Adverse winter weather can be dangerous and frightening for travelers, especially early in the winter season, when they’re out of practice—and late in the winter, when they get overconfident! In fact, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, bad weather and sloppy road conditions are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter. With this in mind, it’s crucial that anyone who drives in winter understand the safety rules for driving in severe weather, the rules for dealing with winter road emergencies, the crucial winterizing your vehicle requires, and general winter-driving safety.
When you drive in Nebraska winters, AAA recommends basic safety measures like keeping a bundle of cold-weather gear in your car, including extra food and water, warm clothing, a flashlight, a glass scraper, blankets, medications, and more. Further, make certain that your tires are properly inflated and have plenty of tread, keep at least half a tank of fuel in your vehicle at all times, never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area like a garage, and do NOT use cruise control when you’re driving on any slippery surface, including ice and snow. If you have to go out, drive slowly, accelerate and decelerate slowly, increase your following distance, know your brakes, and don’t stop if you can avoid it.
Of course, you’re required to have insurance on your vehicle, and carrying an adequate amount of coverage is crucial. Then, from a mechanical standpoint, wet, cold, and icy weather serve up the biggest challenges to your vehicle’s efficient operating. There are a host of mechanical things that are crucial to preparing your vehicle for winter, including your battery, ignition system, lights, brakes, tires, windshield wipers, winter driving kit, and exhaust and heating-and-cooling systems. Read on to learn more about preparing for winter driving in Nebraska.
First and foremost, before you head out on the winter roads, it is crucial to make certain that you have appropriate insurance to protect you and others on the road from worst-case scenarios. Do you have liability, uninsured motorist, and underinsured motorist coverages? How much of each? Do you have roadside assistance to help you repair a breakdown or tow your vehicle and you to safety? It’s definitely better to know how well you’re covered before you find yourself in a bind—or worse—amid a blinding storm!
“Winter driving in Lincoln is unpredictable, to say the least,” said Shelter Insurance Agency (www.shelterinsurance.com) Owner Matthew Moorhead. “The university brings in young men and women from all over the country, and some have never had to drive on snow and ice. A good rule of thumb, in general, is to dress and plan for the worst. Always keep warm shoes or boots, coats, hats, and gloves in your vehicle. On the insurance side, roadside assistance is a good option to have and is included on every Shelter Insurance auto policy up to $100 per occurrence. If you are someone who travels or commutes substantial distances, you can purchase higher amounts.”
If you don’t have adequate liability, uninsured motorist, and underinsured motorist coverage, you can put yourself in a rough place in the event of an accident. If you’re not certain how much and what type of auto insurance you need, don’t worry. Matt can walk you through your options and give you some recommendations that fit your situation. The minimum amount of insurance you have to carry to drive in Nebraska is $25,000 per person in liability and $50,000 per accident of bodily injury coverage—but that doesn’t mean it’s a great level of coverage.
“If you have minimum liability limits and your vehicle is struck by someone who carries only minimum liability, and you were injured—say, break a leg—but need surgery to correct it, it’s not life-threatening, but it can do some damage to your wallet,” Matt said. “In this case, you will have $25K coming from the person who struck you and $25K coming from your underinsured motorist coverage on your policy. I don’t know if you have had surgery lately, but I think it’s a pretty good bet than an ambulance ride, plus hospital stay, surgery, casting, follow-up, physical therapy, and lost wages from work is going to be north of $50K.”
With that scenario in mind, Matt said he recommends that drivers have at least $250K of liability per person and 500K of underinsured motorist coverage per accident—an upgrade that provides 10 times more coverage at a cost of about $5–$10 per month. Whatever amount of coverage, everyone should always practice defensive driving, no matter the season. In the winter, don’t be tempted to drive until the windows defrost because seeing is quite important for driving. Also, be prepared for slippery conditions, as you simply can’t avoid them. Ice doesn’t have insurance, though, so if you slide into somebody, it’s your fault when it comes to insurance! Maybe it’s time to call Matt.
