December 1, 2021

Gearing up for winter

Drivers urged to get vehicles prepped for cold, snow

Valerie Puma/staff reporter

Zeb Crosby, a diagnostics technician at O’Shea Tire & Service in Cortlandville, removes a tire Monday from a Honda Civic to replace its all-season tires with winter tires.

As we await the first significant snowfall this winter — Monday morning’s snow doesn’t count — mechanics encourage drivers to pay attention to their cars and take precautions to avoid getting stuck on the side of the road.

“Typically, the thing to do here in Cortland County is to have all-weather or winter tires on your car,” said Rich Borra, owner of O’Shea Tire and Service in Cortlandville.

Borra said all-weather tires are not the same as all-season tires, and encourages drivers to check which type they have. All-weather tires meet the minimum requirements for cold-weather tires and have a small symbol resembling a snowflake inside of a mountain.

All-season tires are intended only for use in warm, dry and mildly wet conditions — their performance drops off at temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. All-weather tires, on the other hand, are suitable for mild winter conditions including heavy rain, snowfall and slush.

If you live in an area where you expect to drive through deeper snow, Borra recommends winter tires, which have softer rubber for a better grip on the snow and slush.

“Preparing in other ways, I would make sure your oil is changed and tires rotated every 5,000 miles and to make sure that the air filters in the engine and the cabin are good and clean,” Borra said.

As the temperature drops, the air pressure of your tires will likely drop, too, Borra said. Check your car door for a sticker with the recommended tire pressure, or look in your owner’s manual, and keep them at the right inflation.

“Besides oil, there are other fluids in your care and if you don’t change them, it can cause a problem. It’s sort of like plaque building up in your arteries,” Borra added. “You need to change your power steering fluid, your coolant in the engine and your brake fluid — make sure things are running and working properly.”

Recommended supplies

  • Snow shovel, broom and ice scraper.
  • Abrasive material such as sand or cat litter, in case the vehicle gets stuck in the snow.
  • Jumper cables, flashlight and warning devices such as flares and emergency markers
  • Blankets.
  • A cell phone with charger, water, food and any necessary medicine.

    SOURCE: The National Highway Safety Administration

The state Department of Motor Vehicles and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee suggest keeping your gas tank full, checking that your heater and defroster are working properly, checking that you have the recommended amount of antifreeze in the radiator and always removing all snow and ice from on top of your vehicle before driving.

Paul Stupke Sr., owner of Stupke’s Towing in Cortlandville, has been in the towing business for more than 40 years and said his biggest piece of advice for drivers is to slow down.

“The most important thing is to not drive as fast as you do in the summertime,” Stupke said. “Driving the same speed just doesn’t work, you’ve got to be more cautious and stay alert about what other drivers are doing.”

The first rule of safe driving during wet weather is to slow down to improve tire traction, reports the American Automobile Association. Other tips include leaving more space between yourself and other vehicles, using your low-beam headlights even during daylight and never slamming on the brakes.

“I personally like to add a fourth tip that people may not be aware of — avoid using cruise control, which can reduce tire traction,” said AAA representative April Engram.

Engram said these tips are not just for snowy, icy or slushy weather, but for any time the roads are wet.

In snow and ice, try not to stop when heading up a steep hill, reports AAA. After you’ve stopped, applying extra gas to get started again may only spin your wheels. Get some momentum going on a flat road as you approach the hill to help you reach the top, then reduce your speed and drive down the hill slowly.

“If you’re going up into the hills, you’ve got to keep in mind that the temperatures are often colder on top of these hills because of the height and elevation difference,” Stupke said. “So there’s a lot of snow, and freezing liquids making it icy.”