5 Tips for Preparing for Winter Wonderland Driving

winter driving
Winter Driving

Winter is can be a dangerous time for American driver and winter driving can be hazardous.  Drivers in parts of the country that get snow should be well-prepared for conditions over the next couple months and your vehicles must be prepared too.  You are likely to experiences infamous black ice, all-encompassing whiteouts and blizzards so why not prepare now? Brave the winter with the following five essential tips for safe, accident-free driving:

#1 Survival Kit, Assemble!

It is recommend that you gather essential supplies in your trunk, so that if you’re ever stranded, you’ll be able to survive Bear Grylls-style. Pack the essentials into a duffel bag for ample space. Begin assembling your survivor kit with spare prescription medicine, high-calorie food (perhaps any of the now defunct Hostess products), bottled water, a first aid kit, extra clothes, thick blankets and an assortment of tools to make Tim Taylor proud. It’s also wise to bring jumper cables, a shovel and a bag of kitty litter or sand for traction when you might be able to get yourself out of trouble without the aid of a tow truck.

#2 Winterize Your Car

It is a good idea to have a mechanic check your car’s fuel, ignition, cooling and exhaust systems every year. Fluid levels and batteries should be checked; and belts, brakes, wipers and hoses should be in good condition.  If you are not sure you can afford all the maintenance at once, it’s a good idea to spread out the costs or learn to do some DIY maintenance.  Slippery winter conditions mean you’ll need good dependable tires with adequate tread for good traction in snow. Snow tires a good option if you live in an area with harsh winters.  Michelin tires are the best you can buy since they provide great performance in all driving conditions, including wet winter weather, and last a long time.

#3 Slow Ridem

There’s never a better time to drive defensively than winter. Slow down—you shouldn’t be going as fast as you do in the summertime—and be extra-careful going over or under bridges and overpasses. Allow extra space between yourself and the car in front of you, in case you need to make a sudden stop. Inspect your tires before you leave to make sure they’re inflated and wearing evenly. Make sure you’re familiar with the skills to recover from a skid—if you start skidding, gently steer your car in the direction of the car’s rear. Keep an eye out for disabled vehicles on the side of the road, never pass snowplows and, above all else, wear your seat belt—click it or ticket.

#4 The Man with a Plan

If you’re planning to make a trip during the winter, make sure someone knows where you’re going (and your route); check weather conditions before you leave. Most state patrol or highway department websites offer up-to-the-minute information on road conditions. Television and radio stations, including weather band radio, also provide current and reliable weather forecasts. Before you leave, double-check that you’ve got everything you need in your survival kit. Check around the circumference of your car before you depart, and every time you stop, ensure that your tires and other equipment are still in good condition. Take frequent breaks at rest stops or gas stations to prevent exhaustion and fatigue, and pull over to the nearest shelter if a storm becomes overwhelming. Don’t allow your gas tank to drop too low before refilling; fill that sucker up frequently.

#5 Stuck in the Snow & Nowhere to Go

When you’re stuck in feet of snow or some other winter-related wretchedness has wrecked your car, turn on your blinkers and stay put in the driver’s seat; you don’t want to run the risk of being hit by passing traffic. Use the supplies in your emergency kit, stay warm and periodically check your exhaust pipe—if it’s clogged with snow and ice, you could pass out from carbon monoxide poisoning. If you’re hopelessly stranded with nary a cell phone signal, you’ll be forced to flag down another vehicle or walk to the nearest service station for assistance.

Experts, including law enforcement, agree that the key to safe winter driving is twofold: advance planning and awareness. Start your preparations now, pay attention to weather conditions and you can overcome cranky Old Man Winter.

Sylvania SilverStar zXe’s, The Best Headlight Bulbs

Slyvania SilverStar zXe
Slyvania SilverStar zXe

As the days are getting shorter with winter upon us, I am sure you are using your headlights more. Inevitably one of your headlight bulbs is going to burn out or be on it’s last legs, putting you in the market for new headlights. When you take a trip down to the auto parts store you should consider upgrading to some better bulbs, like the Sylvania Silverstar zXe’s.

