Cold-weather advice for drivers from NHP | NevadaAppeal.com

Cold-weather advice for drivers from NHP

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Snow blows across Highway 50 in Moundhouse on Monday afternoon.
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With temperatures dropping into the teens all this week, Nevadans – especially newcomers to the state – are discovering the weather is tough not only on them but their cars.

Drivers can’t make the winter go away, but according to the pros at the Nevada Highway Patrol, they can make things easier both on themselves and their vehicles.

David Smith, shop supervisor for NHP’s northern command in Reno, is in charge of making sure more than 100 public safety vehicles are in good working order, no matter what the weather. He said there are a number of things the average driver can check in the vehicle.

The first thing to check is the fluids – especially coolant. Make sure the radiator is filled to the proper level, and that the antifreeze is good to at least 30-below zero. He said auto parts stores sell small, easy-to-use antifreeze testers. Also check levels of the other fluids, including oil. And don’t forget the windshield washer fluid, which should have some freeze protection.

Check the condition of the wiper blades, which Smith says can get baked and cracked by the summer sun in just one season.

Next on the list: The tires. A tire measuring 30 pounds of pressure on a warm summer day may lose five pounds of pressure on a cold winter morning. But Smith said also make sure the tread isn’t worn down, and look for cuts and other damage to the tread and sidewalls.

While under the hood, he said take a good look at the condition of belts and hoses.

“If belts are cracked this time of year, when they get cold they get brittle, and it’s easy to snap a belt.”

Hoses, he said, “go through extremes from below zero to more than 190 degrees.” If they show cracks or other damage, winter could be the last straw.

And Smith says if the battery is more than three years old, it might be wise to have it “load tested” by a mechanic.

Once the car is ready for winter, Trooper Chuck Allen has a few suggestions for what to carry and how to be safe.

It’s wise to carry a first-aid kit, flashlight and, if not coveralls, at least an old blanket to lie on while putting on chains. And don’t forget gloves.

Make sure you have chains that fit and know how to put them on the vehicle. Note: Put the chains on the drive wheels; for those with front-wheel drive, that means the front, not rear wheels.

In winter, Allen says don’t allow the fuel gauge to drop below a quarter tank in case you get stuck in traffic behind an accident or some other delay occurs.

Now, not the morning after the first big snow, is the time to make sure your vehicle has an ice scraper and snow brush. In a pinch, a credit card or driver’s license will help clear a window.

Allen says many of the adjustments drivers should make in winter weather are common sense. Clear all the windows, not just part of the windshield. And pre-warm the car if possible before driving so those windows aren’t foggy and the vehicle’s engine is warm.

Leave for work earlier. Leave more space between you and the car in front to adjust for reduced traction.

Even if the road just looks wet, Allen says it’s wise to assume it’s icy – especially over bridges and overpasses.

If you spin out, don’t leave the car in the middle of the road. The next guy may have the same problem and slide into your car. Move out of the traffic lane or onto a safe shoulder.

Even if there is more than one car involved in the accident, Allen says, unless some one is injured, try to get the vehicles out of the travel lanes so other drivers don’t become part of the accident.

In general, drive defensively and slow down.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.

Bundle up this week

Today: Partly cloudy with isolated snow showers and highs 32-42. West winds 10-15 mph with gusts up to 30 mph in the afternoon.

Tonight: Partly cloudy with isolated snow showers with lows 8-18. Northwest winds 10-15 mph shifting to the north after midnight.

Wednesday: Mostly sunny. Highs 29-39. Northeast winds 10-15 mph.

Wednesday night: Mostly clear. Lows 6-16. Southeast winds 10-15 mph.

Thursday: Mostly sunny. Highs 30-40.

Thursday night: Mostly clear. Lows 9-19.

Friday through Sunday: Mostly clear. Highs 40-50. Lows 17-27.

Sunday night and Monday: Partly cloudy. Lows 19-29. Highs 39-49.

Source: National Weather Service, Reno