Winter is here in Omaha, NE. Unseasonably cold weather has hit even places like the Deep South. With the polar vortex as a regular occurrence in our winters, below zero temperatures, and snow in places that don’t normally see snow, you need to be prepared for winter hazards.
When snow and ice cover the roads, the risk of emergencies increases. To stay safe and prepare for winter emergencies, gather these 10 things in your vehicle for a winter emergency kit:
- Windshield scraper – On cold winter mornings, you’ve probably had to pry a thick layer of ice from your windshield. Keep a scraper (or one of these hacks!) in your car this season so you won’t be stuck waiting for the defroster to melt through the ice.
- Tire chains – If you’re often driving on icy and snowy roads, tire chains help provide traction for safe driving. Choose the right type for your vehicle, and learn how to put them on your tires BEFORE you need them in an emergency.
- Blanket and winter hat – Keep these things (add scarves, gloves, sweaters, etc.) in your vehicle to stay warm. You may not want to keep your vehicle running if you’ll be stuck for a long time, or dead batteries and an empty gas tank can prevent you from running the heater.
- Small shovel – This can be vital when you find yourself stuck in a snow bank. You can even purchase a smaller, folding shovel for easier storing in your vehicle.
- Cat litter – If you’re stuck on snow or ice, sprinkling some cat litter over the road can help provide traction to get your car moving again.
- Cardboard box – Like cat litter, a cardboard box can provide a boost of traction to get you moving on a slick road. Simply place the cardboard under a tire, get out of the way, drive over it, and you’re on your way.
- Gloves and hand warmers – Gloves can make a huge difference while your performing emergency repairs in the cold (like changing a flat tire or jump-starting your vehicle). They keep you warm, and prevent grease and oil from getting on your hands. You can also keep a few chemical hand warmer packs in your kit for extra heat.
- Hazard lights or reflectors – In these cold months, the dark hours outlast the light. Visibility is critical for keeping you safe in an emergency. Pick up a few inexpensive reflective hazard triangles to put on the road to warn other drivers of your presence. It’s also a good idea to keep a flashlight to help you see, perform tasks, and stay safe at night.
- Water and Nonperishable food – Being stuck in the cold is bad enough, don’t add hunger and thirst to the mix. A supply of snacks and water will keep you hydrated and satisfied until help arrives. The calories can also help keep you warm!
- Tow strap – If you find yourself so stuck that shovels, cardboard, and cat litter can’t help, you may need a tow. Keep a tow strap in your kit so a kind driver can help you get back on the road.
Gather these things and keep them in your vehicle this season so you can stay safe on the roads in Omaha all winter long. Keep the phone number for roadside assistance and our shop in your glove box – 402-896-5800 – give us a call anytime, we are here for you! Stay warm and safe this winter!
As National Fall Car Care Month, this month is the perfect time to ask, “Is my car ready for autumn and winter?” Here are eight things you should check to make sure your car can handle the coming weather and road conditions:
- Tire pressure – Cooling temperatures can affect the pressure in your tires, as external pressure changes with the weather. Take a few moments to check your tires with a pressure gauge and make sure it’s filled to the recommended level. Proper tire pressure not only reduces the chance of a flat, but also improves fuel efficiency.
- Tire tread – Check your tire tread too! While 2/32” is the minimum acceptable tread on your tire, rain and snow conditions require more tread for safe driving. Your tires should have at least 4/32” of tread, without bulges, wear, or bald spots, so you don’t risk losing control of your car on slick roads.
- Windshield wipers – If you wait for the next rain storm to check your windshield wipers, you’re risking your safety. Get in the habit of running your washer fluid periodically – you’ll be able to monitor if your wipers need replaced, and you’ll have a cleaner windshield!
- Defroster/Heater – Also test your defroster before the cold weather hits. On the next cold morning, turn on your heater to make sure it’s working. Make sure air flow reaches your windshield and isn’t blocked in any spots. If it takes too long to warm the interior, bring your car in for a heating system inspection.
- Battery condition – As temperatures drop, your battery may begin to show signs of failure. Test your battery’s condition using a multimeter (or have it tested) to ensure it is operating in the acceptable range. If your battery is getting old or can’t hold the proper charge, your vehicle may not be able to start on cold mornings.
- Brakes – When roads are slick with rain and snow, your brakes are put to the test! Brakes are subject to wear and tear with normal use of a vehicle, which means you’ll need to have them serviced and replaced periodically. Have them inspected before the first storm so you know that they are up to the task.
- Cooling system – If you’ve been putting off your coolant flush, have it done before winter arrives. Coolant (aka antifreeze) is critical to keep your engine running at the proper temperature even when the weather gets cold.
- Winter tools – Chances are you took that pesky ice scraper out of your car to make room for summer gear. Now is the time to put it back in your trunk or glove box so you are prepared for early frosts of the year. It’s also a great time to start prepping your auto survival kit.
Pay attention to your vehicle as the weather changes – some systems that work fine during the summer may start to reveal warning signs this season. Make sure your vehicle is up-to-date on manufacturer recommended maintenance, and address any concerns before they lead to bigger problems and costly repairs.
