Fall is in full swing, and winter is soon to follow. Once the weather conditions change, your driving behavior may need to change as well. Lowering your speed and maintaining a safe distance between vehicles is a start – but there’s much more to consider.

Vehicle maintenance provides another safety layer, so Erie Insurance talked with experts in the field to get their best winter car maintenance advice.

  1. Tires: Make sure your tires are in good condition each winter. If they don’t have the appropriate tread – typically 6/32″. The trick: insert a penny into your tires tread. If all of Lincoln’s head is showing, your tires may need replaced. Tires with low tread may lose contact with the road, which can cause your car to hydroplane and possibly cause an accident. If you need new tires, make them a priority before snow and slush become a permanent fixture on the roadways. Consider snow tires if you travel in snow frequently.

  2. Wipers: Check the condition of the wipers on your vehicle frequently. Torn wipers can cause major visibility issues. Most newer vehicles come equipped with contour blades that have a metal band in them – making them more effective than traditional blades, especially in the winter. If your car is an older model, equipped with frame wipers (the traditional wiper blade), you can easily swap out the rubber wiper for a replacement. There are several types of blades to choose from, and sometimes it comes down to preference.

  3. Winter windshield washer fluid: Winter washer fluid tolerates much colder temperatures to prevent freezing. Try to use up any warm-weather windshield washer fluid before temperatures drop, since it may not be able to handle cold temperatures and cause the washer fluid tank to freeze and crack. It’s also important to scan your windshield for any visible chips or cracks.

    “When the temperatures turn cold, those small chips and cracks can turn into big problems,” said James Nelson, an ERIE material damage supervisor in Charlotte, North Carolina. “If you fix these small problems early, you can prevent replacing the entire windshield when it spreads, which is a much more expensive fix.” Learn more about how to handle a windshield repair or how (and when) to replace your windshield wipers.

  4. Don’t forget the basics: Take your vehicle in for some routine scheduled maintenance – like oil changes and tire checks. Be sure to replace dirty, worn cabin air filters and engine air filters. Headlights make a big difference for safety, too. “I wax my lamps year-round,” Nelson said. “It increases visibility of my vehicle to other drivers and pedestrians, and allows me to see better when driving in severe weather conditions.”

  5. Clean windows and mirrors: Having full visibility helps immensely when you need to keep your eyes on the road. Keep advanced safety systems clear of snow and mud to ensure cameras and sensors work correctly. A clean exterior keeps your forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking and other features your vehicle may use reading their surroundings correctly.

  6. Alignment: Vehicles need correct alignment for advanced safety systems to work correctly as well. Many advanced safety systems use the steering angle sensor. An unaligned steering wheel positions your camera incorrectly, because it’s based off your car going straight. A slight miscalculation could lead you many feet off the road, so it’s especially important to have it right when conditions are difficult to navigate.

Remember to also protect yourself with the right auto insurance  to keep you and your vehicle safe this winter. Get a free online auto quote and get connected with a local ERIE agent in your area.

Erie Insurance Group
According to A.M. Best Company, Erie Insurance Group, based in Erie, Pennsylvania, is the 11th largest homeowners insurer and 12th largest automobile insurer in the United States based on direct premiums written and the 16th largest property/casualty insurer in the United States based on total lines net premium written. The Group, rated A+ (Superior) by A.M. Best Company, has more than 6 million policies in force and operates in 12 states and the District of Columbia. Erie Family Life Insurance Company is rated A (Excellent) by A.M. Best Company. Life insurance policies not written in New York state. Erie Insurance Group is a FORTUNE 500 company.

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