At Issue: Winter typically brings extreme cold to central Illinois.

Local Impact: Extreme temperatures associated with winter and summer can cause a vehicle to break down more readily than it would during the moderate weather conditions of spring and fall. Preparing a privately-owned vehicle for the winter months could spell the difference between arriving at a destination safely or becoming a stranded motorist.

Winter annually beautifies the central Illinois landscape, covering the ground in a glistening white blanket of snow and coating trees in glittering sheaths of ice. But while admiring the splendor of the countryside in winter, it is important to recognize the dangers that snow, ice and cold weather present to local motorists. It is perhaps even more important to prepare for those seasonal hazards.

According to Codey Ernst, a service advisor at Tony and Sons Auto Repair in East Peoria, a checklist for preparing a privately-owned vehicle for winter includes checking all fluid levels, carrying an abrasive material such as sand or kitty litter for traction, and checking car batteries.

“Batteries are extremely sensitive to extreme temperatures,” said Ernst. “So, you need to keep an eye on them both in the summer and the winter. You also want to check the treads on your tires, and you want to frequently test your tire pressure. Cold temperatures can have an impact on the air pressure in a car’s tire. I tell people to check their tire pressure when they put gas in their cars. You definitely want to make sure you have enough windshield washer fluid and check your wiper blades. If they start to chatter or start leaving streaks, then it’s time for new oness.”

Ernst added that Tony and Sons, along with many local auto dealerships, performs courtesy inspections on fluid levels, brakes, tires and suspension components on any vehicles brought in for a basic oil change. 

“Winterizing your vehicle is important for your safety,” he said. “You don’t want to be stranded at any time of year but especially not in extreme cold or extreme heat.”

In addition to ensuring that privately-owned vehicles are prepared for winter, the Illinois Department of Transportation recommends that motorists carry emergency kits. 

“Carry items in your vehicle to handle common winter driving-related tasks, as well as any supplies you might need in an emergency,” said IDOT spokesperson Kelsea Gurski in a press release.

Gurski recommends that motorists driving in winter carry a snow shovel, broom and ice scraper, jumper cables, a flashlight, warning devices like flares or emergency markers, blankets for protection from the cold, a cellular phone with a charger, water, food and any necessary medicine.

Charlie Hall of East Peoria prepares for winter by taking his vehicles to the dealerships where he purchased them for inspections.

“I also keep track of fluid levels and the tires on my own,” said Hall. “I carry jumper cables in my car year-round, because a battery can die when it’s 95 degrees out just as easily as it can when the temperature’s 20 below zero. In the winter, my wife and I always have blankets in our vehicles, for the obvious reason that it’s cold outside.”

For more information on preparing a vehicle for winter weather, visit https://www.illinois.gov/iema/Preparedness/Documents/winter_storm_preparedness_guidebook.pdf.