Sunday, November 6, 2011

Don't Be A Donner Party; How to Winterize Your Car

This can be read here on the Easter Echo.

Winter weather can quickly turn nasty in Michigan with snow, ice and freak events like freezing fog hindering any commute to class.

Even with such wicked weather, a Donner Party-esque occurrence is unlikely, but ending up in a ditch on the side of the road with snow quickly accumulating is still a possibility.

With winter coldly breathing down Michigan’s seasonal neck, there are simple things you can do to ensure you make it to class safely, on time and not a modern example of the Donner Party.

In case of accident, there are things you can pack in your trunk to make the unpleasant experience, well, less unpleasant.

“Blankets are good,” said Brandon Guscinski, an Eastern Michigan University sophomore.

Things like blankets, non-perishable foods and bottled water are a good start. If help is hours away, these things can save your life. When temperature drop below freezing, the conditions inside the car can become life-threatening quickly, and a few blankets and snacks could help you stay that much warmer until you are rescued.

A little-known winter savior is non-clumping kitty litter. If you are not feline-friendly, a bag of sand does the same thing.

Putting a bag in your trunk will help if your drive tires get stuck in the snow. Tossing the kitty litter or sand under the stuck drive tires will help them gain traction and pull the car out.

If the non-drive tires are stuck, a collapsible shovel can be used to dig out the snow from around the tire and help it gain traction.

With ice storms, keeping an ice scraper or an extra set of wiper blades can be beneficial. Winter slush can clog wiper blades and make them useless, smearing instead of wiping away any mess.

Speaking of winter messes, keeping an extra bottle of wiper fluid next to your blankets and food can come in handy for particularly slushy conditions. Relying on the fluid can clear away most of the smearing, but once the fluid has run out, visibility decreases quickly.

And if the road conditions are hazardous, reaching out to clear a spot on the windshield when both hands should be on the wheel can be deadly.

One way to avoid a winter catastrophe is to purchase a four-wheel-drive vehicle, though for many this is out of the financial question.

“No, I have a four-wheel-drive truck,” said Zach Green, a University of Michigan student, when asked if he took any precautions with his vehicle for the winter weather.

Four-wheel-drive is beneficial, but if it is not in working order come the winter months it will be useless in an emergency or when experiencing icing conditions, as ice has no preferences between two- or four-wheel-drive.

Keeping a set of flares can help you flag down passing drivers for help, or warn them of where you are and your situation. Plus, flares always look fun to use, even in non-emergencies.

Other small wintertime essentials amount to things like a flashlight, paper towels for when ol’ man winter decides to takes a snow-dump on your once perfectly clean windshield, gloves and boots, a small tool kit and knowledge on how to work said tool kit – all for when you have to MacGyver your way to safety.

These items probably will sit in your trunk, forgotten, over the winter, but it is best to have the supplies handy if needed instead.