“I can take the time to explain your coverages and the options that are best suited to you,” he said. “If you have ever watched a television commercial where an insurance company tells you to just get online and get a quote, the problem is that as consumers, we have it programmed into our heads that the cheapest price is going to be the best deal. When it comes to insurance, though, you sometimes get what you pay for.”
Before winter really takes hold, there is an array of mechanical and otherwise functional parts of your vehicles that are crucial to get checked out. The Mechanix Garage (www.facebook.com/DeltaNelson558) is a great place to make sure your vehicle is winter-road ready. Opened recently at 1323 Dawes Ave., The Mechanix Garage is a full-service automotive shop, offering everything from oil changes and full vehicle inspections to wiper-blade or tire replacement on all makes and models of vehicles. Owner Delta Nelson and her full-time mechanic, Garrett Rech, both know their way around any vehicle challenge.
“Winterizing your vehicle requires measuring your tire-tread depth and air pressure,” Delta said. “Using a quarter, if the top of Washington’s head is just visible when placed headfirst in a tread groove, then the tread has about 4/32 of tread, and anything below that can drastically impact your vehicle’s stopping ability in wet or icy conditions. Low tire tread is a main culprit of winter collisions. Tire manufacturers recommend replacement of ties at 2/32. Tires at this measurement generally have tread bars showing and/or bald spots. When your automotive shop tells you that your tires are measuring 5/32, it’s time to start thinking about new tires. Make sure that your tires have the proper PSI (pressure per square inch), as well. Improper Tires that are overinflated or underinflated can compromise your driving ability—and your tires—prematurely.”
Battery failure tends to be a main cause of motorists getting stranded. Harsh weather conditions, whether hot or cold temperatures, affect the life of a vehicle battery. The Mechanix Garage recommends routine inspection of your battery. You can do this by using a battery tester if the vehicle isn’t driven on a regular basis. Perform routine battery replacement as a preventive measure.
“You also need to replace your vehicle’s windshield wiper blades if they cause smearing or chattering,” Delta said. “Also, ask us if your washer fluid is good in cold weather. Believe it or not, there are different levels for warm and cold weather in washer fluids.”
Protection from the Elements
Winter weather in Lincoln may not make you want to run out in the wind and frigid temperatures to wash your vehicle, but it should if you want to extend the life and resale value of your car. That’s because wintertime road sales, including treatments with liquid calcium chloride and sand, plus the moisture from Nebraska storms can cause your car to rust, which can spread across your entire vehicle over time. We recommend putting JetSplash Car Wash (jetsplash.com) in charge of keeping your vehicle shiny and protected throughout the winter months and beyond.
“You don’t want to leave salt or brine on your car too long, because it will damage the clear coat that is protecting your car, and eventually the paint, causing rust,” said JetSplash Sales Manager Kendra McDonald. “We prep and hand-dry every vehicle, so we’ll get the salt and snow off of your car first, then hand dry at the end to prevent freezing. We also have JetGloss, which will help restore your clear coat and protect your vehicle from future salt damage.”
For the holiday season—through January 10—JetSplash is having a “Jaw-Dropping Holiday Sale,” which offers the best pricing of the year for almost everything from annual memberships to bundle washes. What a great way to knock out some of your holiday shopping and help a friend or family member protect their vehicle from the damaging elements this winter and beyond!
Service with Integrity
With temperatures dropping and the winter season getting in gear, winterizing your vehicle is crucial not just to your vehicle but to your own safety. inMOTION Auto Care (www.inmotionautocare.com) is here in Lincoln to help you avoid any worst-case scenarios. To inMotion, winterizing your vehicle includes getting the oil changed and getting a good, thorough vehicle inspection to develop a clear picture of any potential problems. Bad batteries, hoses, belts, water pumps, spark-plug wires, tires, and more can cause your vehicle to break down, possibly leaving you stranded by the side of a road in freezing conditions. Locally owned by Sherri Stock and Jared McPike, the goal of inMOTION Auto Care is to deliver the best auto-repair customer-service experience possible. With a team that includes highly skilled auto mechanics, they are doing precisely that. You can count on them to maintain the highest level of integrity and professionalism throughout your service process, no matter how big or small the job. They are dedicated to your safety and to extending the life of your vehicle, in winter and year-round.
