Winter brings extra hazards on roads
The numbers correspond with the story below, explaining what to do to keep a car safe and functioning during the winter months.
Downpours of snow and frigid temperatures expected for the next week might make the walk to class uncomfortable, but experts say winter weather could be costly and dangerous for drivers.
Local police and car experts said students who don’t pay close attention to their cars might risk thousands of dollars of damage, as well as injury to themselves, other people or animals.
The State News spoke with experts to find out what parts of the car deserve extra attention during the winter.
1. Small animals such as mice, squirrels or even cats have a tendency to crawl into a car’s motor for warmth, David Fund, garage manager of Sears Auto Center, said. Banging on the hood of a car could scare them out and save animals’ lives, as well as prevent anywhere from $15 to $700 in damages if they chew through wires or try to build a nest.
2. Leaving a car unattended as it warms could bring attention from criminals hoping to steal it, Michigan State Police Lt. Kyle Bowman said. Although Fund said warming a car before use can help keep parts of the car from wearing down, Bowman said it is best to remain with your car as it warms.
When economics junior Derek Tisler heard winter weather requires car owners to give their vehicles extra attention, he was not surprised. Tisler said he owns a 2002 Ford Taurus, which has slid multiple times in winter weather and was rear-ended when other drivers lost control on icy roads.
Tisler said he used to drive nervously during the winter, concerned something might happen, before he replaced his tires and break pads.
“I feel a lot more confident now,” Tisler said. “You don’t realize how dangerous a vehicle is until you don’t have control of it.”
3. Keeping extra blankets, shovels and orange hazard cones in a car could save a student if they get stranded while driving, MSU police Sgt. Florene McGlothian-Taylor said. Bowman said it’s helpful to keep extra clothing, a phone charger and a list of phone numbers for emergency contacts.
4. Checking headlights and taillights with a friend before driving can help avoid accidents in winter weather, Bowman said. Students also should keep their distance from other cars and drive only at speeds they can maintain in wintery conditions — even if it’s lower than the speed limit. Students can be ticketed even if they’re driving the speed limit if winter conditions make a lower speed necessary, Bowman said.
5. Students should make sure their oil and antifreeze are at the proper levels, Fund said. He said if fluids are too low, the motor might overheat or freeze, which could lead to a broken motor and a $3,000-4,000 replacement.
6. Making sure tire treads are not worn down can prevent accidents during wintry weather, Fund said. Worn treads merit a completely new tire, he said.
7. Cold temperatures cause a car’s mechanics to work harder and use more gas, so it is important to keep a higher amount of gas in the tank during the winter, Fund said. He said not having enough could result in a fuel line freezing if students don’t warm their car in a heated garage. Repairs for fuel line freezes can cost up to $1,000.