Winter Weather Driving Tips

Photo Courtesy of Chris Connelly/Flickr

Strong winds, ice, and low temperatures can create hazardous driving conditions. Drivers should be cautious when severe weather hits. If you do not have to be out, don’t risk it. Driving on ice can be very dangerous and you should avoid getting out on the road unless you absolutely have to. If you have to drive during severe winter weather, follow these tips to ensure a safe trip.

Be prepared. Before the weather hits, make sure your vehicle is winterized. Check tire pressure as it tends to go down in the winter. If tires are under inflated they can cause a vehicle to react more slowly. Battery power goes down as well when the temperature lowers. Make sure your battery has sufficient voltage. Check your lights. You want to be seen coming down the road as well as see what is in front of you. Other things to check are the heater and ignition system. Make sure the gas tank is sufficiently full and that the oil has been changed. Restock your first aid and emergency supplies in case you get stranded.

Do not start driving until the windshield and other windows are clear. Even if you are only going a short distance, you need to be able to see around you in hazardous conditions. If you want to warm up your car before getting in, make sure it is in an open area. Do not leave the garage door shut for example.

When hitting the road start slow to get a feel of road conditions. Test the steering control and braking ability. Rain, snow, and ice have huge effects on the braking distance of a vehicle. Being able to complete a smooth and safe stop is severely limited due to reduced tire traction. Take gentle turns and drive at a low speed. Avoid sudden movements and brake gently when stopping. Keep a safe distance between you and the car in front of you. Make sure your wiper blades are functioning. There are even special blades available that assist in removing snow.

If you happen to be caught in winter weather or stalled, stay with your but do not overexert yourself. Contact 911 or emergency roadside assistance as soon as you can. Running your car for long periods of time with the windows rolled up can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. To say warm, make sure the exhaust pipe is cleared of any debris or snow and run your vehicle sporadically.

Battery Maintenance

Photo Courtesy of Flickr/Mike Mozart

 

Car batteries are important as they supply the necessary current to the starter motor and ignition system while cranking to start the engine. If your vehicle’s battery is not functioning properly, you will not be able to drive it.

Testing your vehicle’s battery can prevent it from dying or causing other issues. Testing should not be done only in an emergency or when you start noticing problems. It should be used as a preventative measure. Most experts agree that it should be done frequently as a precaution. To be proactive, you should test it at least twice a year.

One way to keep track of your battery’s performance is to check the label. There should be punch-outs with the month and year the battery was purchased. If the battery was manufactured more than 4 years ago, it may be time to replace it. Symptoms of a bad car battery can be found even before it dies or stops working. If your vehicle takes longer than usual to start, this could be a sign of a bad battery. Look for corrosion on the battery and its terminals.

If your battery is dead, there is not much to do other than dispose of it and buy a new one. Getting rid of the old battery however must be done in a clean manner or recycled as lead-acid batteries are an environmental hazard. First, you can find a recycling location in your area that takes car batteries. AAA has a system for recycling old batteries and more information can be found here. You can also take the battery to a parts store or auto shop. This is most common since this is where new batteries are purchased.

Batteries are not universal and different vehicles require different types. When purchasing a new battery, make sure you know what kind of your vehicle needs and how much you want to spend. Refer to the owner manual of your vehicle to get the size and measurements for a new battery. You can also check the manual for the minimum cranking amp value that your car requires. Performance is important and you want to look for batteries that have a higher cold cranking amp. When budgeting, a typical, low cost car battery will be no more than $200. Batteries with higher performance, resilient construction, and a good warranty will be more expensive.

Winter Car Care

Temperatures are starting drop and with them, come challenges for car owners such as icy roads, freezing temperatures, and strong winds. Here are car care tips to ensure that your vehicle stays in great shape all winter long.

Antifreeze or coolant is paramount to your vehicle in the winter. It ensures that your car will not freeze in cold temperatures. Have coolant levels checked and leaks in the engine to lower your engine’s freezing point, mix 50/50 of coolant and water.

Days are shorter in winter months and that means commuters must drive with less light. Vehicle owners should make sure that all of the lights on their car are working properly. Replace any broken bulbs and restore any foggy or yellow headlights.

Car batteries lose their charge more slowly in colder temperatures, but if a battery was going bad in the summer or had a leak, it will most likely die in the winter. Take your vehicle in and have a volt test performed to make sure that it is working properly or if you need to replace it.

