WINTER SAFETY: Vehicle preparation leads to mishap prevention

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. James Fountain
  • 17th Training Wing Safety
Although the majority of Air Education and Training Command bases are located in mild climates, many of us travel to areas that have snow and ice during the winter holidays. Having a car prepared for winter by checking tires, brakes, anti-freeze level and windshield wiper blades - at a minimum - can make the difference between being involved in a mishap or not.

People in areas that require tire chains must first understand how to fasten the chains to the tires. Make sure that the tires are properly inflated; remember air contracts in the winter. Checking the tires air pressure is vital to be able to stop sufficiently and of course to increase mileage. Ensure tread depth is sufficient for traction. Although the average recommended tire depth is 1/16 of an inch, it should be deeper than this for winter driving; the ideal depth for winter is 1/8 of an inch.

Brakes that were already squeaking prior to the cold weather should definitely be checked and possibly replaced. Winter time usually means slick and sometimes icy roads, which is the worst time for brakes not to work properly.

Make sure the antifreeze is full. Most solvents are 50 percent water and 50 percent antifreeze, but check the brand and use the instructions listed. If in doubt, get professional advice.

Windshield wipers and fluid
Make sure the rubber blades are even and free of cracks. Use only washer fluid in the reservoir because it is specifically designed not to freeze.

Emergency car kit
Anyone who has ever been stranded in the middle of nowhere knows how important it is to have an emergency car kit. A driver never knows how long it will take for someone to come along and help, and we all know that cell phone service isn't always a guarantee. Having a roadside emergency kit can help people get back on the road quickly.

According to a popular automotive Web site, some basic emergency kit items include:

· 12-foot jumper cables
· Four 15-minute roadside flares
· Two quarts of oil
· Gallon of antifreeze
· First aid kit (including an assortment of bandages, gauze, adhesive tape, antiseptic cream, instant ice and heat compresses, scissors and aspirin)
· Blanket
· Extra fuses
· Flashlight and extra batteries
· Flat head screwdrivers
· Phillips head screwdrivers
· Pliers
· Vise Grips
· Adjustable wrench
· Tire inflator (such as a Fix-A-Flat)
· Tire pressure gauge
· Rags
· Roll of paper towels
· Roll of duct tape
· Spray bottle with washer fluid
· Pocketknife
· Ice scraper
· Pen and paper
· Help sign
· Granola or energy bars
· Bottled water
· Heavy-duty nylon bag to carry it all in.

If this list takes up too much trunk space, try putting together a basic version: two roadside flares, a quart of oil, small first aid kit, extra fuses, flashlight, a multipurpose tool with pliers, wire cutters, knife, saw, bottle opener, screwdrivers, files and an awl, a tire inflator, rags, pocket knife, pen and paper, and a help sign.

Some pre-assembled emergency roadside kits can be purchased online, at department stores or auto parts stores, but be sure to augment them with a few of the items listed above.

Before actually using an emergency kit, take some time to get familiar with the items in it and learn how to use them properly. Also remember that the most important item is good judgment - stopping to change a tire in the high-speed lane is an accident waiting to happen.

Unfortunately, there is no one tool for all roadside emergency needs, but with a little planning and a smidgen of trunk space, an emergency roadside kit can save the day.