Another fabulous one-stop shop for all of your vehicle needs is Parkway 66 Service (www.parkway66lincoln.com). With more than 30 years of experience in the auto industry, Parkway 66 can handle everything you need to keep your car running smoothly and safely throughout the winter months, as well as all of your minor and major auto-repair needs. They are quick, efficient, and committed to providing top-quality workmanship and service that exceeds your expectations. They recommend professional routine maintenance services and offer all winterizing services, from tires to vehicle inspections, brakes, belts and hoses, batteries, radiators, shocks, starters, and more.
We’ve heard how important good tires are for safe, winter driving. Tire pressure drops by one pound for every 10 degrees the temperature drops. Tire-pressure monitors are required on all cars, but if you have an older vehicle, you should be checking your tire pressure about once a week in winter. T.O. Haas Tire & Auto (www.tohaastire.com) in Lincoln is a great place to learn about and purchase the best tires for your particular vehicle. A tradition of trust since 1947, sells more than two dozen brands of tires and performs many automotive services important to safe winter driving, including oil changes, alignments, brakes, exhaust, shocks, struts, cooling systems, transmission-fluid flushes, and more. T.O. Haas can also serve just about any mechanical need your car might have, from batteries and the electrical system to brakes, heating and cooling systems, axles, diesel engines, front end work in the case of an accident, general repair, oil changes, radiator service, and more!
On a Collision Course
The fact that 70% of the roads in the United States are located in snowy areas significantly increases the threat of an accident occurring, especially when you consider that driving on snowy roads can take your vehicle 10 times longer to come to a complete stop. Other causes of increased danger are the result of black ice, that often-transparent coating of ice that is nearly invisible to the human eye, as well as sudden heavy snowstorms that hit in Nebraska and decrease road visibility dramatically, plus damp sleet that turns the roads icy and slippery.
In the unfortunate event of a winter collision, the first concern is the condition and safety of all people involved. The next thing that often comes to mind is the condition of your vehicle. Consider contacting Midtown Body & Paint (www.midtownbodyandpaint.com). With more than 70 years of providing Lincoln with excellent auto-body repair, quality frame work, full painting services, paintless dent repair, and glass replacement for all makes and models of vehicles, Midtown technicians always stay current with quick and meaningful technological advancements in the industry. They take pride in their work and have a stellar reputation for providing high-quality repairs and service that develop lasting relationships. They will start by preparing an in-person estimate that usually takes about 30 minutes, then obtains insurance approval and schedules your repairs as soon as possible. Midtown then re-inspects your vehicle damage, completes thorough repairs, then pains with only high-quality, environmentally friendly automotive paints and, finally, details and washes your repaired vehicle so that when you sit in the driver’s seat, your car looks and feels like new!
Another fabulous option for body work is Tracy’s Collision Center (www.tracysbodyshop.com), with two locations in Lincoln—4538 Cornhusker Hwy and 1500 Center Park Road. Their approach to collision repair is customer-focused. They believe in listening to and working with their customers’ needs before, during, and after the repair process. The family-owned business has deep roots in Lincoln, with services including painting, frame repair, wheel alignments, and paintless dent repair. For 50 years, they’ve been putting drivers back on the road safely. Their skilled technicians use state-of-the-art equipment and are expertly trained in repair techniques for today’s complex vehicles. Both of their locations are certified by industry-leading programs in auto-body repair. When you take your vehicle to Tracy’s Collision Center, you can be sure the repairs will be done correctly, so you can be as confident in your vehicle as you were the day you bought it.
Whether you like winter weather or not, it likes your vehicle, and Mother Nature will take advantage of you car if you give her a chance. Be prepared by keeping a list of these outstanding providers to call upon toward preserving the life of your vehicle no matter what Nebraska winter serves up!