You're done with the madness of Halloween, and you've sat down for a minute and realized the holidays have now started.
Are you ready to combat the crowds, traffic, shopping carts, and long highway miles in potentially adverse weather?
Here are some tips from Unplugged Performance in preparation for the winter months.
Windshield Wipers - often one of the most neglected parts of the car. While costing very little, it is one of modern vehicles' most vital safety elements.
It is prominent and well-known that when we drive, people get 90% of the information through our eyes scanning down the road. But today, modern cars also have multiple cameras pointed down the road, which depends highly on vision to enable much of the automation and proactive safety devices.
Front and rear wiper blades are critical in ensuring the vehicle, and you get as much information to aid in driving safely.
Tires - In colder months, it's common to see cold air condensing tires to very low pressures. But this is precisely the opposite of what we want in winter season driving. We want to make tires stiffer and contact patches smaller to put less area on the ground and more pressure in a smaller footprint to dig for traction in rain, snow, and ice. We also want to ensure the edges of the tread are sharp and ample tread depth, the compliance of blocks, and siping are intact to evacuate water and snow.
A Tesla Model X with stock 21"-295 mm wide tires in all-season trim can displace as much as 10 gallons of water per second at highway speed. That is EVERY SECOND! So, imagine if the tire has only 20% tread left? You are driving over approximately 80% of the water that would have otherwise been displaced...and basically, more of the tires are skating over water than touching the asphalt.
So, this is important! For extreme winters and mountain lovers, a set of dedicated winter tires are a must too! Winter tires typically grab the snow and ice at more than twice the tenacity of normal dry tires. Winter tires accomplish this with compounds dedicated to very cold ambient temperatures, and very specialized tread blocks.
Winter tires would have stopped the car before you hit that deer on that one icy road... without them, you’d have not only hit the poor animal but likely slid off the road and into an adjacent ditch. Just one incident like this will more than pay for the tire/wheel set you might have just for this condition.
Brakes, too, need to be checked for fluid stability. Winter is usually when condensation makes its way into the brake fluid reservoirs and lines and can render the pedal or ABS pump feeling dull or weak.
Alignment Check - Most of us think critical alignment is something in the domain of discussion for race car drivers, and online Tesla Model X rear tire went complainers. Well, that is somewhat true, but the alignment is just as critical to us mundane drivers in more ways than what is commonly discussed. For one, this is what makes sure the car is pointed straight. Only four contact patches about the size of a postcard each touch the ground on any vehicle. These four tiny patches do EVERYTHING related to the car’s motion.
One can get into volumes of books on suspension and such, and I won’t detail that here, but we do need to ensure that each tire isn’t fighting another. We must also ensure that the tires are loaded in the proper direction and evenly across the width of the tires. As complex as everyone’s description may seem, the reason tires wear badly or do not perform is simple… It’s oriented wrong. That is alignment; it must be corrected periodically.
Small Moving Parts in the exterior like door handles, mirror assembly, wiper motors on front and rear, trunk opening buttons, and all of the actuators and sub-mechanisms should all be inspected and greased or lubricated as needed to prevent water accumulation and freezing... Not only does water prevent the actuations of some components when frozen, but you can also end up cracking and damaging things too. Plastic parts and electric component sub-assemblies on the body are never cheap or readily available so be careful with these.
Lamps and Sensors – be sure all your indicator lamps function. Winter is when lightbulbs, ballasts, and LEDs fail, primarily due to extreme temperature fluctuations, rough roads, extended wet conditions, and many other causes. But it is also a season when you want ALL those lamps working, as mud and snow can block a few of the multiple lights and prevent an approaching car from seeing your indicators. Modern autonomous cars also rely heavily on other car’s indicators giving the control system clues to stay out of trouble… So that is more important today than ever, not just for your own sake but for the increasingly autonomous infrastructure of safety and efficiency.
Check essential tools and equipment. There are certain critical tools that allow crews to help you better. Ensure the detached Tow Hook and all hardware that came with the car are in the car. Without these things, the emergency crew will take longer to help and can resort to damage to parts of your vehicle to tow it to safety.
Other items like heating systems, security systems, cargo carriers, and floor mats. Emergency roadside tools and lights, spare tires, and documentation for roadside assistance.
If we are venturing away from big population centers, we should pack a few emergency supplies in case we get stuck on the roadside in the cold, wet middle of nowhere.