photo: Nick Howland
By April Franklin
Winter months can be hard on your car. Use these winter car care tips when the weather is going to get bitter, and they should help you stay safe!
*Check Your Antifreeze/Coolant- Antifreeze helps control the temperature of a vehicle’s engine. Since it remains liquid and does not freeze in cold temperatures, antifreeze also helps protect the engine during extreme cold starts.
*Watch the Wiper Blades- The normal life expectancy for most windshield wiper blades is six to 12 months. Check and clean the windshield wiper blades or replace them if necessary. With freezing weather conditions, lift your wiper blades up off the windshield when you are not driving the vehicle. This will make sure the blades do not freeze to the window and possibly strip the motor.
* Make Sure the Battery is Strong- A weak battery is less reliable and can take longer to start your car on cold mornings. In fact, a weak battery could lose about one third of its power or more in colder conditions (e.g. below 32 degrees Fahrenheit). Make sure that connections are tight and free of corrosion and have your battery tested to ensure it has ample power to withstand the cold. Start the car with the heater, lights and window defrosters turned off to minimize battery strain.
*Emergency Kits- Maintain a vehicle emergency kit including a first aid kit, jumper cables, flashlight, bottled water, extra blankets, gloves and hat, granola/energy bars, duct tape, and a can of Fix-a-Flat. You never know when you will need these essentials.
*Clean the Engine Air Filter –The engine air filter is a vehicle’s lung. A clean air filter helps the engine combust an optimal air-to-fuel mixture, making it run more smoothly and efficiently. When your air filter is clogged, your engine has to work harder and therefore is not operating at peak performance.
*Check the Tire Pressure- Under-inflated tires create extra friction where the rubber meets the road. Improperly inflated tires also wear unevenly, which can impact your vehicle’s traction on the road and possibly lead to a dangerous blowout. Check your tire pressure regularly and make sure all of them are filled to the correct level — and remember your spare tire, which can lose pressure in the cold.
During a storm, you may lose power. If this happens follow these simple guidelines for staying safe:
*If your power is out in your entire neighborhood, call your local utility company to report the outage. Call Ameren Missouri at 1-800-552-7583. Call Ameren Illinois at 1- 800-755-5000. You can also find safety information, outage information and other important phone numbers by accessing www.Ameren.Mobi with your mobile device. To contact Cuivre River Electric about an outage, call 1-800-392-3709.
*If power is out over a widespread area, it may take a longer time to restore power everywhere.
*Unless there is an emergency, do not call 911. For non-emergencies dial 211. Only use 911 for life threatening emergencies.
*If there are power lines down in your neighborhood, do call 911 and call your utility company. Do not go near downed power lines. Contact Ameren Missouri at 1-800-552-7583 or Ameren Illinois at 1-800-755-5000 when you see downed power lines, experience an outage or suspect a natural gas leak. Be prepared to provide any details, such as unusual noises, flickering lights, or anything else you noticed.
* Dress to stay warm – wear layers, including a sweater, sweatshirt or even a jacket. You lose heat through your hands and the top of your head. Wear gloves and a knit hat, not just a baseball cap.
*Avoid opening your refrigerator and freezer as much as possible. Food inside should stay cold for up to 48 hours if the door is left closed.
*If you’re cold, take a warm shower – to increase your body temperature. Your hot water tank, even if electric, will stay warm for a few hours.
*Unplug some of your major appliances. When the power comes back on, all of those appliances can create a drain or power surge. This can harm sensitive equipment. To avoid a power surge when the electricity returns, turn off computers, TVs, stereos and other unnecessary electronic equipment at the power source. Leave a light on so you’ll know when the power is restored.
*If you have a generator, do not connect it to your home’s power system unless it has been properly installed and disconnects you from the main power grid when it is operating. If you do not disconnect from the power grid, you can be sending electricity back down the lines; not just to your home. That could be deadly for power company workers.
*If you have a regular wood stove or fireplace, you can use it for heat. However, DO NOT USE kerosene heaters, BBQs, or any outdoor type heater inside. Such devices create poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas given off by combustion and could kill. Do not use your stove to heat your house!
*Check on your elderly neighbors or those who may have medical conditions or use medical machinery that operates on electricity. Make sure they are dressed appropriately warm. If someone needs to have machinery that operates on electricity, move her to a place where electricity is working.
*If you have to go out, drive carefully. Remember that traffic signals may be out during a power outage. Consider each intersection to be a four-way stop and drive defensively.