According to 2007 U.S. Census data, the average person moves 11 to 12 times during their lifetime. Sometimes a move isn’t just to a new location, it’s also to new climate conditions such as moving from Los Angeles or Orlando to Chicago or Detroit. When you come from a warm climate and move to one where extreme cold can be the norm, there are certain precautions you will want to take with your vehicle.
Lining Up Your New Vehicle Mechanic
First, once you get settled in your new surroundings, find a reputable mechanic. According to the article 11 Tips for Finding a Trustworthy Auto Mechanic on The Hartford’s “Extra Mile” blog, the best resources for finding a mechanic are the opinions of neighbors and friends who already have an understanding of your new community.
The article also recommends that you look for a AAA-certified shop. There are over 7,000 mechanic shops in the U.S. that AAA has distinguished as an Approved Auto Repair (AAR) Facility[KL1] . This means that the shop meets or exceeds AAA standards for staff qualification and certification, customer service, and facility appearance. To locate an AAR facility, visit: AAA Auto Repair.
One further step to take would be to make sure your new mechanic is certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. ASE-certified mechanics meet minimum education standards and must pass recertification tests every 5 years. To locate an ASE recognized shop visit: Automotive Service Excellence
Of course, asking friends and neighbors where to take your vehicle is a little difficult when you have just moved to a new town and haven’t met many people yet. A great work around for that speed bump is to call the local bus and taxi companies and see who they use for repairs. Buses and taxis need to be in prime working order at all times, so mechanics that work on these vehicles can usually be trusted.
Tune Her Up!
Getting a tune up before winter is definitely recommended, especially in cold climates It’s one thing to have your car break down on the road. It’s another thing to have your car break down on the road in subzero conditions.
Of course, wintry weather can bring complications even to the best-prepared cars and drivers, so keep emergency gear in your vehicle, just in case. At the very least you want a flashlight, flares, jumper cables, gloves, window scraper and brush, chains, and a blanket to be on hand in your vehicle during the winter. You may also want to keep a tire repair aerosol such as Fix-a-Flat in your vehicle as a precaution.
While it is nice to know you have the essentials covered should your car break down in the winter, avoiding a break down all together is all the better – hence the recommendation for a full tune up.
While your car is in the shop, make sure your mechanic checks your fluids, rubber belts and wipers, tires, and battery. Taking the time to prepare your car properly for winter is essential in colder climates.
"Winterizing" Your Car
In the case of fluids, when winterizing your car, be sure to use a windshield wiper fluid with a winter blend. This blend contains a higher amount of alcohol in the balance, which in turn lowers the freezing temperature. Antifreeze or coolant should also be checked at the start of winter, as well as the start of summer.
Rubber, like fluids, can be adversely affected by the cold. As such you want to have your new mechanic check your belts and wipers. Of particular importance is the serpentine belt (sometimes called an “S belt”). You may also want to switch to winter wiper blades which are generally bigger and have a more sturdy frame. It is important that your wipers work well in the winter. According to a report by the Federal Highway Administration, a lack of clear visibility is associated with almost half of all fatal crashes.
When it comes to tires, be forewarned that “all season tires” generally do not measure up in snow and ice conditions. You may want to switch to winter tires during the cold months. Winter tires are made from softer rubber to enhance grip, and they have superior tread patterns for better traction. It’s important to note that a 10 degree drop in temperature can cause up to a 10% loss of tire pressure. So, make sure to check your tire pressure regularly during the winter months.
In general, automobile batteries should be replaced every three to five years. In the interim, make sure you have your mechanic ensure the cables are nice and tight, and that the battery is free of corrosion. For the do-it-yourself crowd, you can clean the battery of corrosion with a soft bristled brush such as a toothbrush.
Harsh Winters Are Dangerous
According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), 24% of weather-related crashes are on snow- or ice-covered roads. Some car owners opt to increase their auto insurance during winter months as that weather conditions can make driving more difficult and result in more accidents. As such, you may consider increasing your comprehensive and collision coverage. This way you’ll be covered if you spin out of control and hit a tree (collision) or if a deer jumps in front of your car (comprehensive).
It should also be noted that many areas across the country that experience harsh winters have companies offering winter driving lessons. While courses may vary from region to region, basic principles include accelerating and decelerating slowly, increasing your following distance by five seconds, and being familiar with how your brakes respond on snow and ice. You’ll also want to avoid stopping if possible, especially while going up a hill.
Any move to a new region can be an adventure, the question is will it be a good adventure or a bad one? If you are moving to a new area where snow and ice are the norm in winter months, stack the deck in your favor by making sure that you and your vehicle are winter-ready.