Northeast Times

Gloves, scarf, anti-freeze

PennDOT’s new pull-be­hind salt brine spray­er can cov­er three lanes at one time. At a news con­fer­ence, au­thor­it­ies showed how the state is pre­par­ing to handle snow this winter and how mo­tor­ists should pre­pare their cars. JOHN LOFTUS / FOR THE TIMES

You might be ready for the cold, ice and snow, but is your car? Here are a few use­ful tips from PennDOT.

Winter’s just two weeks away. Are you ready to drive in it? More im­port­ant, is your car ready to be driv­en in the cold and snow?

For ex­ample, does your car’s bat­tery have enough juice to start the en­gine when tem­per­at­ures are be­low freez­ing? That’s the top ques­tion mo­tor­ists should be an­swer­ing now — be­fore those temps start plum­met­ing, AAA Mid-At­lantic spokes­wo­man Jenny Robin­son said last week.

“The No. 1 piece of ad­vice from AAA is check your car bat­tery,” Robin­son said.

At 0 de­grees, a car bat­tery’s strength is down 60 per­cent, but at that tem­per­at­ure, an en­gine needs a doub­ling of power to start.

The reas­on AAA puts so much stress on car bat­ter­ies is that the auto club’s drivers went out on 130,000 calls to as­sist mo­tor­ists last winter. Al­most a quarter of those calls were be­cause mo­tor­ists had prob­lems start­ing their cars, and most of them had bat­ter­ies that were dead or low, Robin­son said.

Speak­ing Dec. 1 in Nor­ris­town dur­ing a joint news con­fer­ence with rep­res­ent­at­ives from the Pennsylvania Turn­pike Com­mis­sion and the Pennsylvania De­part­ment of Trans­port­a­tion, Robin­son sug­ges­ted a few oth­er things to check be­fore winter.

• Wind­shield wipers and wash­er flu­id. If your wipers leave streaks, they might be worn down. Look at the ends of wipers, sug­ges­ted John Ry­der, AAA’s ter­rit­ory man­ager for ap­proved auto re­pair. If the ends of the wipers are worn or loose, they might pull away from the blade, tear off and be use­less. Worse, they could dam­age your wind­shield. Dur­ing the sum­mer, some mo­tor­ists fill their wash­er flu­id wells with wa­ter. Wa­ter will just freeze in the winter. Wash­er reser­voirs should be filled with a winter de­ter­gent flu­id to pre­vent freeze-ups.

• An­ti­freeze. Use a 50-50 mix of coolant and wa­ter to pro­tect against freez­ing.

• Check tire in­fla­tion and tread. Keep tires in­flated to your auto’s man­u­fac­turer’s re­com­men­ded pres­sure. Don’t de­crease tire pres­sure be­cause you be­lieve that will in­crease trac­tion. First, that doesn’t work, and second, tires will wear out more quickly. Look at your tires’ treads, Ry­der said, point­ing to a well-worn tire on his own car.

“I’ve got to re­place this,” he said.

Worn tires don’t provide the trac­tion needed to stop on slip­pery roads. He ad­ded that the new­est tires — those with the best tread — should be moun­ted in a vehicle’s rear for bet­ter sta­bil­ity. 

• Belts and hoses. If they’re cracked, worn, frayed, soft or bul­ging, they should be re­placed. Look also for leaks around hose clamps and the wa­ter pump.

• Have your mech­an­ic check flu­id levels, lights, brakes, ex­haust sys­tem and your car’s heat­er and de­froster.

And back to that bat­tery. Mod­ern bat­ter­ies don’t give you any hints they’re about to die, Ry­der said. The old clue like a crank­ing, cough­ing sound when start­ing the vehicle can’t be re­lied upon any­more. If the bat­tery is old or you have any oth­er doubts about it, have it checked. AAA mem­bers can have that — and 39 oth­er points — checked for free at any AAA ap­proved auto re­pair fa­cil­it­ies. Vis­it www.aaa.com for more in­form­a­tion.

