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Category: Miscellaneous
Volume: 25
Issue: 6
Article No.: 4121

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Back To Article Directory - Nov/Dec-04


The leaves have fallen and old man winter is ready to pay us a visit. Many who live in the colder parts of the United States are getting our homes ready - checking the furnace, sealing windows from drafts, but have you thought about the car or delivery vehicle that you drive?

Every time that you step into a vehicle, you face a potential driving hazard. Have you ever thought of your vehicle as a tool? All workers use tools, from office equipment to industrial machinery. Your vehicle is also a tool. Whether or not you use a vehicle as part of your work, it, like your other tools must maintained and used safely. Here are a few simple safety checks that should be made before the cold and wet weather sets in:

Winter Tire Maintenance

Rain, snow and ice make streets slippery in the winter and compromise your ability to control your car. Tires make contact with those slippery roads, therefore, make sure they provide you with the control you need.

The first step in winter tire maintenance is to put winter tires on your car. Winter tires help keep control of your car with large directional treads that resist hydroplaning by allowing more water into the tread channel. They also help tires work through slush.

Check the treads and sidewalls on your tires to make sure there is no thin or uneven tread wear and no cuts or damage to the sidewalls. To check for tread wear, you can use a Lincoln penny. Place the penny into your tread at the thinnest point of wear. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, you may need to get new tires.

Finally, check your tire pressure to make sure your tires are properly inflated. Check your owner’s manual to find the correct tire pressure for your vehicle. Changes in temperature will cause the pressure in your tires to change. As it gets colder, your tire pressure will go down. Also, don’t forget to check your spare tire.

Inspect Your Vehicle

Changes in temperature can cause problems in a vehicle that has not been properly maintained.


  • Make sure there is enough power in your battery to start your vehicle on those cold mornings.
  • Make sure the battery cables are properly tightened and fluid levels are correct.
  • Clean any corrosion off of the battery terminals.

Cooling System

  • The fluid in your cooling system keeps your engine from freezing.
  • Check the level and concentration of your radiator fluid.
  • If you added water to the system in the summer, make sure the concentration of antifreeze is high enough. A mix of 50% antifreeze and 50% water will protect your vehicle down to -40°F.

Windshield Wipers

The beginning of winter is a good time to make sure you have new windshield wiper blades. Cold weather and ice can damage wiper blades, causing them to become brittle and crack. Make sure your wiper blades are in good working order to deal with winter rain, sleet and snow.

Oil and Filter

Many vehicle manufacturers recommend that you change your oil every three months or 3,000 miles. Some manufacturers recommend using a different weight of oil during the cold months. Check the owner’s manual for the recommended grade of oil for winter.


Inspect your air filter, rubber hoses and drive belts. Replace any belts or hoses that are worn below manufacturer specifications.

At the same time, check all of your fluid levels (brake, power steering, differential, transmission and window washer fluid). You may want to consider a deicing fluid for your window washer to keep ice from building up during a storm.

Prepare A Vehicle Safety Kit

It is a good idea to prepare a vehicle safety kit. Make sure you have all of the winter necessities in your car: an ice scraper, tire chains, extra wiper blades/windshield washer fluid, snow shovel, rock salt and some medium to give you traction on slippery streets like kitty litter, newspapers or old house shingles or sand.

Keep a box of emergency supplies in your trunk such as: extra clothing, blankets, non-perishable snacks, eating utensils, water (both for drinking and radiator refills), a first aid kit, a flashlight and battery powered radio with spare batteries, jumper cables and safety flares. Keep a red or white flag to signal for help.

It is a good idea to keep a tool kit in your trunk yearround, but it is especially important in the winter. Your tool kit should include a screwdriver, wrench, pliers, rubber hammer, lubricating oil and a piece of cardboard or plastic for kneeling next to your car or getting under it. You should also make sure that your car jack is in working order and you have a lug-nut wrench.

Tune Into The Weather

Before you begin any trip, check for weather conditions along your route. If roads are slick from rain, ice, or poor surfaces, reduce your speed and proceed cautiously. Use the side of the road, if possible and wait until the conditions change. Keep your emergency flashers on so that oncoming drivers can see you. When you start to drive again, use lowbeams until the fog clears.

Alcohol, drugs, or other medications can be lethal when you drive. They affect your ability to concentrate and impair your reaction time which can lead to injury, disability or death. If you are angry, distracted, or tired, don’t get behind the wheel – you’ll be less able to react to potentially dangerous situations. Be alert, be aware, and be safe. That’s the professional way to drive.

This article is dedicated to my late father-in-law, who was recently taken from us by a careless driver. Harold (Pop) O’Brien was 96 years old and will be sorely missed. A Bostonian, he would have loved to live long enough to see Boston win the world series. We all believe he was up in Heaven cheering for them all the way!

Drive safely this winter and all year, all our safety depends on it!

For more information, click on the author biography at the top of this page.

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