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Winter wonderland

Winter is here. Make sure your car is ready for the cold months, especially if you're planning a road trip. Here are our top tips to keep you safe on the road.
Print Edition: January 2014
Winter wonderland

Winters are tricky for most motorists, especially if you are planning a long road trip vacation. Apart from frequent fogs and poor visibility, the weather can also affect a car's engine and electrical circuits. Here are some maintenance tips and checks to follow to keep your car running safely.

READ THE MANUAL
It might be boring and overwrought, but read the owner's manual to know when you need to change your car's tyres, brakes, filters and fluids. There's no substitute for timely service. If you're still unsure of your car's current condition, visit a service station. Make sure to follow the service schedule recommended by the manufacturer.

CHANGE THE OIL
Clean or new, high-quality engine oil protects the motor from cold start problems. Try to use the oil recommended by the vehicle's manufacturer. Do not rev your engine immediately after starting it up. Let the lubricants circulate through the engine and warm up before you rev the engine.

CHECK THE BATTERY
Check your car's battery and charge. Car batteries have to work much harder during the winter. You do not want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere on a cold day because your battery died on you. Cold temperatures can reduce a battery's performance by up to 50%. So, do test it, especially if it's older than three years.

Clean the battery terminals regularly to ensure proper flow of charge and make sure the terminals are free of corrosion.

CHANGE THE AIR FILTER
Check the air filter and replace it if it's clogged. Dust and contaminants accumulate over time and chokes the air filter. When you turn on the car's heater, these contaminants will blow into the car's cabin. These can be harmful to your health, especially if you're prone to allergies.

CHECK BELTS AND HOSES

Check that your engine's belt and hoses are in great working condition. Belts and hoses are typically checked when the vehicle is due for a tune-up. However, low temperatures can weaken the material, such as the variants of rubber used, to the point of cracking. Damaged engine belts will not be able to withstand extreme cold either, so do check it before the onset of winter.

INSPECT TYRES

Make sure the pressure in the tyres is maintained to levels recommended by the manufacturer. If you have to drive in snowy conditions, it is a good idea to reduce the tyre pressure by a few PSI for better traction. Don't over-inflate the tyres if you have to drive in wet conditions as it will lead to loss of traction.

INSPECT THE LIGHTS
Visibility is a key factor in the winter. Check all your car's lights (tail lights, signal bulbs, brake lights, headlights, and, even the cabin light) to see if these are working properly. Always carry an extra set of bulbs and fuse, especially if you intend to travel during the night. Adjust the headlights of your car so that it won't blind other motorists coming from the opposite direction.

EMERGENCY KIT
Carrying an emergency medical kit is a good idea, irrespective of the season. Apart from this, you can add canned or packaged food, bottled water, flashlights and even flares to your emergency kit. It would also be a good idea to have a mobile power bank for your phone.

DEMISTING
Demist your car before setting off on a drive. Ventilate your car while running your car's blower to remove moisture. The heater will ensure that moisture in the cabin evaporates. Then, turn your car's air conditioner on so that humidity does not build up while driving, fogging up the windows. Your car's air conditioner removes moisture inside the vehicle by circulating the air through the cold fins in the evaporator, which turns the humidity back into liquid. It works best in the 'refresh mode'.

SUNGLASSES

Sunglasses protect you from glare if you are driving in snowy conditions. So, keep one handy in your car. Check the weather forecast if you're driving to the hills.

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

If you are stuck, as often as it is repeated, do not panic. Carry a warning triangle so that you can warn oncoming traffic of your vehicle's presence. Put on the parking lights as well, which is why the car battery needs to be in top condition. Call the police for help. Keep a torch in the car, in case your stay extends into darkness. Carry warm, waterproof clothing and a high-visibility jacket. Consider taking a shovel if you are travelling to an area known for snowfall. In a blizzard, make sure one person stays awake to be alert of help or any dangers. If it's very cold, keep up blood circulation by moving your feet and hands. Finally, if you must, abandon your car. However, do remember that even if you are parked sufficiently far away from the road, you may be blocking access for emergency services. So, be careful not to cause an inconvenience when you leave your car.

Courtesy: AutoBild India

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