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.

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.

Bridgestone Launches New Website for Teen Drivers

Bridgestone has a new website for teen drivers, Teensdrivesmart.com. The focus is to educate by providing a comprehensive resource for young drivers. Resources are provided in the form of useful information, fun video games, informative videos, and a blog. However the site is not just for teenagers as there are great resources for parents and teachers as well.

Sometimes it can be hard for parents to think of the right things to say to the newly minted drivers in the family. The website helps with tips and advice. They have driving contracts for parents and teens. Fill these out and discuss the rules and limits when using the family vehicles. This is something a certain writer would definitely approve of… of course not when he was learning to drive.

The site has another great feature – teaching tools. Most schools don't offer driver ed's. But teachers and students do still talk about driving, and the site offers driving-focused lesson plans that teachers can use in high school and even middle school. The lessons can be easily integrated into instruction for many different subjects. If you are a teacher, check it out. Consider how to teach your students safe driving habits. Talking about driving should be a priority. This can save lives.

“With the website we provide all the information to make smart decisions. There are more distractions than ever,” says Angela Patterson Sikes, who manages teen driver safety initiatives for Bridgestone. Texting; cell phones; music: other teens – are all potential co-pilots with teen drivers, and all can be lethal. Sikes, who also writes for the site's “Driver's Seat Blog,” says the site offers tips on how teens (and adults) can handle those distractions.

“Teenagers are new drivers which is a great opportunity to learn good habits.” says Sikes. “We think safety is everyone's responsibility. We try to involve parents and teachers to get out the message.”

The blog, which encourages reader comments and an open forum, gives out this information in a conversational manner. Four young women are the primary contributors who connect to teens on their level, without talking down to them. “We want to put a face on the lessons we are trying to teach,” Sikes says.

The website is gaining traction. Miss America 2011, Teresa Scanlan, recently contributed with video messages chatting about the site.

If you sign-up to receive the newsletter you could win a $100 gas card. Check back for more information, contests, and great advice on teen driving.

Win Baltimore Grand Prix Tickets

Do you want to go to the Baltimore Grand Prix?  Well you are in luck!  Mr. Tire is giving away 250 pairs of tickets to the 2011 Baltimore Grand Prix for Friday September 2nd.  All you need to do is fill out and submit your information on the online entry form. Then you could win tickets to the event.  You better hurry to enter as the sweepstakes ends August 22nd, 2011.

There is a catch.  You can enter if you reside in Delaware, Washington DC, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia or West Virginia.  If you live in other states… sorry you are not eligible.  I assume most people within the specified entry states are most likely the majority of people who would be attending the Baltimore Grand Prix anyway.

The winners will be notified by email on August 24th.  So don't make any plans for Labor day weekend if you enter.  Remember this is big event for Baltimore.  If you win some tickets I hope to see you there!

To enter visit: http://www.mrtire.com/grandprix/

Safety Scholars voting ends Today!

The Safety Scholars video contest voting ends today.  If you have not voted for you favorite video yet, please make sure to do so.  Remember you are not just voting for lucky students who will receive a $10,000 and $5,000 college scholarships, you are eligible to win a prize just for voting.

Part of the goal of Safety Scholars is to create messages on driving safety that are, “Coming from another teenager to another teenager.”  says Angela Patterson, digital media coordinator, for Bridgestone Americas.  I would say this is exactly what the participants in Safety Scholars have accomplished.  The videos are creative, thought provoking, and extremely well executed.  It was hard for me to choose my favorite among the videos.  Watch the videos and please try your best.

To vote visit:  http://www.safetyscholarsvideo.com/?/finalists#

Safety Scholars video contest, Voting has begun

The top ten finalists have been chosen in Bridgestone's Safety Scholars video contest.  That means you can now vote for your favorite video on driving and vehicle safety.

The videos have been posted on safetyscholars.com. The student whose video receives the most votes will win a $10,000 college scholarship.  The second and third place winners receive $5,000 college scholarships.  The top ten finalists will also receive a free set of Bridgestone tires for their car.

When you vote for your favorite video you are also eligible to receive a prize.  The prizes are a variety of Bridgestone products.  Voting ends July 29, so make sure to vote.  The grand prize winner and runner-ups will be announced August 1.

There were 1,466 entries submitted by 16- to 21-year-olds across the United States and Canada, up from last year's 1,373 entries.  Judges picked the finalists based on how well the videos made viewers think about being more safety-conscious drivers and how effectively and creatively they were able to convey their message.

“The passion and creativity displayed in these videos is so incredible that it makes the judges’ decisions very difficult.  Safety Scholars once again proves to be an innovative campaign that empowers young drivers and allows us to demonstrate our commitment to safety behind the wheel.”  said Angela Patterson, digital media coordinator, Community and Corporate Relations, for Bridgestone Americas, who also manages the company’s teen driver safety initiatives.

Even more rewarding than the scholarships, the grand prize winners videos might be used as a public service announcement (PSA) on TV stations all across the country.  Bridgestone supports these in cooperation with Driver’s Edge, a non-profit hands-on safe driving course that’s available free to 15-to 21-year-olds in US cities during the Summer.  The 2010 Safety Scholars PSAs have aired more than 24,000 times on TV and cable stations across the United States.

The videos are all extremely well-done and very creative.  I have my own personal favorites, but I won't reveal which ones they are.  I will let you decide.

To vote please visit:  http://www.safetyscholarsvideo.com/?/finalists#

As well as receiving the scholarships the finalists will also get a free set of Bridgestone tires for their car.  The grand prize winners have the chance to have their video used as a public service announcement (PSA) on television stations all across the country.  Bridgestone supports these in cooperation with Driver’s Edge, a separate non-profit hands-on safe driving course that’s available free to 15-to 21-year-olds in US cities during the Summer. The 2010 Safety Scholars PSAs have aired more than 24,000 times on TV and cable stations across the United States.

Changing a Flat Tire “Foot Trick”

Have you ever been stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire? Found it impossible to loosen the lug nuts?  My brother actually had a flat tire a few weeks ago at my house.  I saw him trying to loosen the lug nuts by hand!  I started chuckling, and contemplated whether I should let him in on a little trick.

Well I’ll let you know a good trick and old mechanic showed me. Instead of using your arms, which I’m sure you know is difficult, use your leg strength to loosen the lug nuts. It’s something that’s simple, but not something you would have thought of unless someone showed you how to do it. Consider lug nuts have about 80-120 foot-pounds of torque on them. Unless you have Herculean strength in your arms, I’m sure you’ve never felt like you can get those lug nuts loose. The “Foot Trick” will help loosen them quickly, easily, and with minimal effort, After all your legs are strong.

To do this remember to go in the correct direction. (Rightie-Tightie, Leftie-Loosie!) Set you lug wrench as firmly and deeply onto the lug nut as you can. Carefully, quickly, and with force apply a good amount of pressure with the heel of your foot. It will be more effective, than using the toe or ball of your foot. (If you are wearing high-heels, maybe you should use your ball of your foot!) You should really only needed to loosen them a little bit. I’d suggest stomping hard 1 or 2 times, until you hear a loud crack or squeak noise. That means you’ve loosened them enough and from there you should be able to twist off the lug nut by hand. This is also a good technique to use when tightening your spare tire.

This “Foot Trick” will save you lots of time and effort when changing a flat. You also won’t have to wait for an auto service to come help you. Besides, it will feel great changing a flat tire yourself!