The onset of winter weather ultimately brings with it dangerous road conditions, which is nothing new to us here in Nebraska. However, it doesn’t hurt to review what we can do to prepare for road conditions that lie ahead of us for the next few months.
First and foremost, ensuring that all required maintenance is done is a major part of staying safe on the road during the winter months.
Change Engine Oil and Filter – Going into winter with a clean filter and fresh oil will help your engine start better. It will also help reduce component wear inside the engine during longer warm up periods.
Battery Service – A weak battery may get you through the summer, but once the temperature starts to dip, it may leave you stranded. This is because extra amps are needed to start a cold engine in cold weather. Any corrosion build-up on the terminals allows a voltage drain on the battery, and with the prevalent use of ‘maintenance free’ batteries and batteries with mounting locations that are hidden from view, battery inspections and cleanings have become two of the most overlooked maintenance services out there. With that in mind, it’s wise to have your battery cleaned and load tested once a year.
“Regular oil changes are vital to the proper functioning and longevity of your vehicle, as well as checking all of the fluid levels, and it’s always a good idea to stay ahead of this before winter weather strikes,” says Rick Quistad of Jones Automotive. “This time of year, it is also a good idea to have your antifreeze tested to make sure it will withstand low temperatures. Furthermore, make sure you replace your windshield wipers if needed and switch to a windshield washer fluid that contains a de-icer!” Quistad also offers a few more several basic tips about vehicle maintenance, both in general and in winter weather:
• Read your owner’s manual (or go online!). Everything you need to know about scheduling your vehicle’s maintenance is detailed here, and being aware of the manufacturer’s guidelines provides a great amount of general knowledge for you as well as a baseline for general maintenance.
• As previously mentioned, cold weather tends to bring out the worst in your car’s electric system. Connections that are gradually making their way loose or getting corroded, or batteries that aren’t the best quality or are going bad, are the most likely factors we check for when we get a call saying “my car won’t start.” Get these little things checked out regularly so they don’t create bigger problems.
• Believe it or not, you should make sure your air conditioner is properly functioning year-round. In the winter, your air conditioning system directly affects your defroster and your entire climate control system. Also, many times I see people driving with fogged up windows and want to tell them “you are only one button away from being able to see!” Make sure your blowers are set to recirculate and this will take care of the problem.
In addition to regular maintenance, Quistad highly recommends remote car starters for a number of reasons. In the colder months, it is very important for the performance of the vehicle as well as your safety and comfort to warm your car up before you begin driving. Also, it is technically illegal to leave your car started and unattended. With a car starter, you benefit from security features as well as the obvious added convenience. If someone were to get in your vehicle while it was running, which is improbable as it remains locked until you are ready to get in, as soon as they hit the brake to take it out of park the system kills the engine. For those who already have remote starters, it is also important to remember to keep your blower fans on a higher setting when you shut your car off so when you turn on your car with the starter in the morning your system will already be working!
When it comes to safe driving, visibility is another major factor and should be taken seriously. There are a couple of key factors to take into account specifically during the winter, and doing so will ensure that you are good to go no matter what the weather conditions may throw our way.
“Headlight restoration is an even more important consideration during the winter months since the days are shorter and we spend more time driving in the dark,” advises Boyd Baillie, owner of SuperGlass Windshield Repair of Nebraska. “The need for clear, bright headlights is essential for safety. The modern headlight lens is made of acrylic. A weakness of acrylic is its tendency to break down and deteriorate due to contact with cleaning solvents and exposure to UV rays, causing the headlight to be dimmer and less effective. The SuperGlass Headlight Restoration system removes the opaque and yellowed surface of the acrylic and restores clarity of your headlights to like-new condition.
Also, if you get a rock chip in your windshield, don’t put off getting it repaired. The cold weather may make it more likely that it will crack out and you’ll end up having to replace the windshield, something that could end up being quite costly. Not only does repairing a windshield costs a fraction of replacement, but many insurance companies will waive your deductible and pay for the repair directly.
