Safety tips for a sub-freezing winter day in Macon County

Tilly Dillehay Editor

January 6, 2014

We all held our collective breath for it, because they told us it was coming. Then we watched as, overnight, Macon County was covered in a blustery heap of snow and temperatures fell, as predicted, into the teens. Now many of us are keeping an eye on the sky from the safety of our homes, as the kids (out of school both Monday and Tuesday) beg to go outside and play.

But for many others of us, getting out on the road is a necessity, whether or not our vehicles are ready for it. There were four non-injury accidents in the county between 7:30 Sunday night and 10:00 Monday morning.

Here are few tips courtesy the Macon County Times, on winterizing your vehicle for today and other days like it this winter:


* Drivers who want improved traction from their tires throughout the winter can purchase winter tires for their vehicles. Such tires can more effectively handle roads that are covered in snow and ice than all-season tires. Another way to improve traction during the winter months is to constantly monitor tire pressure, which decreases more rapidly when the weather is cold. Properly inflated tires provide better traction and protect against damage that may occur when driving over potholes.

* Consider a low-viscosity oil in the winter. The owner's manual of your vehicle may recommend you use a lower viscosity motor oil to counter the dip in temperature that's synonymous with winter. When the temperatures outside fall, the oil inside your vehicle thickens, and a thicker oil won't circulate through the engine as well. This can cause engine problems because the engine won't be adequately lubricated. A low-viscosity oil is naturally thinner, so it may improve lubrication throughout the winter. The vehicle owner's manual should recommend oils based on climate. If not, talk to your mechanic about changing from the oil you use throughout the year to a low-viscosity alternative during the winter.

* Inspect your vehicle before winter arrives. No one wants to be out on the road during the first snowstorm of the year only to discover certain components are not working properly. Belts and hoses, while durable, can be put through strenuous conditions during the winter months, so a close inspection of belts and hoses should be conducted in late fall. In addition, windshield wipers are especially important in winter, when snowfall can drastically impact visibility. You will want your wipers working at full capacity once the winter begins, so replace older wipers (shelf life for standard wipers is typically one year) and use a de-icing windshield washer fluid to maximize visibility.

* Another component that must be inspected is your car's battery. Many drivers have experienced a dead battery, which, in warm weather, is more of a nuisance than a health concern. In cold weather, a dead battery can threaten your health if you find yourself stranded in cold weather. Especially low temperatures can compromise a battery's power by as much as 50 percent, so have your battery inspected in late fall and replace it if need be.

* Don't be caught off guard. Part of winterizing a vehicle is being prepared if the vehicle breaks down. Make sure you have extra washer fluid in your vehicle's trunk, and don't forget to include an ice scraper, snow brush or even a snow shovel in the trunk as well. A snow shovel may be necessary if you need to dig your car out if it's been buried somewhere other than your driveway. Other items to carry in your trunk include a blanket, a change of clothes, an extra hat, an extra pair of gloves, some nonperishable food, and a few bottles of water.

And whatever you do, be safe rather than sorry. If you doubt whether your vehicle can make it out of one of the 'hollers' in our community, don't risk it. Better to stay at home than to find yourself on foot trying to find help in 4-degree weather.