Winterizing Your Ride

It’s a day Atlantans will unfortunately never forget. In fact, the entire state of Georgia was cringing when the snowpocalypse hit the Atlanta metro on February 12, 2014. Schools abruptly closed without warning, sending parents rushing out onto the roadways. Businesses closed up too and drivers hit the pavement to get home before the weather got worse. Think about it: Close to a million drivers hit the road at the same time.

“It was a nightmare,” said Paul Vidulich, an Atlanta driver who was able take the Marta home to avoid the roadways. “Traffic was in complete gridlock in Buckhead, and snow plows couldn’t do their jobs because traffic wasn’t moving.”

Drivers might not think a simple commute to or from work or school may need too much preparation, but ask any driver who suffered through the winter nightmare and they’ll see an opportunity missed. Garrett Townsend, Georgia public affairs director for AAA, saw it first hand.

“I think it was a wakeup call, not only for the city, but for motorists,” Townsend said. “They were caught in a situation they weren’t prepared for and some of it perhaps could’ve been avoided by preventative maintenance on their vehicle.”

Townsend explains, neglecting regular maintenance on your vehicle can be the difference between being stranded on the side of the road and getting to your destination. It can even be the difference between life and death in certain cases. According to the Safe Winter Roads Organization, 24 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement every year, and 15 percent happen during snowfall or sleet. In addition, over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,000 are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement annually.

Drivers could help lower those statistics by winterizing their vehicles. Townsend says to start with your battery. At five degrees Fahrenheit, a fully charged battery has only half its capacity. A new battery in good condition will give your engine the start it needs to get you on the road. Also make sure there’s no corrosion on your car battery and connections on the battery are secure. Next, Townsend says examine the tread on your tires.

“That’s something that’s often overlooked,” said Townsend. “People say they don’t need snow tires because they live in the South. However, having an all-season tire with the adequate tread will help in wintry conditions.”

Your vehicle’s tire pressure needs to be checked more frequently during the winter. For every ten-degree drop in temperature, your tire pressure drops about one PSI. Check coolant levels as winter approaches and make sure you’re doing so when the engine is cold. If levels are low, add the recommended amount of antifreeze according to your car’s manual. And to make sure you’ve got a clear view of the road ahead, Townsend says finish off winterizing your vehicle with new windshield wiper blades.

“The blades should completely clear the glass with every swipe. Replace any blade that leaves streaks or missing spots,” added Townsend.

After you’ve winterized your vehicle, prepare an emergency kit to put inside of your car. Those kits should include things like blankets, food and water supplies, medication, batteries, flashlights, jumper cables, first-aid supplies, and a portable charger for your cell phone. And always have a full tank of gas in your car when winter weather approaches.

“In a situation like that where people are stranded overnight, perhaps for a day or so, an emergency kit would be, in some cases, lifesaving,” said Townsend.

The snowy debacle in 2014 has been a learning lesson for thousands of drivers to this day, as they prepare for another unpredictable winter in a city known for its unpredictable roadways.