Things to check to get ready for winter driving

Kelly Feng, Staff Writer

With an average snowfall of 45.79 inches, Wisconsin winter wonderlands can be dangerous. Since none of us want to be stuck in a ditch or on the side of the road, we talked with Madison College’s Automotive Technician Instructor, Craig Kleinsteiber, to discuss vehicle readiness and safe driving.
According to Kleinsteiber, the best thing car owners can do is to maintain their cars year-round. Owners should have their vehicles inspected one or two times a year.
Without an inspection, “Those minor problems that you used to have, or you didn’t know about tend to become bigger once the cold weather comes,” Kleinsteiber said.

Assess the tires.
One of the key players in winter driving, tires are a critical component of a car. There are standards and numbers that the automotive industry recommends:
Optimal tread depth. Because you want traction or control during winter, ensure your tires have tread depth in the five-thirty-seconds of an inch range.
Illegal numbers. Tires with tread depth in the two-thirty-seconds of an inch range should be thrown away, and are illegal to drive with.
To assess your tire depth, take a quarter and put it upside down into the treads. If you can see the head of George Washington or the top of his head from any point in the tire, it’s time to replace them.

Prepare your vehicle.
Using essential automotive fluids and components will help keep you from the side of the road.
Antifreeze. Make sure your vehicle has enough antifreeze. Too much added water, your car can freeze and your engine can crack. Automotive experts suggest a 50/50 mixture of water to coolant.
Oil transmission fluid. Oil should be checked year-round and during the winter. Without enough oil, issues from the cold are amplified.
Windshield washer fluid. If you’re driving down the freeway and the fluid is low, your visibility is poor, making driving hazardous.
Swap out the wiper blades. If your wipers need to be in better shape and are streaking across the windshield, it’s time to replace them.
Car emergency kit. Emergency kits should remain in cars, especially during the winter. They should include water, bandages, reflective triangles, flashlights, extra batteries and a jumper cable.

Behind the wheel.
When you drive in the winter, Kleinsteiber says it’s all about common sense.
If it’s slippery, slow down and maintain a safe driving distance.
If it’s treacherous out, stay home. If you must go out, stay alert, pay attention and keep your driving distance.
Give yourself plenty of time to get where you must go, which means leaving earlier.
While Kleinsteiber admits winter preparation like buying new tires, automotive fluids and windshield wipers cost money; it’s best to be prepared.
“In the grand scheme of things, it costs money upfront to do these repairs and have these inspections,” said Kleinsteiber. “But it would save yourself a lot of money and headaches down the road if you can get that handled before something major happens.”