Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Smart Driver’s Guide to Cold Weather Automobile Safety

With rainy conditions and cold weather descending upon the Midwest, it’s time to think automobile safety for you and your family and friends. Follow this guide and you will be ready to travel in confidence.

Auto Safety Basics. The basic rules for adverse weather are to slow down and be particularly alert to pooled pockets of water or black ice on the road that could send your automobile into a skid. Of course you should always wear your safety belt / shoulder harness and drive in a car equipped with Air Bags and Antilock Brakes. Make sure you have plenty of wiper fluid and fresh wiper blades and that all lights and flashers are working. Have a heavy duty ice scraper and snow brush in your vehicle. Have a fully charged cell phone at hand and have someone expecting a call from you at several points along any long journey. Have emergency numbers written down in your owner’s manual. Be sure to pull over and stop before using a cell phone. Also it is important to have a good emergency kit available stocked with jumper cables, flashing warning beacon, a flash light and radio am/fm/weather/traffic (hand generated power is best), some basic tools and a first aid kit (http://www.goodwrench.com/Tips/WhatToKeepInVehicle.jsp), a blanket, and some dried fruit or nuts for food and a bottle of water. You should also consider an extra pair of warm, sturdy walking shoes, some gloves, and a hat in case you’re stranded. During icy weather, it is also good idea to keep lock de-icer handy to unstick frozen door locks and keep a bag of rock salt and a collapsible shovel in the truck.

Tire Health is Critical. Before you hit the Fall and Winter roads, be sure you tires have at least a 3/32 in. of tread. If you want an accurate measurement, come by the Brown Bros. Service Department for a free tread check and winterization inspection. “All Weather” tires and antilock brakes make a significant difference in automobile handling in slick conditions. Look over your tires carefully to see if you may have an object embedded in a tire that could be causing a slow leak. Check the tire pressure and compare it to the recommended psi listed on the manufacturer’s sticker located on the end of driver’s side door. If you fill your tires with air instead of nitrogen, you should check your tire pressure periodically during long trips as climate and road conditions could cause your tire pressure to fluctuate. For best tire safety, you should ask your service department to fill your tires with nitrogen. Nitrogen inflated tires are not affected by temperature like air inflated tires, so your tire pressure doesn’t fluctuate. It also increases the life of your tires by 30%, reduces the chance of tire failure by 50%, improves fuel economy, and improves braking and handling. Contact the Brown Bros. Service Department for the complete story of how nitrogen can save you money and improve your car’s performance. Of course, these tips should be applied to your spare tire as well.

Be Sure You Car Is Fully Serviced. Maintaining your manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule is crucial to keeping your car safe and in optimal working condition. Your maintenance schedule will be listed in your owner’s manual, or you can visit our Service Department for a paper copy. Be sure to check with your dealership’s Service Department to see if your car has any outstanding bulletins or recalls that need to be performed on your vehicle (These are no-cost repairs that are important to your car’s safety.) Make sure you have your antifreeze level checked; and a flush, fill, and pressure check of your radiator can save you a frustrating break down. Of course, you should always check to make sure you have properly maintained belts, hoses, and automotive fluids, and whether you are due for tire rotation and balance. At Brown Bros., it doesn’t cost you anything to ask us to put your car up on the rack to check for proper lubrication, leaks, or obvious undercarriage damage.

Information Is Essential. Having a vehicle with a weather band radio or a Navigation System can alert you to oncoming weather conditions or impending traffic jams. Many Cadillacs and Chevrolets come equipped with XM Satellite Radio and OnStar which can also provide you with important weather updates and traffic information. In addition, if you were to get into an accident that caused the air bag to deploy, your live OnStar concierge will be calling your car to check on you and to direct emergency assistance to you if the need arises. Before you leave on a long trip, call the Federal Highway Administration (511) or visit their web site (http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/Trafficinfo/) to check on the highway conditions on your route.

If you are planning a long trip in your car, please be safe. Ask our Service Department for a road trip inspection, recommended maintenance check, and about recommended winterization packages. We also currently have “All Weather” tires on sale, and we have nitrogen fill available for your tires. You can also purchase Emergency Kits from our Parts Department. If you are looking for a new or pre-owned car, ask us about great safety features such as: on dash Tire Pressure Monitors, Heated outside mirrors, Traction Control, Automatic Cruise Control, and All Wheel Drive. Call us if you are interested in adding some premier safety features such as satellite radio or OnStar. We would love to hear your comments. Click on the comments link at the end of this article to share your best automotive safety ideas.