Tire pressure can drop as temperatures get colder. Low tire pressure causes strain on your tires as well as potential tread separation which could lead to an accident. It is important to keep track of your tire pressure and if they are low, to fill them up as soon as you can.

Check your wiper blades for replacement. Fog and rain can cut down visibility in winter and shoddy blades can be dangerous. When ice or snow falls on your windshield, make sure to turn off your wiper blades when you park. This will help the wiper motor the next time you turn on the vehicle from burning out. If you do not have a garage, you can pop the wiper blades up when you park so they don’t freeze to the windshield.

Add a bottle of fuel deicer to your tank once a month. This will help moisture from freezing in the fuel line. Do not let your tank get too low. Keeping the gas tank full also helps to prevent moisture from forming.

Gift Guide for Car Lovers

 

Tis the season for gifts! It can be hard to shop for car lovers but we are here to help. Here are some ideas for this holiday season.

Customized Floor Mats
WeatherTech is an American company that makes customized floor mats, trunk liners, and other accessories. Their floor liners are laser measured to protect all sides of the vehicle’s footwell and are engineered with advanced surfacing that makes cleaning messes unbelievably simple. Most car lovers have heard of them and would relish any gift from the company. If you are unable to provide floor mats for your loved one’s vehicle, WeatherTech offers gift cards as well.

Satellite Radio Subscription
Many cars come with satellite radio units, but most car owners let those introductory subscriptions lapse. Purchase a subscription or gift card to streaming services like SiriusXM.

Portable jump-starter/charger.
Jumper cables are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Portable jump-starters are easy to use and can also be utilized to charge smartphones, tablets, and other devices. They come in sizes small enough to fit into the glove compartment and run relatively inexpensive.

Smartphone Dash Mount
Keep your driver safe and from a ticket. A dash mount will allow them to use their smartphone hands-free while driving.

Heated Massage Cushion
For those that spend a lot of time in their vehicle, offer some relief. Portable seat cushions attach to the seat with heat and massage capabilities. If they would like to use it at their office or recliner at home, they can remove it easily.

Hail Protector Car Cover System
Texas may not get a lot of snow, but hail is a problem. For those that may not have a garage, they can keep their cars safe. It inflates using a remote control and can cover sedans, hatchbacks, and wagons up to 175” in length.

High-quality Auto Care Products
Create a gift basket they will love filled with a chenille wash mitt, professional microfiber towels, a collapsible bucket, foam auto wash, and more!

500 Nascar Race Weekend
For the those that love Nascar, grab them tickets to the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Nascar Race weekend.

Fall Car Camping

Photo courtesy of Liz West/flickr

Summer has finally ended and it’s time to start enjoying outside. Over the past 20 years, fewer kids have been introduced to the pastime of camping so there is a declining number of adults who know how to pitch a tent or use a camp stove. If you are new to camping or want to start, car camping is a great first step. Most state parks provide access to toilets and showers and camping in your vehicle can help ease you into the great outdoors. Mistakes are easier to make and learn from with the safety net of your vehicle. Follow these tips to stay safe and make the most out of your car camping trip.

 

Remember safety first. Never sleep in a vehicle while it is running. Find campgrounds that require guests to register and who monitor unregistered visitors. Lock your vehicle’s doors and store valuables out of sight. The camping community is friendly and open but you want to be wise. Use apps like AllStays or Hipcamp to find out where you can stay legally and not be bothered. They list a variety of free or paid locations.

 

When packing, keep it simple. The Ten Essentials assembled in the 1930s by The Mountaineers has been updated to help people be prepared in the outdoors. This list includes navigation, sun protection, insulation, flashlight, first aid kit, matches or a lighter, food, water, repair kit, and emergency shelter. For most people, devices like smartphones are used as maps and flashlights. Charging, however, can be difficult on the road. Plugging devices into your car to charge overnight is not an option but there are mini solar panels or rechargeable batteries on the market that can keep all of your devices charged for the duration of your trip. Follow food safety precautions and do not keep perishable food in your car for long. Trail mix, freeze dried meals, or hot dogs over a fire are specially designed for campers and require minimal packing and prep time.

 

Read up on camping etiquette. Clean your campsite and follow Leave No Trace principles which are practices to protect natural spaces. This includes disposing of waste properly, minimizing campfire impacts, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors. Respect quiet hours, use lowlights and don’t cut through campsites.

November Car Events

Photo courtesy of Greg Gjerdingen/flickr

 

The leaves are falling and there is lots to do! Grab your coat and come out to local car shows and fundraisers to honor veterans and kick off the holiday season.