Sylvania was nice enough to send me a set of zXe’s for my 96′ Honda Accord. Some fans of Adam’s Auto Advice might remember I also wrote a review of the Slyvania SilverStar Ultras.  (Also see my review of the Sylvania Headlight Restoration Kit.)  After using the zXe’s I wouldn’t bother with the Ultras because the zXe’s are hands-down better.

This was made obvious one night while driving to a friend’s house in Northern Baltimore county. The roads to his house are small, twisty, and lack streetlights where walls of trees line the side of the roads. This forced me to rely on the zXe’s. With the brights on, they effortlessly lit the way for my Honda Accord. I had driven this same route with the SilverStar Ultras which were great, but definitely not nearly as good as the zXe’s. The dark roads were simply no match for the light that the zXe’s produced.

Another night, driving home on a dark Baltimore city street, I noticed two people walking in the middle of the street. I mean they were literally walking in the middle of the street! I braked and swerved around them honking. Luckily I saw them far before an accident would have occurred, but I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have seen them as early without the zXe’s.

Also, when driving in rain or bad weather, the zXe’s shine. They are particularly useful at night when it is raining.

What makes the zXe’s superior is fullness of the white light and the intensity. Some headlight bulbs provide a wide lighting area but the light diminishes around the edges, reducing their effectiveness. This doesn’t happen with the zXe’s crisp illumination.

“SilverStar zXe headlights use a proprietary cobalt blue coating combined with xenon halogen gas technology to generate a color temperature that rivals HID.” according to the description on Sylvania’s website. Part of the appeal of the zXe’s for auto enthusiasts and tuners is they mimic High-Intensity Discharge (HID) headlight housings without the expense and hassle of installation. A big advantage to the zXe’s is they are 100% legal and Department of Transportation (DOT) approved so you don’t need to worry about running into any legal trouble. Sylvania hopes you will consider these before buying a set of HID’s. While the zXe’s did slightly improve the look of my Honda Accord with slicker lights, I am not sure the zXe’s are a true replacement for the overall look of HID headlights. This is strictly my opinion though, maybe they look better on other cars.

One complaint I have read about the zXe’s is that they do not last as long as regular bulbs. Slyvania doesn’t really advertise it in big bold letters but on the box it does say, “Slyvania SilverStar zXe lamps are engineered to achieve the highest performance possible, which results in product life that is less than standard lamps.” So they are not trying to hide this or mislead Sylvania customers. It states this limitation clearly and it might be something to be aware of before purchasing them.  I have been using my zXe’s for a number of months and haven’t noticed that the light has diminished or had a bulb burn out though.  If they do I will let people know.

Once you use Slyvania’s zXe’s you will most likely not care about what the box says. It would be hard to go back to using any other type of bulb for your headlights. They are better and brighter then anything I have ever used and if you buy a set, I am pretty sure you will be happy with that choice.

Adam’s 7 Tips for Winterizing Your Car

Replacing My Wipers for Cold Weather

With the unusually warm weather in January, I felt a bit odd posting a list of tips for winterizing your car.  Now that there is actually snow on the ground in Baltimore, and it is cold, it makes more sense posting this list.  No sense in posting a list in the Spring!

“Adam’s 7 Tips for Winterizing Your Car.”