And remember, no windshield is quite as safe as the original (installed when your vehicle was built). With repair, we don’t need to remove the seals and potentially reduce the effectiveness of the glass in your vehicle. Filling a crack is far safer, and allows you to drive away immediately following the repair.
In fact, many glass shops use reduced quality glass to replace your windshield. This increases their profits – but significantly reduces the clarity and safety of your windshield. The same holds true for the adhesives used in replacement jobs. Some adhesives are far better than others, but also more expensive. You can actually be put in harm’s way if the replacement shop uses an inferior adhesive. Your windshield could launch from your vehicle if you were in an accident within a few hours of the replacement job completion.
For all of these reasons I strongly advise choosing a repair company that is committed to providing the best repair possible. SuperGlass Windshield Repair has built a great reputation for high quality auto glass repair services and products. We are constantly testing and developing new resins and technology that allows SuperGlass to remain the quality leader in windshield repair worldwide.”
With inclement weather comes a rise in accidents, so we are all unfortunately at a much higher risk for being involved in a collision. This is definitely not something that’s dealt with on a regular basis, so it’s common to not know what steps to follow or furthermore, what’s most beneficial, if you find yourself in that type of situation. As such, being prepared for that exact scenario is a good idea.
“As the owner of a vehicle, it’s important to be aware that you have the right to have it repaired by your professional of choice,” emphasizes Boyd Dingman, owner of Dingman’s Collision Center. “So many times insurance companies and their adjusters will try to direct you to a place that may not necessarily have your best interests in mind. However, if you know ahead of time where you would have your car repaired in the event of an accident, it makes it that much easier to be firm with your decision when discussing the specifics as opposed to getting swayed into taking your car to a place you are unfamiliar with. It also makes it easy to contact your collision center to set up the initial estimate and repair so that you are back on the road as soon as possible.
Vehicles are much more complex now then even how they were made five years ago, and there are many new techniques, materials, equipment, and so on for repairing them. For this exact reason, at Dingman’s Collision Center we feel that it’s critical to stay up-to-date on industry specifics and training. Moreover, with so many details that go into the repair of a vehicle, and many of them not necessarily visible to the untrained eye, you really have to trust that the work is being done properly and there’s unfortunately no way to know unless it’s done poorly and problems arise after the fact. When choosing your collision repair professional, it’s a must to make sure that they are well-equipped to do the work on the specific make and model of your vehicle. You can find this out simply by asking if the shop has undergone any recent industry training or has experience working with similar vehicles, or you could also do your research by checking out their website and social media posts along with any consumer reviews that are available.
In our business, word of mouth speaks volumes. Ask around to see who others you trust have used for collision repair in the past and then see whose name comes up more than once. If you have a mechanic who exclusively works on your vehicle, that would be a great person to ask for a referral as well. But above all, do your research and don’t just take an isolated recommendation at face value or the first recommendation that comes your way. Average truly doesn’t cut it anymore when it comes to vehicle repair; you’ll want to work with a business that is focused on being the absolute best at what they do. Knowing who you are working with will make all the difference.
As long as you’ve done your homework before you are involved in an accident, you’ll be prepared to act accordingly. Make sure that all of the drivers in your family know the basics regarding what they should do in the event of an accident so that everyone is on the same page. My advice is to talk about it together, establish a family plan, and type up a sheet of important details and contact information to keep in the glove box of each vehicle. This could potentially include your insurance agent, collision repair center, towing company, AAA membership information, emergency contact information, and even any existing medical conditions for responders. After an accident it’s very common to be a little bit rattled so the more information you have available for those who are first on the scene, the better. We have a form on our website at www.dingmans.com that you can download, fill out, and keep in your vehicle in case of an accident.”
There’s certainly no avoiding winter weather, as we all have places to be and things to do, but there are many ways that we can set ourselves up for success in safely navigating through all types of conditions. If you’re ever in doubt, ask a local automotive professional – they are only a phone call or a quick stop away, and that could be the one that makes all the difference. Stay safe out there everyone!