With fewer daylight hours in the fall and winter, it’s important to make sure your vehicle can be seen by others and your visibility is not compromised. Now’s the time to ensure that your car is prepared for the shortened days and coming winter weather.
Lights play a major role in safe driving, as the chance of an accident increases if you can’t see or be seen.
“As the days get shorter, your vehicle’s lighting system becomes more important to the safety of you and your passengers,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “From the driver’s seat you may not notice a light that isn’t working, so be sure to inspect your car’s lights at every oil change. At the same time, inspect and replace wiper blades so you can see clearly when wet weather hits.”
Lights are normal wear items that require periodic inspection and replacement. In addition to replacing dimming, rapidly blinking and non-functioning lights, the following tips can help keep you safe:
• Keep headlights, tail lights and signal lights clean. External dirt and debris can dim operational lights from being seen by others.
• Make sure that your headlights are properly aimed. Miss-aimed headlights blind other drivers and reduce your ability to see the road.
• Don’t overdrive your headlights; you should be able to stop inside the illuminated area, otherwise you are creating a blind crash area in front of your vehicle.
• If there is any doubt on whether or not your headlights should be on, turn them on. Lights not only help you see better in early twilight, they also make it easier for other drivers to see you.
Washington law requires drivers on a highway to turn lights on between a half-hour after sunset and a half-hour before sunrise, or anytime conditions make vision unclear within 1,000 feet.
Having quality windshield wipers is also key. The wiper system keeps excessive water, snow and dirt from building up on the windshield, maintaining clear visibility. John Workentine, a spokesman from Napa Auto Parts in Blaine, encouraged drivers to buy high-quality windshield wipers to ensure maximum safety.
“You want to use the premium wiper blades,” he said. “If you try to get by using cheaper blades from the bigger stores, what you end up with is a wiper that tends to streak and shatter more.” He attributes this, and the increased noise from these blades, to the type of rubber compound they are made with.
“It’s more vinyl than rubber. It doesn’t do as good of a job of removing water from the windshield.”
Workentine also notes that having a full washer fluid tank is essential. “The washer fluid helps get road grime off the window, giving you more visibility,” he said, and this is especially important when driving conditions take a turn for the worse.
Many factors can accelerate the replacement interval of wipers, including operating conditions (winter conditions are tough on wiper blades), frequency of use, material and type of wipers and sunny weather. In fact, wiper blades can deteriorate faster and need more frequent replacement in desert states.
Workentine recommends that wiper blades be changed once or twice a year. “A lot of times we’ll have customers come in here with their wiper blades already torn. By that point, they’ve been worn out for six to eight months,” he said.
If you detect any problem with your car’s lights or wipers, have them checked out at once.