Keep Your Car Running Smoothly Under Adverse Conditions

No matter where you live in the country, you will eventually run into adverse weather conditions that can cause your car to fail. In the Northeast, there is ice and snow to deal with. In Florida you are besieged by hot and steamy weather. In California, gridlock can cause a car to overheat and run poorly. In the southwest, you often run into desert conditions that are hot and very dusty. Preventative maintenance is your best insurance, but there is a lot of thing you need to know to keep your car running smoothly in all weather conditions. We discuss them here.

Driving In The Rain

No matter where you live, you will sooner or later drive in the rain. The most important thing for your safety is the proper tire for your car that is correctly inflated. The modern day radial tire is considered to be the best for these driving conditions. When you drive on a rain slicked roadway, when you reach a certain speed, the tire is no longer in contact with the roadway, but riding on the surface of the water. This is called aquaplaning, and it can be very dangerous. A good radial tire puts more rubber on the road, and increases safety. Obviously, you don't want to run a car with worn tires for this very reason. Over-inflated tires are as dangerous as one that is under inflated when driving in the rain. Over inflation means less rubber on the road, decreasing control.

After passing through deeper water, slow down and lightly apply the brakes while driving to dry out brakes and pads. Check for correct operation as soon as possible.

Driving in Foggy Conditions

It is imperative that you have your headlights properly aligned when driving in fog. A food pair of fog lights wouldn't hurt either. Anyone who has driven Highway 101 in California along the coast knows what foggy conditions are, and if headlights are improperly aligned, you cut down your visibility by as much as 50%. Always drive with your headlights on low beam day and night, and never stare into the fog, but look at what you can see to reduce eyestrain and the chances of falling asleep. Common sense says slow down in these conditions.

Driving In Snowy Conditions

Winter is the worse time of the year to drive. Along with the snow comes freezing cold, and your vehicle needs to be in top condition to travel. Don't wait until winter is in full swing before you decide your car needs a tune up or new battery. Have a complete tune-up on your vehicle in the fall before winter arrives, including these things:

  • Belts and hoses
  • Check radiator for leaks and proper level of antifreeze
  • Check the battery for corrosion. Your car needs all the cranking power it can get in cold weather.
  • Inspect tires for uneven wear or excessive tread wear
  • Check condition of windshield wipers, and top off washer level with a good fluid designed for harsh conditions.
  • Check your exhaust system for integrity. This is especially important in the winter, as you drive in a closed vehicle.
  • Insure the defroster is working properly - a lot of times pens and pencils will fall into the defroster vent, impeding air flow.
  • Change the engine oil to a winter grade. Recommended winter oils are thinner than summer oils, and lubricate the engine quicker under colder conditions.
  • Install a good set of snow tires, and insure that they are always properly inflated.
  • Now is a good time to change the fuel filter * Always carry spare antifreeze, a bag of floor dry or kitty litter, shovel, jumper cables, tow chain and throw in a blanket if you become stranded. Add road flares and a good flashlight, and always carry your cell phone with you.

Driving In Dusty Conditions

Sand can be one of the worst enemies to your vehicle. It can clog air filters, ruin constant velocity joints, and even infiltrate the engine if proper care is not taken. Never run your vehicle without an air filter in place. Fine sand sucked into the carburetor will quickly destroy an engine. Because driving in dusty conditions plugs filters quicker, it pays to check them on a regular basis, and replace as necessary. Don't always rely on your owner's manual to know when they need to be replaced.

Constant Velocity joints (CV) can wear out quickly if the rubber boots that protect them become worn or cracked. A simple inspection on a regular basis by a competent mechanic will insure that the CV joints are protected.

As you can see, just about any weather condition is adverse. Be on the safe side, and keep up maintenance on your vehicle to prevent breakdowns.