Get your car ready before the next big chill
NAPLES, Italy — Chief Petty Officer John Whitley is a believer in the adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
And so, before temperatures dipped well into the brrrrrr zone, Whitley was at the auto hobby shop in Naples this week topping off his car’s antifreeze, checking hoses and plugs and making sure the tires were properly inflated.
“If your car is not properly winterized, it’s more susceptible to breakdowns and may endanger yourself and others,” said Joseph Dermer, manager of the Auto Skills Center at Naval Support Activity Naples.
He rattled off a checklist of chores drivers should do to ensure their vehicles are ready to weather the winter:
¶ Check antifreeze types and levels. The recommended lifetime of antifreeze is two years or 30,000 miles. If it wasn’t changed last year, 2005 is the time to do it.
There are varying types based on temperature limits, Dermer said. A fluid that can accommodate minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit would be ideal for servicemembers living in Italy, for example, but those in colder climates in places such as Germany and Iceland should opt for the fluids that operate in temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
¶ Check and change oil, making sure to follow the vehicle manufacturer’s guidelines for upkeep.
¶ Make sure windshield wipers are clean and operational, and that there is washer fluid in the tank to keep windshields clean.
¶ Check the battery. If it is within a year of its life expectancy, have it tested.
¶ Get a full tuneup if your vehicle needs one.
¶ Check belts and hoses for breakage or leaks and replace any damaged parts.
¶ Make sure tires are in good condition and properly inflated.
Because the drop in temperatures varies across Europe, there is no one set time in which people should winterize their vehicles, Dermer said.
“But they should begin now,” he suggested. “You don’t want to wait until the last minute.”
A checklist circulated by the U.S. Air Forces in Europe safety office suggests drivers also check their vehicles’ ignition system, thermostat, lights, exhaust system, brakes and defroster.
Motorists should maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season and store high energy “munchies” and several bottles of water in case of emergencies, the checklist advised.
Winter car kit
Flashlights with extra batteries
Extra newspapers for insulation
Plastic bags for sanitation
Extra set of mittens, socks and wool cap
Rain gear and extra clothes
Small sack of sand or cat litter for generating traction under wheels
Small tools such as pliers, wrench, screwdriver and manual can opener
Set of tire chains or traction mats
Brightly colored cloth to use as a flag
Cards, games and puzzles
Canned fruits and nuts
Source: U.S. Air Forces in Europe safety office