Car Winterization Guide – Part 2

Category: News. Written by Grant 

Now that Seattle residents have survived the first (and hopefully last) snow storm of the region, it’s a good idea go back and review tips on how to winterize your vehicle.

East Coasters have known for decades that when it snows, it’s time bust out the snow shovels before the car gets stuck in snow or ice. Here in Seattle, the Olympic mountains and Puget Sound generally ensure that we avoid huge snow drifts, though this last snowstorm proves that it can still happen. Next time you’re at the hardware store, pickup a snow shovel and have it ready. When the snow is still fresh, that’s the best time to shovel it aside, as leaving snow overnight almost guarantees a fresh sheet of ice the next morning. Not fun.

For the less physically challenged, chemicals like de-icers are readily available at local auto and hardware stores. However, according to the Jeff Adamson of the Washington State Department of Transportation Blog, pure liquid de-icers are not ideal for use in your driveway, as they leave a sticky residue that will stay on your shoes and track into your house. As an example, Adamson says that the grand opening of The Bon retail store in Colorado was short lived, as they had to replace 50,000 square feet of brand new carpet after de-icing their parking lot for opening event. Adamson advises mixing a de-icer with hot water before applying, which will make the residue less sticky. He warns that the mixture is best used a effective as a pre-treatment, rather than a way of melting snow and ice.

Since most of us don’t have the foresight to predict when a snow storm will hit, Adamson notes that salt is still your best bet to melt snow and ice after it has formed. Bags of salt in ten and twenty pound denominations can all be readily bought at most hardware stores during the winter season and it should take most homeowners only one bag to melt the snow in your driveway.

Once at your car, you may also find (especially in older model cars) that your door lock is stuck. A common fix is some lock de-icer, which can be bought at most auto stores or places like Sears and Fred Meyer. This de-icer costs about $3 and every driver should buy a tube and store it away for emergency situations. Some de-icers also act as a lubricant, which is a good lock maintenance task to perform anyways.

Another maintenance topic for the winter that is often overlooked is making sure you have enough windshield washer fluid. Seattle drivers knew all too well that the city had a policy against salt (since changed after the snowstorm) and instead used a combination of sand, de-icer and plows. This combination turns into a filmy mess when it is kicked up into the air by cars (and especially semi trucks) in front and sticks to your windshield like paste. Your wipers will streak this residue all over your windshield, making the situation worse, so having adequate washer fluid is a critical safety issue in these situations. I keep an entire bottle of windshield fluid in my trunk for this reason alone.

If you’re extra considerate about keeping your visibility intact, make it a point to simply clean the inside of your windshield with some windex and cloth during the winter season. This will help remove dust and particles on your glass that attract water and fog up your windows. A clean window helps moisture from attaching as easily and makes your defroster more efficient.

If you can successfully get out of your driveway, that’s half the battle over, but still another half to go unfortunately. Your friend once on the road is traction – keeping your tires gripping the ground (or snow). Having tires with good tread is important in all conditions, dry or wet, but especially in snow. Treads help dig into snow and provide grip, whereas bald tires will lead to disastrous slipping and sliding. The traditional way to see if you have enough tread is to do the “penny test”, where you put a penny into the tire tread and see if Lincoln’s head can go into the tread. If the head is completely exposed, you have too little tread left (although honestly, you should change your tire before your tread gets this low).

These are some easy and preventative winterization tips that will help make life just a little easier in the next big Seattle snow storm. Check our related articles below for more winter driving and maintenance tips!

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One Response to “Car Winterization Guide – Part 2”

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