How to Winterize Your Vehicle for the Alaska Winter

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Preparing for the winter weather in Anchorage entails more than buying some home heating fuel and pulling out the heavy winter coats. Ensuring your car is ready for winter is just as important. By taking the time for a little vehicle preparation, you can reduce your risk of an accident, as well as help keep yourself and your family safe if an accident does occur. Here is some advice from our attorneys.

Winter in Alaska

Choose the Right Tires

Traction is what keeps your car safely on the road and out of a ditch – or from spinning into other cars around you. And the key to good wintertime traction is having the right tires on your vehicle.

You can choose between studded or studless tires for your car. Studded tires increase your traction on snow and ice, but can decrease your traction on dry pavement. Studless tires have flexible rubber that maintains traction in winter weather. They also do less damage to the road.

If you are unsure which option works best for you, talk to a local tire expert. It is important to note, though, that studded tires (Alaska only allows rubber studs) are only legal from midnight on September 16 until midnight on April 30.

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Take Care of Your Headlights and Windshield

It is obvious that it is crucial to be able to see the road in front of you and other cars around you while you are driving. Winter weather, though, can wreak havoc on your ability to see where you are going.

Check and clean your headlights each winter. If one goes out, replace it immediately. Also replace your windshield wipers. You can even invest in an anti-ice windshield spray.

Properly Maintain Your Car and Get a Check-up at the Start of Winter

It is a good idea to have your car checked by a trusted mechanic as winter arrives. A car that is in good repair is more likely to get you where you are going safely, and less likely to leave you stranded in below zero temperatures. Have the mechanic check:

  • Brakes: Stopping your car in wintery conditions can be tricky enough without a brake failure. Having properly working brakes is a necessity all year, and especially important in winter weather.
  • Battery: Winter is hard on car batteries. Not only do they suffer through the abuse of powering defrosters and heaters, but also the fluids inside weakened batteries may freeze on the coldest days. Testing a battery’s ability to hold a charge and replacing it if needed can help keep you from becoming stranded in the cold due to a dead battery.
  • Antifreeze: The amount and ratio of coolant in your car’s radiator is one of the most important aspects of winterizing your car for an Alaska winter. Most mechanics in Alaska will aim for between a 60:40 and 50:50 mix of antifreeze to water. If you are winterizing on your own, you can pick up an inexpensive antifreeze tester at any auto parts store to check the effectiveness of your mixture.
  • Motor oil: Oil thickens, as it gets colder, and cannot properly lubricate the engine when it is too thick. It is important to have the correct oil viscosity in your car for the Alaska climate. Your owner’s manual should contain a list of preferred oil viscosities based on temperature.
  • Windshield wiper fluid: Windshield wiper fluid is the key to keeping your windshield clean and your line of sight clear of snow and ice. Fill your reservoir with a windshield wiper fluid designed for harsh winter conditions that contains anti-freeze chemicals. It is also a good idea to carry extra in your car in case you need it.

Keep a Full Tank of Gas

Aim to keep your gas tank 75 percent full or more, especially in October and March when average daily temperatures often bounce back and forth around freezing. This type of temperature fluctuation may cause condensation to form inside a partially empty gas tank. This water can then freeze and block the fuel lines or cause other damage.

What’s more, ensuring your gas tank is full lets you run your car’s heater while you wait for help if you were to become stuck.

Always Have a Wintertime Emergency Kit

While your goal should of course be preventing an accident or breakdown, make sure you have the tools you need in the event of an emergency to stay warm and correct any problems on the road. A winter emergency kit should include:

  • Warm blanket
  • Extra winter clothing
  • Extra boots, socks, and gloves
  • First aid kit
  • Nonperishable snacks and water
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Flares
  • Small tool kit
  • Jumper cables
  • Battery charger for your car
  • Small shovel
  • Ice scraper
  • Extra windshield washer fluid
  • Extra windshield wipers
  • Spare tire and tire-changing equipment
  • Tire chains, if you have all-season tires
  • Bag of sand, salt, kitty litter, or other abrasive material that can offer traction

Know What to Do if You Become Stranded

You have done everything you were supposed to do to winterize your car, but now the unthinkable has happened. You are stranded. Do you know what to do?

  • First and foremost, stay near your car. Only if help is within sight should you venture away from your vehicle. Your car is an oasis in the winter weather, and you need the protection it offers.
  • Call for help. Use your cell phone to reach a friend or family member, or call a towing company or auto service for help.
  • Pull out your emergency kit, and light flares. Put one at each end of your car to get the attention of passing motorists. If flares are not available, brightly colored clothing tied to the antenna or hung out a window may be effective.
  • Clear snow from the area around your tailpipe. You can run the car for about ten minutes an hour to help keep you warm. Do not run the engine if you cannot clear the snow from the exhaust.
  • Use the blanket and extra clothes to keep warm until help arrives.

If You Are in an Accident, Kelley & Canterbury LLC Can Help

If you are involved in a car accident in Anchorage with a driver who failed to heed reasonable caution in winter weather, the attorneys at Kelley & Canterbury LLC can help you get compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. Call us today at 907-276-8185 to learn more.

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