Editor’s note: This is the third segment in a series on problems caused by winter weather and the solutions to help prevent them.
PRINCETON — The subzero temperatures Bureau County recently experienced made life just a little less bearable with the dangers it created for people, pets, homes and vehicles. The temperatures are finally back above zero, however, the winter months are far from finished. This series is meant to bring attention to safety measures on various items affected on those bitter cold days.
Shield your vehicle
Randy Warren of Joe’s Midtown Auto Repair in Princeton said remembering a few common sense tips will help keep the vehicle running properly all winter long. The most important thing to be mindful of is keeping up on the routine maintenance of the vehicle. This includes having the cooling system, charging system, fuel system, the battery, spark plugs, etc. checked when they should.
“Often people get lost in the routine of ‘I just put gas in it, and it works, so I drive it,’” Warren said. “When cars don’t start when it’s nine below zero outside, it’s not because of the weather, it’s because the maintenance on the vehicle hasn’t been inspected.”
Warren also suggested:
• Make sure to start the vehicle and let it warm off before driving to a destination. Turn on the defroster and let the snow and ice melt off the windshield. Warren said too often people only scrape a little hole to look out of on the windshield, which creates the potential of an accident.
“If you’re driving around two tons, it’s best if you can see where you’re driving,” he said.
• It’s better to keep the vehicle fuel levels above the halfway mark, rather than below the halfway mark. During the winter months, it’s not unlikely that moisture can get into the fuel lines and tank and create an issue.
• Check the tires to make sure they have enough tire pressure and are in good condition. Bald tires are not safe to drive on in ice and snow.
• Purchase or make a winter survival kit to put in the trunk in case a vehicle breaks down or gets stranded in a snowstorm. Warren said it’s always a good idea to have an extra blanket, water and some sort of food for energy. In some cases it could be hours before a stranded driver is able to be rescued in snowy weather.
• Warren said when authorities advise to stay off the road because of weather conditions, then do so.
“I can’t tell you how many times someone went into the ditch when they could have just stayed in and gone out the following day and not had a problem,” he said.
• Don’t “buck” through the snowdrifts. Drive around drifts or avoid them all together. Warren said bouncing in the drifts can cause belts on the vehicle to come loose and snow can get up underneath the vehicle and freeze, which could cause a problem with the starter.
Snowdrifts can also cause issues if a driver runs through them too fast, causing white powdery snow to blow up on the windshield. A driver could easily lose focus of the road and be in the ditch within seconds. Take is slow on the drifts.
Safeguard the home
With the cold weather, heating systems are running full force, and many people are resorting to other heating sources to keep their homes warm.
Princeton Fire Chief Chuck Woolley suggests:
• Having the furnace inspected on an annual basis to insure it’s working properly. Homeowners who use fireplaces should have the chimney inspected and cleaned by a reputable company. Chimney cleaners should remove the creosote build-up in the chimney, which is the black or charred build-up left over after a burn. Woolley said the material is combustible and could catch fire if not cleaned out over time.
• Candles are not something used to heat the home but are often used for looks or atmosphere. Woolley said to make sure candles are a far enough distance from materials that could easily combust, such as curtains. Also, beware of house pets, such as cats, who like to jump up and could knock over the candle. Never leave candles unattended.
• Space heaters should be UL (Underwriters Laboratories) rated and tested. They also need to be plugged into a wall, not into an extension cord. Check to make sure there is adequate space around the space heater, usually the space needed is 3 feet away from other items. Items closer than the recommended 3 feet have the potential to catch fire.
• Space heaters that are run by kerosene, should also be UL rated and tested. Make sure to keep the fuel-powered space heater vented properly. A poor venting system could cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
• Stoves and ovens should not be used to heat the home.
“I know there are people that have started one up and opened it to get a little extra heat, but it’s very dangerous,” Woolley said. “Stoves were not designed to heat homes and could also be dangerous if children or animals are in the home.”
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