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Three big things to check on your vehicle before driving in cold and snow

Using a penny is a simple hack to check tread depth. If you can see all of Lincoln's head, your it's definitely time to consider new tires. In this photo, tread is good. (WWMT/Will Haenni)

A Kalamazoo auto mechanic said there are simple things to remember when preparing to drive in winter conditions.

John Doe, a mechanic at Woodward's Garage in Kalamazoo, gave three key areas to keep in mind when it comes to preparing your vehicle for winter:

Tires

  • Check tire pressure. This ultimately dictates how much of the tread pattern is in contact with the road. Too little or too much tire pressure is problematic.
  • Check tread depth. a substantial tread is needed to make it through the winter months. If you're looking for a simple check, insert a penny into your tire's tread groove with Lincoln's head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln's head, it is time to consider new tires.
  • If you notice any sort of rattling on the front end of your vehicle, your alignment could be off. This becomes much for problematic when you encounter snow or snow or ice clumps on the road.

Windshield

  • Be sure you have good wipers. If your wipers give you hazy visibility in the rain, it becomes a much bigger issue in the snow. Doe said new wipers cost around $30 for most vehicles.
  • Larger cracks or chips in a windshield can lead to bigger problems once temperatures really drop. Turning on your windshield defroster applies heat to the glass, which causes a quick expansion that can lead, in some cases, to a shattered windshield.
  • Consider using a de-icing windshield wiper fluid. Some all season fluids will still freeze at 32 degrees. Most winter window wiper solutions are good down to about minus 20 degrees.

Antifreeze

  • Having your vehicle's antifreeze protection level checked ahead of bitter cold is important. Over time the fluid loses its ability to absorb and dissipate heat.
  • Doe recommends minus 30 degrees or below as a target protection level.
  • You can check this at home with the use of a Peak Antifreeze and Coolant tester, which are fairly inexpensive to purchase. Your mechanic can also check this usually for a very small fee or even for free.

John Doe also said, "We're all in this together. Slow down. Just because it's four-wheel drive doesn't mean it's four-wheel brake."

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