Joe Pimentel, Contributing Writer
As we continue to face treacherous winter snowstorms, the car experts at New Country BMW in Hartford urge all Connecticut drivers to get their vehicles in prime condition for slippery roads.
“While we may have enjoyed the quick January thaw, the extreme temperature fluctuations can wreak havoc on a car,” cautioned Joe Pimentel, General Manager of New Country BMW of Hartford. “For example, rubber seals contract, causing fluids to leak. That’s why it’s imperative to monitor a vehicle’s operating systems at all times.”
One of the most critical parts of a car that is vulnerable to temperature swings is the tires.
“Many drivers don’t realize that whenever the air temp drops 10 degrees, the tire air pressure goes down about one pound per square inch,” explained Pimentel. “Underinflated tires are the major cause of tire failure.”
Therefore, Pimentel recommends having the tires frequently inspected by a certified mechanic who can also alert you if the tires have been recalled. He offers other ways to determine if your tires are safe:
- Always refer to the tire pressure number printed on the vehicle’s door frame or in the owner’s manual, not the maximum pressure printed on the sidewall of the tire. Don’t forget to check the spare tire.
- Check the tread. The tread depth should never fall below 1/16 of an inch (1.6 millimeters). If you regularly drive on slick, wet surfaces, you need twice that much. You can buy a gauge to measure the tread depth the way the professionals do, or simply use a Lincoln-head penny. Insert Abe’s head (head-down) into the tread. If Lincoln’s entire head remains visible, you don’t have enough tread and they need to be replaced.
- If the tires are fairly new, look to see if tread wear indicator bars built into the tires themselves are visible. These bars can barely been seen when the tires are new, then gradually begin to appear as the tread wears down.
- Check for tracks or cuts in the sidewalls. This could be a sign that your tire is developing a leak. A bulge or blister that extends outward is a weakened area that may be nearly ready to blow out.
“The question we are asked most often is ‘Do I really need snow tires?’ “said Pimentel. “Many people incorrectly assume that All-Season tires are designed to handle all types of weather. However, All-Season tires are a compromise that provide acceptable performance under a variety of conditions, but are less effective in winter’s freezing temperatures, and in snow or ice.”
Pimentel further explains that while all-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, ABS brakes and traction control are certainly advantages, none of them will improve tire traction. Snow tires have treads that provide better traction and are equipped to handle extreme winter driving conditions. Tire manufacturers recommend four snow tires instead of just two to avoid inconsistent handling.
In addition to stopping by the dealership for a complete inspection of the battery, antifreeze level, thermostat, heater, brakes and defroster, Pimentel suggests the following:
- Make sure your vehicle’s front and rear lights are operational and clean, especially the car’s flashing hazard lights. Dirty headlights can cut visibility by 50 percent or more.
- Wash car frequently to protect paint and undercarriage. Road salt and treatments commonly used during winter can also further erode rusted or damaged areas. To prevent frozen locks, spray WD-40 into keyholes, insert the key and work it around. Another tip is to wipe off moisture from the rubber seal on door frames with a dry rag to avoid the door freezing shut.
- Even if windshield wipers are working properly, purchase winter wiper blades to cut through snow and ice instead of using regular ones throughout the year.
- Exchange regular windshield wiper fluid with one made especially to spray in freezing conditions.
- Keep the fuel tank at least half filled at all times. A full tank adds weight for better traction. Since most brands of gasoline already contain some kind of gas line antifreeze, ask your car dealer if dry gas is necessary for your particular vehicle.
- Carry a flashlight, flares, sand, a shovel, blanket and cell phone charging bank.
To further assist with safe winter driving, technology available in today’s new cars includes heads-up display that projects the speed limit of the road you are on compared to your speed, lane departure warning alerts, and blind spot and pedestrian detection systems.
“A little preparation now can take some of the tension out of your winter driving and provide a greater margin of control to avoid the unexpected,” concluded Pimentel.
About New Country Motor Cars of Hartford
New Country Motor Cars of Hartford has several locations representing Mercedes-Benz /smart / Sprinter, and New Country BMW-MINI. The organization prides itself on world-class knowledge and impeccable service. Visit www.newcountrybmw.com or www.newcountrymercedes.com