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by Mario DePasquale


                How many times have you been out driving, for whatever reason, and noticed a car that is stalled or disabled on the side of the road?  I see it every day.  Typically, the number of cars that you see stranded on the side of the road, or in the road blocking traffic, increases dramatically during the winter months.  In many cases, this could have been avoided with a little preventative maintenance.  Cars need to be inspected regularly to insure that they are in proper working condition…especially in the colder months.

I can’t speak for you, but I do not know that much about cars.  But there are some things that even I know that can help keep you from being that person who is stranded out in the cold.


  Be aware of how much gas you have in your car.  Cars burn up much more gas in the colder months, especially when the heaters are on full blast.  The gas in your car can quickly drop to low levels without you even noticing.  In addition, having at least a full tank of gas will help keep your gas lines from freezing overnight.


  Make sure that you regularly check the levels of your other fluids as well, especially the anti-freeze and oil.  Windshield washer fluid is just as important since we can’t drive safely if we can’t see anything!  If you don’t know how to do this, consult a local service station.  They will be glad to help.


  Have the tires and the battery checked as well.  Tires lose air in the cold temperatures and a battery that is on it’s last leg will not have the juice to get your car going.


            Sometimes, however, no matter what you do, the car just won’t cooperate with you.  Nobody likes to be stuck on the side of the road, especially when it’s cold outside and the heater isn’t working because the car won’t start.  Even if this has NEVER happened to you, it’s good practice to take some precautionary measures.


  Keep an extra jacket or blanket in the trunk of the car.  Also make sure that you have gloves, a scarf, and a hat.  You can easily place these items into a bag and tuck them safely into the trunk.  This will help you stay warm in the event that you become stranded.


  It is a very good idea to carry a cellular phone.  If you get stuck, you can phone a friend or relative or even the police from the comfort and safety of your car.  Many cellular companies offer budget packages for emergency uses.  If this is not an option, make sure that you at least have enough change handy to get to a phone and make those calls.


I also suggest that you carry, somewhere in the car, the following items:


  A flashlight…make sure that the batteries are in working order.


  A pair of jumper cables…someone may come along to help you that doesn’t have them in their car.


  A triangle reflector or a few road flares…these will help make your car more visible to the people driving up behind you.


            These items can be purchase at any major auto parts store.


            If you feel the car dying, safely maneuver the car so that you are as far onto the right shoulder as you can get (away from the moving traffic).  Put the car in park and put your hazard lights on.  Place the reflector or flares behind your car so traffic coming at you can see them…I recommend placing them at least 20 ft. back.  Make the necessary calls to get help on the way.  If you don’t have a friend or relative available, contact the local police.  Also, if you plan on leaving the car there and return for it later, you should also contact the local police to let them know what you are doing.


            Take the few minutes now to prepare yourself, and your car, for the cold weather months.  Those few minutes spent now may save you hours of aggravation in the future. 



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