While city workers in parts of New York and New Jersey struggle to clear all roads after recent snow storms, now seems to be a good time to remind fleet drivers in all states about precautions they can take during winter driving conditions. Here is some advice from the state of Michigan:
- Check the battery, which can lose half of its power in cold temperatures. Have it tested by a certified mechanic if it is more than three years old. It's also a good idea to clean the posts and connections of any corrosion.
- Pay attention to the tires. Maintaining proper tire pressure is essential year-round, especially in the winter when snowy conditions reduce traction. Keep in mind that air pressure in cold tires will drop because air contracts as it cools.
- Make sure there is a clear field of view. Replace the wiper blades if necessary. They can deteriorate after only a year or two. Effective wipers are a must in order to remove snow, rain and road slush from the windshield. Also, fill the window-washer reservoir with cleaning fluid. Don't use plain water because it will freeze.
- Use the right oil. It should have the proper viscosity for winter driving. Oil thickens in cold weather. Oil that gets too thick won't lubricate the engine sufficiently.
- Inspect the belts and hoses. Cold weather can cause extra wear and tear.
- Avoid moisture in the fuel tank. When the temperature dips, it's a good idea to keep your gas tank filled. That helps to prevent moisture from forming in the tank. Moisture can cause an engine to run rough or even prevent it from starting. Consider putting a bottle of fuel de-icer in the tank as well, to help keep moisture from the fuel line.
- Flush and refill the cooling system as recommended by the manufacturer. Check the coolant's level and concentration periodically.
- Check the four-wheel drive system. If the vehicle is equipped with four-wheel drive, make sure it's in working order before the snow flies. Since most people don't use the system in the summer, it doesn't hurt to make sure the system engages properly and that all gear oil levels are correct.
- Carry an emergency kit. It should include items such as a flashlight, first-aid supplies, jumper cables, a blanket and warm clothes, paper towels, a snow shovel, a well-stocked tool box and extra food and water.