When you think of winter, you might daydream about skiing, sledding, holidays and snowmen. But before you start jumping into all the fun, make sure your home and vehicles are able to take on the demands of harsh weather.
Make Your Car Roadworthy
Get your car into an auto mechanic for a top-to-bottom checkup that includes:
· Brakes. Brake pads and rotors should be checked for warping, cracking or excessive wear.
· Coolant system. Have your radiator pressure tested and hoses checked for cracks or bulges that could cause the system to fail.
· Tires. Ask your local tire retailer to assess your tires’ integrity and replace if needed. At the very least, you should have your tires rotated to help them wear evenly. If you’re able to afford special winter tires, make the investment. Winter tires are made with low temperature-resilient rubber and have deeper treads that do a better job of gripping snow and ice.
· Windshield wipers. If your blades are more than a year old, they’re probably leaving a pattern of wear on your windshield and should be replaced.
What To Do In An Emergency
Stranded on the side of the road is a dangerous and often frightening situation to be in. Carry these items in an easy-to-reach tote in your back seat or trunk throughout the winter months to help ensure your safety:
· heavy blanket
· jumper cables
· flashlight and spare batteries
· items to help you get “unstuck” from a snow bank: tire chains and/or sand (or cat litter), a small shovel, and a bag of salt to help melt snow and ice
· first-aid kit
· lightsticks or reflective triangles
· protein-rich snacks like energy bars
· extra hat, coat, boots and gloves
· ice scraper
A little effort to get your car in tip-top shape will give you peace of mind as you set out on wintery roads, and help eliminate the risk of a costly repair. More importantly, being practical can help you stay safe!
Preparing Your Home
Winter is tough on homes, too. Here are some smart steps to take to minimize risks associated with harsh weather.
Have your chimney inspected. Get a professional inspection and cleaning every year to ensure everything’s in good working order.
Clean gutters. After each snowfall, use a push broom to pull off the snow closest to the gutters to help eliminate ice buildup.
Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. If yours are more than five years old, consider replacing with new ones to ensure optimum performance. If yours are operated only by battery power, think about switching to hard-wired units with battery backups.
Have your furnace inspected. Ask your favorite HVAC professional to do a pre-winter check of all the system elements to make sure they’re working properly.
Turn off water to exterior faucets. If you don’t have frost-proof faucets (homes more than 10 years old typically don’t), turn off the water supply to those faucets using the shut-off valve inside your home.
Stay on top of snow and ice. Keep your sidewalk, walkway, steps and porch completely clear by shoveling often and always following up with a generous dusting of salt. Keep an eye on water collecting from downspouts, as this could turn into a very dangerous spot should temperatures drop. Look, too, for icicles hanging from your roof or eaves and place orange cones (available at home improvement stores) beneath them to alert others to the danger.