads regardless. You may as well do it right, and have great visibility when you're behind the wheel.
Switch into 4WD
Perhaps it's time to finally switch into 4WD and conquer the roads. You are doing a bit of off-roading when driving in snow. Put the feature to good use, letting your vehicle get more traction and power in the tough conditions.
Have a Pro Do an Inspection
Don't feel comfortable with your judgment about the vehicle? Get an expert opinion on how well it's running with a multi-point inspection.
A factory maintenance service will do the trick (here's a 10% off coupon).
Any issue the vehicle has gets pin-pointed by the experts. You'll get the chance to make fixes before winter sets in. Plus, you get to drive with peace of mind.
Make a Backup Plan
You broke down and it's cold... now what?
- Consider roadside assistance through your insurance or AAA
- Have a friend or family member there for the rescue
- Know how to report an accident and file a claim (if necessary)
Better safe than sorry, right?
A Few Quick Tips for Winter Time Driving
You've prepped the vehicle and took necessary precautions for winter driving. Now, prepare yourself for the roads with the following winter driving tips.
- Drive Slow — Give ample space between vehicles since stoppage time is far greater on icy roads.
- Emergency Kit — Get or DIY a roadside kit with blankets, flashlights, food, drink, and little essentials to stay warm until help arrives.
- Public Transit — Avoid using your vehicle if possible, try getting around with the DC metro so you're not braving the storms.
- Plan Ahead — Check the weather and driving conditions before heading out, and take alternative routes that offer better safety.
- Stay Focused — Don't get distracted by phones and disruptive behaviors in the vehicle, keep your attention on the road!
Cautious transit makes driving in the snow far less stressful. In some ways, you'll contribute to everyone's safety by influencing good driving behavior.
Stay Warm and Safe on Those Roads
You can't expect everyone to practice safe winter car care. But, at least you'll know you've done your best when getting behind the wheel. That's one less thing you'll stress about when taking to the DC roadways.
Is your vehicle ready for the harsh winter months?
Stop into the AAMCO Centers in the Greater DC area for a tune-up. There, our experts can get your vehicle get winter-ready. And, fix issues that may become problematic once the snow starts flurrying.
AAMCO has more than 50 years of experience servicing and repairing transmissions and has worked on more than 20 million vehicles. Customers rely on us for:
- Quality workmanship
- Superior service
- Best warranty coverage available
- Trustworthy, honest service
AAMCO Centers of the Greater DC and surrounding areas represents trust, quality and value.