  1. Hey, Your Car is Dirty:  This is something that is a good idea to do before it gets cold and there is snow on the ground.  (Ok, maybe I should have posted this earlier.)  It’s good to clean your car of all the road grime and dirt, because during the winter cars tend to attract more dirt.  Clean the interior of the car as well.  If you don’t have rubber floormats, I would consider buying them as it will help keep your car’s interior cleaner.  Most people don’t clean their cars during the winter, so that is why I suggest this.
  2. Ohh, My Battery Is Dead: It is a very good idea to get your battery checked or take a look yourself.  Low temperatures make it hard for the chemical reactions inside your battery to operate normally, meaning it has reduced power to get your car started.  Most auto parts stores do Free battery checks using specialized testers, and they can usually test your whole electrical system too.  If you have had trouble starting your car in the past due to the battery going dead or it has given you problems, you probably should just get a new battery.  If it is more than 3-4 years old, replace it.
  3. Get Rid Of That Battery Corrosion: Even if your battery is not that old, servicing it might be a good idea.  By that I mean making sure there is no corrosion on the terminals or cables.  If you are comfortable cleaning the terminals and battery, it is a good idea to do that yourself.  (Remember undo the negative cable first, then the positive cable.)  A quick way to get all the corrosion off is to pour warm water on top of the battery, which quickly washes away all that white sulfate deposit.  You can then take wire brush and clean the terminals and cables, ensuring you battery has a good connection.
  4. Can You See The Light?:  Having a Headlight or Taillight bulb out is an easy thing to miss. Hey, I understand!  Since the days are shorter and the nights longer in winter, it is good to make sure they are functioning properly.  Turn on your cars lights and walk around to make sure all are in working order.  Don’t forgot to check those blinkers too!  If any are out or very dim, replace it.  Then you don’t need to worry about it later.
  5. Keep Your Coolant:  You want to make sure you have a 50:50 mix of anti-freeze and water inside your radiator. If there isn’t enough anti-freeze in the mix, it could potentially freeze in the cold weather.  How do you know if you have a 50/50 coolant or anti-freeze mixture?  There are test strips and special tools to test the mixture and pH level of coolant.  I rarely see many shops using them, but you can buy them at auto parts stores.  You might want to consider doing a coolant flush if you have never done it, or if it has been 4+ years since you have flushed your coolant.  Don’t forgot to also check your hoses.  If they are bulging hard, brittle, deformed, squishy, or have hairline cracks, replace the hose.
  6. Is Your Tread Dead?: When is the last time you checked you tire pressure?  Mmm… better check it, since tires lose about 1psi for every 10 degree change in temperature.   You gas mileage will improve and your car will handle better.  Also make sure you have adequate tread and your tires are not worn-out.  If you live in climate that gets heavy snow, switching to snow tires for the winter might not be bad idea.
  7. Can You See the Road?: Wipers are very easy to overlook, but very important for inclement weather.  Check your wipers are not streaking or has rubber falling off.  If they are old and aren’t doing the job, replace them.  I recommend Bosch frame-less wipers, which last longer and work better.  I have Bosch wipers installed on my Honda Accord.  Remember to also make sure you have washer fluid.

I hope you enjoyed Adam’s Auto Advice tips!  If you have a suggestion or comment about winterizing your vehicle  leave a comment below.  Keep warm this winter and please drive safely.  You never know what’s on the road, so be prepared.

Floormats for my Honda

About 2 weeks ago I bought a set of floormats at Costco for my Accord.  I had been looking and searching for a good set of floormats but had not been able to find anything.  Every set I looked was thin rubber, or a good set with durable thick rubber was $40 or more.  Even the sets I would bought for $40 had odd designs.  It seemed for keeping dirt on the mat they would have been inadequate.  Also lots of floormats have carpeting.  Why do you need carpeting on a floormat?  Doesn’t make sense to me.  I checked Sears, Target, Wal-Mart, auto parts stores…everywhere!  All had floormats that would have worked, but not thick ones like I wanted for a reasonable price.

Costco’s set of floormats are great!  Thick, durable, and the brown-tan color blends in well with my Honda’s interior.  I expect to get a great use out of these mats especially with the bad and wet weather in Baltimore recently.

It was $15 for the set of 4 FloorMats, 2 for the front and 2 for the back.  If you want or need a set of floormats, I would recommend these from Costco.  They have been great for keeping my Honda’s carpeting from grime and dirt.  They will prove to be a good invest for a long time.

Going into the cold winter months, floormats are something that would be a wise item to get for your car.  Since a lot of people want to get more mileage out of their cars in this economy.  Obviously floormats won’t help your car run better, but will keep it looking fresh and cleaner for longer.

Notice I like to leave as much rubber material on the mats as possible, even for my small 96 Honda Accord.  That way they catch as much dirt and grime as possible, the whole point of the floormats.