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Weekend Cold and Rain May Increase Risk of Vehicle Breakdowns, Crashes

(LOS ANGELES, Feb. 25, 2011) – The weather service says cold temperatures and more rain is on the way.  A strong storm is expected with snow levels dropping throughout Southern California. Unseasonably chilly temps and scattered showers are expected to continue on Saturday.  Winter driving and rainy conditions are tough on motorists and vehicles.  To help drivers and their cars make it through colder temperatures, the Automobile Club of Southern California advises motorists to take extra precautions and make sure their vehicles are prepared for cold weather.
“Crash risk usually increases during winter when cold weather creates more hazardous driving conditions,” said Dave Skaien, manager of the AAA Approved Auto Repair Program. “Motorists can be safer if they follow some simple cold-weather car care tips.  This is especially important if motorists have delayed maintenance on their vehicles due to the economy.”
The Auto Club offers the following winter driving and car care tips:
Charge! – Cold weather is tough on batteries.  At zero degrees Fahrenheit, a car’s battery loses about 60 percent of its strength.  At 32 degrees Fahrenheit, a battery is 35 percent weaker.  Keeping battery terminals clean helps, but a load test performed by a qualified automotive technician will help determine whether a car’s battery is strong enough for winter starts.
Get a Grip – Make sure your car is equipped with tires that are able to handle your region’s winter weather. Check the tire tread.  Good tread allows water to escape from under the tires and increases traction.  Keep tires at proper pressure.  A chart with the manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure can be found on the driver side door jamb, inside the glove box, or on the fuel filler flap.  For most motorists, all-season tires are adequate.  In northern or mountainous regions, switching to snow tires may be needed.  Motorists also should observe storm watch advisories that urge using snow chains or they may risk being turned around by law enforcement, getting stuck in the snow, or even becoming involved in a major crash. 
See and Be Seen – Danger must be visible to be avoided.  Driving with a snow-covered windshield, windows, side-view mirrors or lights invites a crash.  Clear windows, mirrors and lights with an ice scraper, brush or spray de-icer.  Make certain windshield wipers and defrosters are in good working order and the window washer reservoirs are filled with no-freeze windshield washer fluid. Use your defroster to clear the front and side windows if they are fogged up. If the other windows in the car are fogging, use your air conditioner to dehumidify the air in the car. You can still set the temperature for your comfort. To make sure your vehicle is seen by other drivers, be sure to use your headlights (even in daytime if it is raining, snowing, or foggy), but not your bright headlights, unless absolutely necessary.
Keep Your Engine Cool – Make certain cooling system anti-freeze is mixed with the manufacturer’s recommended portion of water for maximum protection.
Key Solution – Frozen door locks can be overcome by carefully heating the end of a key with a match or lighter.  A squirt of de-icer spray is another quick method.
Slippery When Wet – In temperatures at or just above freezing, 32 degrees, a thin layer of water can cover the ice, causing extremely slippery conditions.  The distance needed to stop on ice at 32 degrees is twice as long as at zero degrees.  Slow down and use extra caution when passing other vehicles.
Steer ClearSteering is preferred to braking at speeds above 25 mph because less distance is required to steer around an object than to brake to a stop.  Sudden braking often leads to skids. Increase following distance.  The extra distance provides a buffer in case of skids.
Air it Out – Don’t let frigid temperatures tempt you into starting your car in a closed garage or letting your engine idle for long periods with the windows closed. Carbon monoxide, present in exhaust fumes, is almost impossible to detect and can be fatal when breathed in a confined area.
Finish Up – Road salt, slush and grime are especially hard on a car’s finish.  To help prevent rust and paint damage, keep cars washed and waxed.  A full or self-service car wash makes the job easier when temperatures are low.
CST 1016202-80 Copyright © Automobile Club of Southern California. All Rights Reserved.
The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.