THE SNOWY WAY

If you have to drive on snow or dur­ing a storm, stick to the ma­jor roads, Robin­son said. They get cleared first.

PennDOT and Turn­pike Com­mis­sion reps last week showed off some of the equip­ment they’ll be us­ing to do that clear­ing at PennDOT’s main­ten­ance yard at Swede Road and John­son High­way in Nor­ris­town.

One of those pieces was the Snogo, a mon­ster of a snow blower that can grind through deep snow and just shoot it to the side. Ac­cord­ing to a PennDOT news re­lease, the blower, which will be moun­ted on a front load­er, will be used in drifts and can move up to 1,200 tons of snow per hour.

An­oth­er piece of equip­ment is the “tow plow.” It is just what its name de­scribes — a snow plow towed by a plow truck. It has a plow­ing width of 24 feet, which is two full lanes, mean­ing one truck will do the work of two. It can also be equipped with a hop­per for salt or two 1,000-gal­lon tanks of anti-icing flu­id. This plow can op­er­ate at nor­mal speeds and has been tested at 55 to 60 mph. Double wing plows are spe­cial plows fit­ted with wings on both sides that ex­tend the plow­ing width to 21 feet. Pull-be­hind tanker trail­ers will be towed onto high­ways so they can spread brine on three travel lanes at once.

PennDOT also has 100,000 tons of salt to shake onto the Great­er Phil­adelphia area, said Nick Mar­tino, PennDOT as­sist­ant dis­trict ex­ec­ut­ive for main­ten­ance. The trans­port­a­tion de­part­ment also has put aside $31.8 mil­lion to battle the ele­ments this winter.

Just for the Pennsylvania Turn­pike stretch that skirts Phil­adelphia, the Turn­pike Com­mis­sion has 6,000 tons of salt, said Vin­cent M. Talucci Jr., field op­er­a­tions man­ager. The com­mis­sion also will be us­ing some new plow blades to con­form to road sur­faces, he said.

COLD RE­SERVE

Robin­son said mo­tor­ists should be ready for winter’s sur­prises. Re­mem­ber that un­ex­pec­tedly heavy wet snow­fall we got Oct. 28?

You also should be pre­pared to get stuck, Robin­son said.

Stock your car for trouble. Make sure you have an ice scraper, shovels, kitty lit­ter to help with trac­tion, tow­els, blankets, coats, jump­er cables and a flash­light. You can think of it as your emer­gency road kit. Don’t for­get to keep your mo­bile phone charged and take it along so you can call for help if you get stuck or break down. And some wa­ter or non-per­ish­able food wouldn’t hurt either. Dress warmly and make sure every­one who is go­ing to ride with you does the same.

Drive like you know what you’re do­ing. If you have to be re­minded to slow down when driv­ing in snow, sleet or freez­ing rain, OK, here’s your re­mind­er: Slow down!

Don’t jam on your brakes on slick or icy roads and hills. Stop gently to keep on the road. 

Ry­der said too many drivers keep pump­ing brakes that have anti-lock sys­tems. ABS won’t stop your car short­er; its idea is to help you main­tain con­trol of the car, he said, so don’t pump the ped­al or re­move your foot from the brake when you feel the ped­al vi­brate and pulse against your foot.

Don’t drive next to snowplows, be­cause the plow drivers have blind spots and some­times trucks can be moved side­ways when hit­ting drifts or cut­ting through heavy packed snow.

Don’t change lanes over built-up snow. You might lose con­trol of your car. Sim­il­arly, don’t use cruise con­trol on slip­pery roads; that, too, de­creases your con­trol.  Four-wheel drive might help you get go­ing, but it doesn’t provide any ad­vant­age while stop­ping, so don’t drive in four-wheel drive, AAA ad­vised.

And last, don’t pan­ic, Robin­son said. That’s not go­ing to help you if your car goes in­to a skid. Steer in the dir­ec­tion you want to go, and stay calm. ••

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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