Drive Safely When Things Get Wet, Part 2

As the weather gets colder and wetter, there are a few things to consider to make sure your car or truck is safe and comfortable for winter driving.

Brakes

Wet and slick roads increase stopping distances significantly, so you need to brake sooner, react more quickly, maintain longer following distances, and avoid abrupt steering and braking that might induce a skid. Make sure your brake pads and shoes are in good shape, with even wear and adequate thickness, and that your rotors are smooth and sound. Brake fluid absorbs moisture from the air, which accumulates and reduces braking performance at the limit (when it really matters), and increases corrosion of brake lines and other parts of your braking system. Be sure to change your brake fluid every two years, regardless of mileage, and keep the system in good working order.

Air Conditioning

Now that you’re using the heater again, you may not be thinking much about your A/C system, but it’s very useful in the damp weather. Your A/C system cools and dries the air, which keeps you comfortable in summer but also keeps your windows fog-free in the winter. The “defrost” mode in most modern cars engages the A/C compressor to help clear your windows with hot/dry air, so don’t neglect it just because the summer is behind us. A refrigerant leak can reduce the efficiency of your defroster, and it’s releasing atmospheric pollutants into the air. Your local repair shop can evacuate the refrigerant and pressure-test the system, identifying and fixing any leaks, then recharge your car with the correct amount of refrigerant. You’ll find your windshield defogs faster when the A/C system is working well.

Wiper Blades and Washer Fluid

Rubber wiper blades sweep the water off your windshield without squeaks, streaks or chatter and, with a squirt or two of washer fluid, remove the bugs and bird poops.  It’s a good idea to renew your wiper blades a couple of times a year, but especially at the start of the rainy season. If you’re headed for snow country, make sure your washer fluid is a winter blend so it won’t freeze in the reservoir or at the squirter nozzles. In the Bay Area, it’s often difficult to find a winter-rated blend in the pre-mixed bottles, but you can often find an antifreeze washer-fluid additive to add to whatever fluid you like.

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