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Prepare for winter driving
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The recent rains give hope for replenishing our water supply, but they also signal the onset of winter. Now is the time to prepare for winter driving.

The first things to prepare for are slick roads and wet windshields. Windshield wipers suffer from the summer-long heat and exposure to the sun, so they lose a lot of their effectiveness. It is wise to replace wipers with new ones as soon as possible. The roadways become particularly slick when it rains from the accumulated oils and rubber from tires (as they wear) on roadways. Slick roadways require more stopping distance, so increase the space between yours and the car you are following. Drive more slowly to adjust for the added hazards of wet roadways.

Make sure your windshield defroster functions correctly and that all window fog is gone before taking off to drive. Tire pressure and tread depth also needs to be checked. Tires with inadequate tread hydroplane more easily and are subject to blowouts from road hazards and wear. Few people check their spare tires very often, so to avoid a surprise when it is needed, check to see if the tire is inflated and ready to go. Also be sure that the vehicle has a jack, lug nut wrench and other necessary tools for changing a tire.

Properly functioning headlights, stoplights, turn signals and taillights are always a must, but during the winter, when days are shorter and inclement weather is more likely, they become that much more important.

Another good practice is that of keeping a minimum of a half tank full of gasoline (or diesel if that applies to your vehicle) at all times. Fuel gauges can sometimes be faulty, so keeping enough fuel in the tank can help keep you from an unpleasant surprise. Empty space in a fuel tank also tends to increase the chances of water accumulating in your vehicle's fuel system. This is owing to water vapor being able to condense out of the air space in the tank. For that reason alone, especially during winter months, I try to keep my vehicle's fuel tank as full as possible. Also, in the case of an emergency, for example being stuck roadside in circumstances when you need heat to stay warm, it is handy to have plenty of fuel to get you through the situation. I was once stuck in the Sierras for eight hours in heavy snow when the road I was on was shut down. There was nowhere to go and gas stations were far away. I was grateful to have nearly a full tank of fuel in the vehicle that day.

If you decide to drive to the snow, have tire chains that you have checked for fit, know how to install them and be extra careful when driving in frozen areas. Black ice blends in with the roadway and can make for a scary and dangerous surprise when driving over it. Motorists who do not know how to drive in snow and ice are a particular hazard, so it pays to keep a greater distance from others when driving in these conditions. Keep emergency supplies in the car as well, like warm clothing and snow boots, some food, flashlights, road flares and the like.

It does seem that people who take the steps to prepare for the various hazards of the winter are less likely to have problems in the first place. Regardless, you can all have a better bet for a safe winter by preparing for it and respecting the challenging weather-related conditions that this season brings with it.

I wish you safe motoring this winter.