El Nino Driver Checklist

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El Nino is here. It's big and getting bigger; weather forecasters are largely unanimous in their estimation that the infamous weather pattern, driven by warm water off the coast of California, will be among the biggest on record. While it may seem like a mild winter across the U.S. so far, experts are warning that the later winter months – think January through March – promise to be wet and wild in the southwest, with the potential for stormy east coast snow and rain events. All that makes for car trouble if you're not prepared.

So, before the snow, rain and freezing weather start rolling through, take steps to protect your customers' cars and their safety with AutoMD.com's El Niño Driver Checklist.  The three keys are designed to be simple, proactive steps to take to ensure that your customers prepared for anything Mother Nature can throw their way.

"No matter where you live, winterizing your car is always an important task that will help increase its longevity and even keep you safe," said Tracey Virtue, Vice President of AutoMD.com. "This is especially important now given the scale of the storm pattern and the fact that people are putting more miles on their cars than ever before." In fact, according to AutoMD.com's "2015 Vehicle Mileage Survey," two in three consumers report driving vehicles with over 100K miles, an increase of 36 percent since 2010. The study found that consumers cite cost-savings as a reason for driving a high mileage vehicle.

To that end, older cars need more care, especially during the winter months. You can prepare your ride the right way by following these simple steps:

1. Be Prepared for Mother Nature: Prep your vehicle's exterior and refresh your emergency kit to be prepared for a sudden severe weather change

  1. Stock your emergency kit with an ice scraper, tire chains, jumper cables, warm clothes, a space blanket, a light source, as well as rations such as water and energy bars.
  2. Give your vehicle a good wash and wax. That will protect your paint from road salt and weather elements such as rain, ice and snow.
  3. Bad weather can impact visibility: make sure all your lights – headlights, brake lights, blinkers – are in full working order.
  4. Replace wiper blades, and top off your windshield washer fluid. Don't cut corners and use water unless you want a sludgy, frozen mess on your hands.

2. Guard against Breakdowns: Getting stuck on the side of the road is bad enough – but just imagine what it feels like during the winter months. Avoid this at all costs by inspecting your vehicle's vital components and performing the required maintenance services listed in your owner's manual. 

  1. Make sure that tires are inflated to the right level, and that the tread depth is at least 4/32 inches. If you live in an area that requires it, switch to snow tires over all-season variants.
  2. Check your brakes.
  3. Check the engine coolant level and make sure the mix is 50/50 water to antifreeze.
  4. Make sure the engine oil has been recently changed, and use the manufacturer recommended oil viscosity range for winter.
  5. Make sure that belts and hoses are in good order.
  6. Test your battery – cold temperatures can reduce power. Also, check your battery posts for a clean and tight connection.

3. Adapt Your Driving Habits: Being more cautious while on the road will help ensure that you never have to use that emergency kit.

  1. All cars, no matter how well prepped and serviced, can lose control during winter weather, whether hydroplaning in the rain or skidding on ice – your driving techniques are the most important and front-line way to avoid accidents or even breakdowns.
  2. Whether in rain or snow, remember to slow down and increase your stopping distance.
  3. Remember to turn on your lights in heavy rain, fog or snow. Being seen (and being able to see) is your first line of defense.

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