Freezing temperatures, black ice, and blizzards are just some of the conditions drivers should expect all winter long. Getting your vehicle ready for driving in winter is an essential task. The earlier you can get it done, the better. Affordable Insurance in Aurora deals with hundreds of claims every winter. Many of these involve incidents that are easily preventable by drivers making some simple adjustments to their vehicle and their driving behavior.
It is all too easy to underestimate the risks created by extreme weather conditions. In Colorado, there is a huge variation in temperature, rain level and snowfall across the state. However, just driving a few hours into the mountainous areas can bring you into far more hazardous weather. For newcomers and visitors to the state, it is of particular importance to take heed of weather warnings and be prepared for the worst-case scenarios.
Adapting Your Vehicle
It is advisable to make some minor adjustments to your car before the dangerous weather sets in. Your car’s fluids should be rated for the temperatures you plan to be driving in. Antifreeze fluid should be suitable for below freezing temperatures and filled up. Windshield washer fluids that are water-based are often the first to freeze and cause difficulty with already dodgy visibility. Look for alcohol-based washer fluid for best results. Your oil should be changed to a temperature rated variety suitable for use in cold weather. A viscosity grading of 5 or 10 is optimum.
Your vehicle’s battery is put under strain in freezing weather. Its performance will decline significantly in temperatures less than 32°F. You should have it checked regularly and remember to keep jumper cables in your vehicle. Don’t rely on somebody else to have them when you need a boost.
Have your brakes checked, replace worn brake pads, and top off your fluid. You want your brakes to be functioning 100% before you take your car out into winter driving conditions. Roads slick with snow and ice can increase braking distance by up to six times. The strain put on your brakes is multiplied in winter conditions, especially if you plan on driving mountain routes with sharp inclines. Your braking also depends on the condition of your tires, which we explain in detail below.
Tires, Traction, and the Law
Probably the most important aspect of getting your vehicle ready for driving in winter is to check the tires. A simple test using a quarter can reveal if you have a severe tire wear issue. Take a quarter, and with Washington’s head upside down, slot it into the tread of your tire. If the tire completely hides the top of his head, the tread is deep enough. If you can see the top of Washington’s head, the tire is too worn down. You can try this out on a few different spots on each tire.
If you need a new set of tires and live in the city but rarely drive in adverse weather conditions, you could consider all weather tires. These can handle most road conditions during the different seasons. However, anybody planning on driving in the snow will probably need to invest in snow tires. These tires are sometimes labeled as M+S tires (Mud and Snow) and are suitable for driving in winter conditions.
In times of heavy snowfall, the Colorado Department of Transportation may temporarily put the Traction Law, or Code 15, into action. This law requires that all vehicles must have either snow tires, or an all-wheel or four-wheel drive system. Vehicles with neither of these attributes require tire chains or another traction device to legally be allowed on the road. In the most hazardous conditions, the Passenger Vehicle Chain Law will be enacted, requiring all vehicles to use tire chains or traction devices, irrespective of their tires or drive system.
A basic emergency kit is essential for Colorado drivers in winter. Road blockages, breaking down in a remote area, getting stuck in a blizzard, or black ice sending you off the road are real possibilities. In your vehicle, always have extra clothes, boots, blankets or a sleeping bag as well as non-perishable food and water. A container to melt snow in will be useful if you are stuck for an extended time or with multiple passengers.
Some essential tools to get yourself out of built-up snow include a shovel, ice scraper and a bag of kitty litter or sand to help with traction. You should have warning triangles, jumper cables, a tow strap and a flashlight on hand in your vehicle at all times of the year. Flares are also a good idea for remote winter driving. You may also want to consider packing a basic first aid kit to be on the safe side and a portable radio. Try to keep your mobile phone fully charged before long journeys and invest in an extra battery or car charger.
Adapting Your Driving
In addition to adapting your vehicle to winter conditions, you’ll also need to make some changes to your usual driving habits. Remember that everybody is experiencing the same severe driving conditions and can make mistakes. Lower your speed when driving at night, in snowy or foggy weather and when road surfaces are wet or icy. Leave a much larger gap between you and other vehicles than you usually would. Remember that braking time will be multiplied considerably, so brake early and brake gently.
Expect more traffic, and don’t be surprised if your usual routes take twice as long. Give yourself more time to make your daily commute, picking up children from school, and other routine tasks. If you can avoid driving during Code 15 or Code 16 periods, then do so. Remember, if your vehicle does not abide by the traction rules put in place during those times, you can face substantial fines. It is safer to put off unnecessary journeys until weather conditions clear up.
Getting your vehicle ready for driving in winter isn’t complicated if you prepare early. Give yourself the best chance at a safe season of driving by following these tips. Unfortunately, not all weather-related driving incidents are avoidable. If you suffer a road accident this winter, our team at Affordable Insurance in Aurora is just a phone call away. Our customer service team makes it easy to file a claim and get the compensation you are entitled to.