Harsh Oswego winters should prompt drivers to begin preparations now

With winter approaching, it is time to start thinking about getting your car ready for harsh weather.

Oswego State is known for its treacherous winter weather, having a car prepared for it could help keep people out of ditches, batteries from dying and cars from getting stuck.

According to Bob Vail, a master technician with more than 30 years experience and co-owner of G&V Auto Care in Liverpool, N.Y., when winter weather approaches there is a checklist for preparing your car. Get an oil change, have your coolant checked and ensure your heat works well, Vail said.

Vail also advised drivers to check all fluids, change to winter wiper blades, make sure all lights are working properly and check the electrical system and battery. Also, be sure there are no mechanical issues and change your tires over to winter tires.

“Good all-season tires are okay, but four snow tires are the way to go,” Vail said.

Some people have all season tires, which work in all weather conditions. Still, all drivers should check the depth of the tread on tires along with air pressure.

Tread is legally worn out at 2/32 of an inch and less tread means the car has less grip when driving through snow and over ice. Along with having enough tread, it is important to have a proper amount of pressure in tires because if a car drives too long on low air pressure, it could cause tires to wear faster and potentially blow out. An appropriate amount of air pressure is 32 to 35 pounds of air and 40 to 45 pounds of air for sedans, SUVs and trucks.

A larger sized truck carrying or hauling large loads needs more air pressure – anywhere from 50 to 70 pounds depending on the amount of weight being hauled or carried, Vail said.

The biggest mistake someone could make in preparing their car is to not check all of the systems, Vail said. Checking all systems includes having the proper amount of oil, fluids, making sure the battery has a proper amount of voltage and checking for trouble code lights on the dashboard (check engine light, low coolant light, etc.)

Drivers can test their battery themselves if they have a voltage meter or they can bring it to a mechanic shop to test it. A mechanic can also hookup your car to a device that can read why you have a trouble light on and clear any existing problems.

If you bring your car to a shop, depending on what the vehicle needs done the process might take at least a day to complete, according to Vail.

But, it is an important day to take if you do not plan on preparing your car yourself. Even when you have your car ready to go, it is still important to remember to take your time and slow down, Vail said.

Even with preparations, not being careful can be costly. Having an all-wheel drive car or 4×4 vehicle is beneficial for handling winter conditions, but even that does not mean you can drive recklessly.

Accidents tend to rise around the Oswego State campus during the winter, according to Lt. Kevin Velzy of University Police.

“The main causes of accidents are people driving too fast for road conditions, visibility, either not clear windows or heavy lake effect snow, or just bad road conditions where ice has formed before the road crews can clean and de-ice them,” Velzy said.

Velzy advised that along with having your car prepared for the winter, you should prepare yourself in case any kind of issue occurs. This includes having some important items in your car such as, a shovel, fully-charged cell phone, first aid kit, flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, blankets, warning device (flares or reflective triangle), abrasive material (cat litter, sand, salt or traction mats), and high-energy foods such as chocolate or dried fruit.

October is also Car Care Month for the American Automobile Association (AAA), where they stress the importance of preparation to drivers, said Diana Dibble, public affairs manager at AAA.

“Before the first snow fall comes we like to remind the drivers how important it is not only to have their vehicles equipped, but to have themselves equipped,” Dibble said. “That means getting in the right frame of mind driving during the winter months. Make sure you clear your windows properly; leave plenty of space between you and other cars, decrease your speed to have more time to slow down and to react, and you want to allow yourself more time to get where you are going.”