* Rain is a common winter driving hazard throughout the country. While most people think of ice or snow when cautioned about slippery roads, the truth is wet roads can be just as slick. Tires can hydroplane on a layer of water, losing contact with the road and causing the vehicle to skid. Rain lifts oil and other slippery fluids, dripped by passing autos, and can create a slick layer on the blacktop. Flooded roads can stall engines. Slow down on wet roads. Consider buying a vehicle with features like all-wheel drive and electronic stability control.
* Start out with a safe car. Studies show that all-wheel drive and electronic stability control significantly reduce the risk of being involved in a crash. Automakers are beginning to offer the technologies on more models. Subaru offers both as standard equipment on models like its Tribeca, which has earned the top safety ratings from industry watchdogs such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (www.safecar.gov) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (www.iihs.org).
* Replace worn tires. Your tires are your vehicle’s only contact with the road. Worn treads provide less traction and greater chance to slide. Likewise, for optimal performance -- and better gas mileage -- make sure tires are properly inflated according to your vehicle’s owner’s manual.
* Don’t forget your wiper blades. Worn wiper blades can severely hamper visibility in poor weather, and after a long summer of sun and heat, wiper blades can become dry and brittle. And don't forget the inside of the glass -- a strong glass cleaner can remove the oily film and help the defroster clear windows faster.
* Check your vehicle’s fluid levels. Maintaining a 50/50 mix of antifreeze will prevent your engine coolant from freezing as temperatures drop. Be sure your engine oil is ready for the season -- when having the oil changed, remember that severe cold weather can require a switch to a different oil viscosity for better flow at lower temperatures. Be sure that your power steering and brake fluids are properly filled, and don’t forget the battery -- while most modern batteries are sealed and cannot be filled, a charge test will ensure enough cranking power to start your engine as temperatures fall.
* Winter driving also comes with shorter daylight hours -- and a greater likelihood of at least some portion of your commute being driven in the dark -- so it is important to check all vehicle lighting. Check not only your headlights, but also your taillights, back-up lights, turn signals, parking lights and brake lights. These lights are important not only because they help you to see, but also serve as a way to help you communicate clearly with other motorists.
* Take advantage of safety resources. Throughout October, National Car Care month, many dealerships offer free safety screenings to motorists who drive the brand of car sold at the dealership. For example, during the month of October, participating Subaru dealers will conduct free professional diagnostics on all Subaru models. The inspection includes a check-up of all major operating systems, and drivers receive a written report of the vehicle’s condition. Visit www.subaru.com to find a dealer in your area.