Stop by our shop for an inspection to make sure your car is ready for this fall!
Did you know that you officially need to replace your tires when the tread is below 2/32” thick? And did you know that the distance between the edge of a penny and the top of Lincoln’s head is exactly 2/32”?
Whether you’ve put extra miles on your tires with summer road trips or they are simply nearing the end of their life, this quick test will let you know if it is time to consider new tires.
Most tires have “wear bars” that run across the tread pattern. When these become visible, connecting patterns across your tire’s tread, they serve as a warning that your tread is getting bare. But not all tires are designed the same, and sometimes you just need an extra test to know with confidence that it is time to replace your tires.
So for a quick tread check, grab a penny! Place the penny, with Lincoln’s head down and facing you, into the tread of the tire.
If all or part of Lincoln’s head is obscured by the tread, your tires still have some life left – but if you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace your tire.
Note: Measure each tire in multiple places – both the inside and outside edge across the tire, and on multiple points around the tire. If your alignment is off, or if you have neglected tire rotation, they may have uneven wear. This also can cause bald spots that mean you need to replace your tires prematurely.
If you don’t have a penny handy, a quarter can also do the trick! The distance between Washington’s head and the edge of a quarter is exactly 4/32” (which also happens to be the recommended thickness for tire tread if you are driving in rain, snow, or icy conditions).
Use the same method, placing the quarter with Washington’s head upside down and facing you in the tread across multiple places on your tire. Whenyou can see all of Washington’s head, you know you will need to replace your tires soon.
You may consider replacing your tires before they reach the 2/32” point. As your tread thins between 4/32” and 2/32” you may start to experience performance issues, especially in wet and slick conditions.
The good news? There are easy steps you can take to extend the life of your tires! Keep your tires properly inflated to reduce extra friction and wear. Rotate your tires regularly to ensure they wear uniformly without creating bald spots. Have an alignment performed periodically. Treat your tires with care – following these recommended maintenance tips can help them wear evenly so you get more miles out of every dollar! Stop by or schedule an appointment for a tire rotation, alignment, or inspection.
Overheating is the most common cause of vehicle breakdowns and internal engine damage. As the heat rises in Omaha over the summer, our shop sees more and more people coming in after breakdowns due to cooling system failure. But there is an easy answer!
A cooling system flush can keep your engine running smooth and cool even on the hottest days. Regularly changing your coolant, aka antifreeze, can prevent larger problems for your cooling system and engine and keep your family safe on the road!
What is the Cooling System?
The engine runs best at a high temperature, so the cooling system helps it to heat up quickly then keep the engine at a regular, constant temperature without overheating as it runs. It accomplishes this by transferring heat into the air with the help of coolant, or antifreeze, and the other components of the cooling system.
In most cars, the cooling system works by circulating radiator fluid (the mixture of coolant and water) through parts and pipes in the engine to absorb the heat and cool the engine. A radiator at the end of the system captures and transfers the heat from the fluid into the air.
But my coolant still looks clear, why should I change it?
New coolant usually appears a bright green or a bright red color, as in the picture below. As the coolant runs through the engine, rust and contaminants caused by oxidation and corrosion mix in with the fluid. Unfortunately, when you look under the hood to check your fluid, it may still appear clean and clear even though these contaminants rest under the surface, unseen and threatening the life of your engine.
This video from Monday Morning Mechanic shows the striking visual of these hidden contaminants, and the threats they pose.
How often should I flush my coolant?
Most manufacturers recommend that you change the radiator fluid (the mixture of antifreeze coolant and water) every 24,000 to 36,000 miles or 24 to 36 months. Depending on your driving habits, you may need to flush your coolant more often – we recommend every 1-2 years.
Be leery of “extended life” coolants that tout 100,000 mile lifespans – even these can accumulate rust and contaminants that threaten your engine life. These impurities could add up and cause bigger problems before you reach the 100,000 mile check. Even with “extended life” fluids, you should have these coolants checked frequently.
What happens if I don’t?
Failing to change your coolant can take as much as 100,000 miles off the life of your engine, in addition to big problems and expensive repairs.
Coolant flows through your entire engine, leaving behind contaminants. They can collect on the radiator, inside the water pump or thermostat, getting stuck and preventing the components from working appropriately. Plastic components, like the water pump, can wear and break apart. If the water pump breaks, the system won’t be able to move the water and coolant through the engine. Hoses can also react to contaminants, becoming swollen and rusty on the inside even as they appear normal on the outside. With excess heat, belts that control the cooling system and steering will start cracking, eventually breaking and disabling the systems (imagine a steering belt break, not being able to control your vehicle!).
Bottom line – contaminated coolant can lead to cooling system failure, causing your engine to overheat and break down, leaving you stranded on the road!
We assume your family’s safety is at the top of your priority list, so having your coolant flushed or even just checked while it’s still scorching outside, and before it gets cold, should be as well. Avoid expensive engine breakdowns by having your coolant flushed before problems arise. Call us at 402-896-5800 or stop by our shop.