 

Friday, November 3

 

GenNow Annual Car Show
American Airlines Federal Credit Union
4151 Amon Carter Blvd., Ft. Worth, TX
10:30am-2:00pm

Generation Now is teaming up with AAdvantage and AACU to raise $2,000 and awareness for Dallas Animal Services and Pet Adoptions. Suggested vehicle entry is $25 and 1st place wins 25,000 AAdvantage miles. Donations are also welcome. There will be music, food trucks, and more.

 

Saturday, November 4

 

O’Reilly Auto Parts 300

Texas Motor Speedway

3545 Lone Star Cir

Fort Worth, TX

As the NASCAR Xfinity series season winds down, this event is make or break for drivers who have hopes of winning the championship. Kids 12 and under are free and adult ticket prices starting at $25.

 

Sunday, November 12

 

Turkey Trax Auto Show

Forney Community Park
241 S FM 548, Forney, TX
9:00am
In 2007, the City of Forney started the Turkey Trax to bring the community together and honor local veterans. Now held annually the second Sunday in November, Turkey Trax rallies hundreds of collector vehicles in many classes including Vintage, Antiques, Classics, Muscle Cars, and Trucks. As the 10th anniversary of the event, the community will be returning to the original idea of the event by paying honor to all area veterans. There will be a family friendly Veterans 5K to be held before the car show. Car show participants and guests will be encouraged to proudly sport their military pride as patriotic themes will be on display throughout the event grounds. A portion of all proceeds raised will benefit local veteran organizations.

Tailgating Safety Tips

Photo courtesy of Jarrett Campbell/flickr

 

Fall is officially here and that means it’s time for football season and firing up the grill. Whether you plan to get together before or after the game, here are some ways to ensure that everyone can enjoy the festivities.

 

Food Temperatures and Sanitation

 

No one wants their party ruined by a case of food poisoning. To prevent bacteria from growing you want to pay attention to food temperatures. Cold foods should be stored in a cooler or styrofoam container with plenty of ice. There are many ice packs on the market now that stay cold for hours and can be re-used for future tailgating parties. This can save you money and that tedious task of pouring out the water after. Hot foods should be kept well insulated and there are lots of containers made for this. To see a list of recommended food temperatures, go to www.foodsafety.gov. If you are cooking meats, beware of cross-contamination. Clean all utensils, surfaces, and cutting boards after preparing raw meat. Wash your hands before and after handling the meat and always dry with paper towels as dish towels hold bacteria. When packing, place raw meat in separate and individual containers.

 

Grill Rules

 

If you are using a gas grill, make sure you know all of the safety features. Do not light it when the lid is closed, for example, otherwise, you risk an explosion. Read the grill safety guide for instructions on lighting and hose maintenance. In the event of any issues, have a fire extinguisher on hand as well as a first aid kit. You may know how to use your grill, but a combination of wind and paper plates may cause an issue you did not think about. Park your grill at least 6 feet away from any car or combustible and always keep children and pets at a safe distance.

 

After Party

 

When the food is all cooked and everyone is ready to get going, make sure your grill has cooled. If you used coals, make sure they are completely cooled and throw them out. Look for specially designated bins to do this. Throw out all perishable leftovers. It may seem tempting to keep that potato salad for later, but you should not leave food unrefrigerated after two hours.

 

Designate a Driver

 

Everyone wants to have fun, but do not let your party end in a bad decision later. Choose who is going to take one for the team earlier in the day so it is already decided before you start tailgating. This way, you can focus all your energy and excitement on the game.

 

Happy football season!

Fall Car Care

Basic auto care goes a long way and fall is a great time to check your vehicle before winter sets in. Here is a list of basic needs that you can go through to ensure your car is ready to go!

Check all fluids including power steering, brake, transmission, and engine oil. This is a great time to check antifreeze and coolant levels as well as windshield cleaner.

Check the battery. Ensure that the connection is corrosion-free, clean, and tight. Replace if necessary.

Check all hoses and belts. You want to make sure they are not cracked, frayed, brittle, or loose. Also, check to see if they are showing signs of excessive wear.

Check all tires including pressure, tread, bald spots, and bulges. Wheel alignment might be needed if there is uneven wear.

Check the brake system including brake linings, rotors, and drums. These should also be inspected at every oil change.

Check engine performance to ensure it is producing the lowest emissions and distributing the best balance of power.

