As the warmth of summer becomes a memory and the bright red, yellow and orange leaves continue to fall across the Mahoning Valley, it becomes apparent that winter is on the way. Winters can be unpredictable, and that is especially true in northeastern Ohio. Snow storms can blow through town from any direction and it is important that all valley residents are prepared.
Nothing can appear to be as beautiful as fresh snow covering yards and roads across the area, but with that comes the danger of driving through it. And unless you drive a Hummer, chances are that driving through the snow, slush and ice is more of a chore than a joy.
With the approach of winter it is important to take a few moments to prepare your car for the impending inclement weather.
Charlie Fox, an employee at Wholesale Tire Co., works on the front tire of a customer’s car at the 730 E. Market St. location.
The first items to check are your tires. ''Check tire tread depth all the way around and your air pressure,'' says Jim Handel, owner of Wholesale Tire Co. The tread depth is what gives your tires and ultimately your car traction.
It is important to continually check the air pressure in each tire. Check the owner's manual to see what the recommended tire pressure is for your car. During the winter, an underinflated tire will have more contact with the road. Because of this, the tread separation of the tire will spread out, causing your tread depth to change.
''Air pressure needs to be maintained, because that affects your tread depth,'' explains Handel.
Also important to note, with the erratic temperature changes of a northeast Ohio winter, the amount of air pressure in your tire will change even when there is no leak. According to Handel, tire pressure will decrease by about one pound per square inch when the temperature falls by 10 degrees. Conversely, when the air warms up, the pressure will increase.
It is also important to make sure that your car's windshield wipers are functioning properly and are in good condition. Many manufacturers make wiper blades that are specifically for the winter. However, it is very important to properly use and maintain your blades.
''Make sure you clean off the wiper blades to make sure there is no ice,'' said Tracy McCombs, service adviser for Diane Sauer Chevrolet.
McCombs explained that misuse of the blades will lead to unnecessary damage. ''Most people think if you run defrost they can run them, and that is not necessarily true ... there may still be ice.''
Proper windshield wipers will ensure as clear a view as possible for the driver.
Finally, it is suggested that drivers have their fluid levels checked. ''Make sure the coolant strength is below zero,'' McCombs says. ''If it is not good for cold weather, you should get it flushed.''
Mechanic Willie Rice of Norton Tire and Auto Services says, ''If the anti-freeze breaks down, it can eat up the gaskets.''
Rice says of anti-freeze, ''You have to use a hydrometer to make sure its good. It's said that it is good for five years, but I don't believe that. You have to make sure it isn't dirty.''
Many of the problems that drivers encounter every day could be avoided if they took a minute to check a few of these items. It is not a bad idea to keep an extra set of wiper blades in your car, in case of an emergency. Also, simply checking your tires before you head off for your day can elevate a big headache down the road.
Even though these steps can help to avoid problems, the winter weather can become very dangerous and is unpredictable. When the weather is bad, allow extra time for your commute and drive safely.