Spring and summer showers may mean flowers, but wet pavement contributes to nearly 1.2 million traffic crashes each year. Here are some tips you’ll want to follow the next time you’re caught driving in the rain.
Safety starts before you drive, and your goal should be to see and be seen. Replace windshield wiper inserts that leave streaks or don’t clear the glass in a single swipe. Make sure all headlights, taillights, brake lights and turn signals are properly functioning so other drivers will see you during downpours. Turn on your headlights whenever you drive.
Proper tire tread depth and inflation are imperative to maintaining good traction on wet roadways. Check tread depth with a quarter inserted upside down into the tire groove. If you can see above Washington’s head, start shopping for new tires. Check each tire’s pressure, including the spare, at least once a month… and be sure to check the pressure when the tires are cold.
Most modern cars feature cruise control. This feature works great in dry conditions, but when used in wet conditions, the chance of losing control of the vehicle can increase. To prevent loss of traction, the driver may need to reduce the car’s speed by lifting off the accelerator, which cannot be accomplished when cruise control is engaged.
When driving in wet-weather conditions, it is important to concentrate fully on every aspect of driving. Avoiding cruise control will allow the driver more options to choose from when responding to a potential loss-of-traction situation, thus maximizing your safety.
Slowing down during wet weather driving can be critical to reducing a car’s chance of hydroplaning, when the tires rise up on a film of water. With as little as 1/12 inch of water on the road, tires have to displace a gallon of water per second to keep the rubber meeting the road. Drivers should reduce their speed to correspond to the amount of water on the roadway. At speeds as low as 35 mph, new tires can still lose some contact with the roadway.
To reduce chances of hydroplaning, drivers should slow down, avoid hard braking or turning sharply and drive in the tracks of the vehicle ahead of you. Also, it’s important for motorists to allow ample stopping distance between cars by increasing the following distance of the vehicle in front of them and beginning to slow down to stop for intersections, turns and other traffic early.
Even careful drivers can experience skids. If a driver feels their car begin to skid, it’s important to not panic and follow these basic steps: Continue to look and steer in the direction in which the driver wants the car to go. Avoid slamming on the brakes as this will further upset the vehicle’s balance and make it harder to control.
If you feel the car begin to skid, continue to look and steer in the direction you want the car to go. Don’t panic, and avoid slamming on the brakes to maintain control.
Overall you want to be extra cautious in wet weather. Slow down, avoid hard braking or turning sharply and allow ample stopping distance between you and the cars in front of you. Also, do these things one-at-a-time. Brake, then turn, then accelerate.
Spring is one of the prime times for auto maintenance. That first wash-n-wax on a warm Saturday afternoon is liberating. Winter's gloom (to say nothing of grit and road salt) is literally washed away. Take out the snow shovel, the gloves, and heavy boots and store them 'til next season. Surely summer can't be far away.
Some preparation now will help ensure that your summer driving plans go as smoothly as you envision then now. ASE offer the following tips on getting your vehicle ready for summer.
Read the owner's manual and follow the recommended service schedules. Have hard starts, rough idling, stalling, etc. corrected before hot weather sets in. Flush and refill the cooling system (radiator) according to the service manual's recommendations. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. If you are not a do-it-yourselfer, look for repair facilities that employ certified automotive technicians. The tightness and condition of belts, clamps, and hoses should be checked by a qualified auto technician. Have a marginally operating air conditioner system serviced by a qualified technician to reduce the likelihood of more costly repairs. Change the oil and oil filter as specified in owner's manual. (Properly dispose of used oil.) Replace other filters (air, fuel, PCV, etc.) as recommended. Check the condition of tires, including the spare. Always check tire pressure when the tires are cold. Inspect all lights and bulbs; replace burned out bulbs. Replace worn wiper blades and keep plenty of washer solvent on hand to combat summer's dust and insects.