Check the exhaust system. Make sure there are no leaks, damage, or broken supports. Exhaust leaks can be very dangerous and must be corrected immediately.

Check the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system. You want your HVAC to be working properly for comfort and things like defrosting.

Check the steering and suspension system. This includes struts, shock absorbers, and chassis parts.

Check wipers and lights. You want to ensure that you can see and be seen! Lighting includes exterior and interior. Replace worn out blades and clean headlights.

This is a basic checklist, but if you know something else is going on with your vehicle be sure and mention it to your service provider.

How to Properly Clean Tires

Photo courtesy of Robert Couse-Baker/flickr

Most people take care to clean the outside of their vehicles but they do not consider the tires to be as important. Detailing your wheels is more than just a vanity issue. Brake dust is made up of tiny metal shavings and carbon fibers. When it is mixed by the friction created by tires on your vehicle it becomes highly corrosive. Brake dust can eat into the coating of the tires if left untouched. Cleaning your tires periodically will help keep you safe on the road. Here is how to properly clean and detail your wheels.

First gather the right supplies. If you want to stay simple with soap, water, and a brush you can. If you decide you want to use a tire cleaner, be sure and choose the right one for your tire type. Some cleaners can be used on all types, but others will be more specific. Coated, painted, or anodized wheels will need diluted cleaners while wheels that are aluminum and chrome can withstand stronger chemicals. Check the label to see what cleaner is best for your vehicle and if you are unsure buy an all-purpose tire cleaner. For tougher jobs, you may need to purchase a tire gel or degreaser. Wax and wheel protectant will be needed for the end of your detailing. Lastly you will need a tire brush, two buckets, and microfiber towels.

Always clean your tires first when washing your vehicle. This will ensure that no grime will spray on clean panels. Once all your supplies are gathered, begin by wetting the tires with a hose. Check your cleaner for dilution instructions and then spray your tire for a pre-soak. While the cleaner sits, start to fill your buckets with water. If the temperature is high outside, do not let the cleaner sit for too long as it will dry on your tires and cause damage. Add some cleaner to one bucket, take the brush, and agitate the sidewall of the tire. Rinse the brush every so often and then wash the tire with the soapy water from the bucket. Spray with a strong hose to rinse off any remaining bubbles. Use the microfiber cloths to dry your wheels but do not reuse the same cloth for the rest of your vehicle. You can finish your tires with a coat of wax to seal the surface. Apply with applicator pad and buff the wheel. Tire wax works just like car wax.

Complete one tire at a time so that it can dry while you clean the others.

Labor Day Driving Tips

Photo courtesy of sboneham/flickr

Labor Day weekend, next to Thanksgiving, is one of the busiest times on the road. If you are planning a long weekend trip, you want to be well prepared. Here is how you can make the most of your Labor Day vacation and avoid being stuck with car issues.

Before hitting the road, you want to make sure your car is ready for a long trip. Take your vehicle for a routine check and have the mechanics look at the engine, radiator, and fluids. Summertime’s hot weather is harsh on vehicles and this is another good reason to have your car checked out as Labor Day marks the end of one season and the beginning of another. Your tires should be well inflated and the tread high or up to state standards. If you took a lot of road trips over the summer, you may find you need new tires. Check that the steering wheel works well and that your brakes work properly. There will be lots of stop and go traffic along the way and you want to avoid an accident. Check your emergency kit and re-stock items that have expired or are empty. Your kit should contain jumper cables, a flashlight, bottled water, a tool kit, first aid kit, and tire gauge at minimum. Other things you can add are a wind-up radio, a blanket, and duct tape. It is always recommended to have these things in your vehicle in case you are stranded.

Once you are ready, leave early. Try to beat rush hour on Friday or leave early in the morning on Saturday to avoid traffic. If you cannot work around these times, look for alternate routes that will be less congested. Use online maps to plan ahead for construction and program your GPS in the car. WAZE is a great up to the minute app that you can download. It will post things like accidents or construction that may not show up on other applications.

Monitor how you are feeling before you get behind the wheel. One of the major reasons for accidents on the highway is when people fall asleep or lose their concentration. If you are driving and start to feel drowsy, pull over and ask someone else to drive or take a break and leave at another time. The other reason for accidents is ignoring the risk of big trucks. These vehicles have lots of blind spots and cannot adjust their driving if you cut in front of them quickly. The general rule is, if you cannot see the truck’s mirrors, they cannot see you.

Be safe, and have a great Labor Day!