6802 Peters Creek Road
Roanoke, VA 24019

Driving Safety Tips for Winter Weather

January 4th, 2016

You know that winter conditions can be rough in Roanoke, VA and all of southwest Virginia. It’d be better if you could just stay home and not even venture out Auto Repair in Roanoke VA when there’s snow, sleet or ice coming down, but we don’t always have that choice. At Star City Tire ,we want you to be safe this coming winter – so here are some winter driving tips that we hope you’ll find useful.

First, it’s important that you go into the winter months with a solid, reliable vehicle:

·         Check your battery. The chemical reaction that stores current in a battery is slowed down in cold weather, and at 10 degrees F your battery can only deliver a fraction of its rated cranking power. In addition, many formulations of motor oil thicken in cold weather, making it harder for the battery and starter to turn the engine over. Have your battery tested for cranking amps; if you need to replace it, get the strongest-rated battery you can for your vehicle. Also check the connections (cables, clamps, posts) for corrosion and make sure they have a snug, secure fit.

·         Check your cooling system. The radiator and coolant do more than protect against overheating. They prevent your car’s cooling system from freezing up in cold weather, which can result in a cracked block. Coolant should be flushed and refilled at regular intervals to head off corrosion, so check your maintenance records and see when that was last performed. In addition, a healthy cooling system means a more-efficient heater and defroster.

·         Check your lights and wipers. Make sure that all your headlights, turn signals and brake lights are in good working order; if your headlight lenses are starting to show signs of oxidation, consider having headlight lens restoration done; you might be amazed at how much difference it can make. Remember also that even the best windshield wipers are only good for about a year. If you are noticing streaks or smears that can impair your visibility, go ahead and change them before the snow flies.

·         Check your exhaust system. Older vehicles can be prone to exhaust leaks that allow carbon monoxide to enter the passenger compartment. It’s possible that you could be stuck idling for prolonged spells, so don’t take this chance!

·         Check your tires. Make sure that your tires have plenty of tread; tread should be at least 4/32” deep. Here’s an easy way to check your tread depth…insert a penny into the tread, Lincoln head down. If the tread reaches the top of Abe’s head, your tires are at 2/32”, the legal limit for tread depth. Now try again with a quarter; does the tread reach the top of Washington’s head? That’s 4/32” tread depth. Try one more time with the penny…if the tread reaches the Washington Monument, your tires are at a tread depth of 6/32”. You may want to consider switching to winter tires as well; if you anticipate extreme conditions, studded tires are legal in the state of Virginia from 10/15 through 4/15. Just remember that winter tires shouldn’t be used at temperatures above 40 degrees F.

Now, a few tips on driving…

·         Keep your speed down and anticipate. On snow or ice, everything in your vehicle’s steering, braking and handling performance changes. Keep your speed down, use the brakes gently and increase the following distance behind other vehicles.

·         Don’t overcorrect should you go into a skid. Remember that if your vehicle starts to skid, you should turn the wheels in the direction of the skid and go gently on the gas pedal and brakes. If you’re unfamiliar with driving on snow, maybe you can find an empty, snow-covered parking lot (with no light poles!) and practice how to react to a skid.

·         Get the snow off your vehicle before going anywhere. Don’t just clear off a hole to see through – take a broom or brush and get as much snow off your car’s hood, windshield, windows and rear window as possible. Use an ice scraper to clear ice and don’t be tempted to just splash hot water on your windshield because it’s quicker…you can end up with a cracked windshield!

·         Don’t rock the car if you get stuck. You’ve probably heard people say you should rock the vehicle from Drive to Reverse if you end up stuck in snow or mud. Bad idea – that’s a quick way to quickly overheat your transmission to the point of causing damage or even failure.

Now, to plan for the worst, it’s a good idea to have a trouble bag on board at all times. A well-equipped trouble bag might include:

·         Army folding entrenching tool

·         High-protein snacks

·         Spare sweater, gloves, socks, cap

·         Blanket

·         First aid kit

·         Duct tape and Leatherman-style multi-tool

·         Flashlight and power bank for cell phone

·         Jumper cables

·         Flares

If you have room, some kitty litter or other traction aid is also a good idea, as is a tow rope or sling. You can’t be too over-prepared if things go bad!


So what kind of shape is your car in going into the winter months? Make an appointment with us at Star City Tires in Roanoke, VA and let us help make sure you’re good to go before the snow flies. 

  Posted in: Auto Repair 101