Automotive Advisors: Preparing your car for wet weather
Editor's note: Automotive Advisors is a monthly column written by Scott and Tammie Green, owners of Christian Brothers Automotive in Shawnee. The column will be published on the second Sunday of every month.
April showers bring May flowers, but they can also can bring trouble for your car. Driving in a torrential downpour can be frightening and intimidating, especially with other people — or children — in the car. Below are a few key tips designed to ensure that you, your vehicle and your loved ones are fully prepared to travel in the strong wind and rain that traditionally hits our area each spring. Remember not to drive through standing water. Flash flooding is a threat in our area.
Time for new tires: Good tire traction is vital when driving through the rain, particularly if there is standing water or ponding on a roadway. Tires should have at least 50 percent of their tread life left to ensure they can displace water through their grooves. If they can’t, the tires are likely to slide when traveling at higher speeds or turning corners. To check your tires’ tread depth, simply insert a penny into your tire’s tread groove holding Abraham Lincoln’s body between your thumb and index finger, with Abraham Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you can see Lincoln’s entire face, it’s time to replace your tires.
Check your wiper blades: Prior to a rainstorm, clean off your wiper blades with a damp paper towel. If they still make streaks on the windshield, it’s time to change them. A rainstorm is the worst time to realize your windshield wiper blades no longer work. Not being able to see clearly while driving is unsafe, and can create instant panic while you’re behind the wheel. A good rule of thumb is to replace all wiper blades, in the front and rear, every six months to one year, or as soon as you notice a difference in driving visibility.
Brake earlier and more gradually: Never slam on your brakes while driving in wet conditions, especially if your vehicle begins to hydroplane on a wet roadway. Instead, tap on your breaks after going through a puddle; this will dry out some of the water that has dripped onto your rotors.
Check your headlights and turn signals: Being in the dark during a storm can turn already hazardous driving conditions into treacherous ones. Properly illuminated headlights allow your vehicle to be more visible to other drivers, as well as improve your own visibility. If your lights are dimming, make sure to get the bulbs replaced. But don’t turn on your high beam headlights to compensate. That just blinds others drivers, and puts you at even greater risk for an accident. If your headlights lens is cloudy, then it is recommended to use a headlight restoration kit to restore the lens to almost new condition. The first indication of a turn signal that’s about to malfunction, or stop working altogether, is the speed at which it blinks. If either of your turn signals is blinking slower than it should be, have it inspected by a mechanic before it fails to work, putting you at risk of a collision with other vehicles in nearby lanes or intersections. Many vehicles let you know that your turn signal bulb is burnt out by blinking twice the speed.
Several of these tips can be do-it-yourself projects, but your local automotive repair shop can also help to ensure you are ready for the wet weather.