When the ice scraper is not enough

The checklist for winter vehicle preparation

It is mid-February. A Cobber walks past all the cars parked in overflow, covered in a thick layer of snow and ice. They get to their car and pry open the frozen door. Putting the key in the ignition, they cross their fingers as the engine attempts to start for the first time since winter break. It sputters once and then gives up completely. Great.

Many Concordia students may have been in this same situation, but by taking some steps to prep for winter, it can be avoided in the future. Hundreds of cars fill Concordia’s lots throughout the school year, and failure to prepare them for the winter months could result in more than just a dead battery. Driving in the winter can be dangerous and stressful, so taking time to winterize cars now could save a lot of time and money later — not to mention ensuring safety.

The first thing to check is tires, according to Ray Bernard, owner of Ray’s Certified Auto Repair. He said students should make sure that their tires have enough pressure, including the spare tire. The tires may need to be filled up a bit and many gas stations have free air to use. Bernard said tire tread is also very important, because you want the rubber to have a good grip on slippery roads.

The next step to a safe travel home this winter includes replacing or refilling the car’s engine coolant, antifreeze. In the winter, antifreeze protects your engine from freezing in cold temperatures, according to carcare.org. Bernard said to make sure this is mixed strong enough: the ideal mixture is 50-50 water to antifreeze. The mixture can be tested by a testing kit, or checked by an auto shop.

Students will also want to get their battery checked. Just like the situation above, letting a car sit for long periods of time in the winter can lead to a dead battery. Bernard called this a “parasitic draw,” because a car’s computer will slowly be using up the battery as it sits. Cold temperatures alone can also significantly reduce the power of a battery, according to carecare.org. Bernard says a good, strong battery is necessary for the winter months, so students should be sure to get it tested, and consider replacing it if it is more than 5 years old.

Another important step is refilling windshield wash fluid and checking the wipers. It could be a dangerous drive home for a student if, during a snowstorm or freezing rain, their washer fluid or windshield wipers fail. Make sure the wipers aren’t cracked or bent — Bernard suggested changing them at least once a year, if not sooner.

Students should keep watch over their fuel levels. During the winter, they should keep their gas tank as full as possible, said Bernard. Not only would running out of gas in freezing conditions be dangerous, but low fuel levels could cause the gas line to freeze.

“I always keep at least a quarter tank of gas in my car during the winter,” said Kallie Eberling, a junior at Concordia.

If possible, bring a car in to get a tune-up. It’s always a good idea to catch potential car issues before they become major problems — especially before it gets too cold outside. Bernard suggested bringing a car into a shop that can be trusted and having them do regular maintenance. Make sure to look for student deals, too. Some auto shops, like Ray’s, offer discounts to college students.

Finally, pack an emergency kit. It’s hard to know when an accident might happen on the road, and being caught unprepared can be especially dangerous in the winter. Pack a safety kit and keep it in the trunk of the car for emergencies. Here’s a list of things to include: jumper cables, blanket, hat, gloves, a first-aid kit, granola bars and kitty litter. Senior Jacqueline Jeziorski keeps a bucket of kitty litter in her car in case she needs some traction to get out of the snow. A flashlight, flares or matches and a candle are also important items to have in the car.

A snow and ice scraper should be in the car at all times, not just for emergencies.

“I’m too short to reach the middle of my windshield, so I have to use an extendable ice scraper,” said sophomore, Layne Cole. “I always keep it in my car, even in the summer. You can never be too prepared.”

Additionally, Bernard said a radio and a charged cell phone should be included in the car. He said this is extremely important in the event of a crash in case a phone is dead. Students want to be able to call for help.

“If you ignore your car, it’s going to treat you the way you treat it,” Bernard said. “Eventually it’s going to come bite you in the butt.”

This article was submitted by Bailey Tillman, contributing writer.

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