Winter driving conditions can be unpredictable in the Pacific Northwest. Black ice, heavy rain and snow are formidable opponents even for new, well-treaded tires. Fog, hail and precipitation can drastically reduce visibility, which means drivers should keep wiper blades in good shape, protect windshields by repairing chips or cracks, and be vigilant about checking front and rear lighting before bad weather comes calling. Other hazards that face drivers this time of year such as debris on the roadways, avalanches and mudslides are all good incentives to plan ahead for winter travel.
No one knows this better than Scott Welsh, owner of Courtesy Auto Service & Tire of Tacoma since 2003. Informed by a 33-year career in the automotive industry, he knows just what drivers need to look for to get the better of hazardous winter driving conditions. Seasonal safety hazards can be a challenge for both the car and the driver, but taking a few preventative measures can help drivers save big in more ways than one.
To make sure your vehicle is road-ready for winter, the experts at Courtesy Auto explain that tires are perhaps the most important tool a driver has to protect against the elements. “Maintenance of tires is critical,” says Welsh. “Consider this: there are four patches of rubber between the driver and the rain-slick, snow-covered roadway at 60 miles per hour. That’s all. These patches of rubber are the size of an average sheet of paper in area, and therefore you would want those four very small areas to be as effective as possible in channeling rain and gripping on ice or snow. That is the reality of how important they are to safety.”
As tires age, they should be inspected regularly. At Courtesy Auto Service, service technicians look for signs of deterioration that can contribute to trouble on the road: uneven wear, cuts, impact damage, foreign objects, cracking, fatigue and tread depth. Most tires come with a tread that’s 11/32’’ and have a lifespan of six to seven years. When a tire reaches 5/32’’, its traction diminishes considerably. Once a tire reaches a tread depth of 2/32’’ or less, it is legally considered worn out. Welsh suggests investing in new tires around the seven-year mark, regardless of the tires’ visible wear and tear.
When it comes to AWD vehicles (and some 4WD vehicles), all four tires need to be replaced at the same time. Also, to ensure that you’re riding on the safest tires possible, definitely opt for new tires as opposed to used. A thorough courtesy inspection by a trained service professional is the quickest and most cost-effective way to determine what shape your tires are in.
For tires that are in good condition, it’s a good idea to consider enhancing your vehicle’s traction. Courtesy Auto Repair recommends “Z” chains that come equipped with rubber tensioners. These are easy to install and don’t require frequent readjustments. AutoSocks are another traction device suitable for snow driving. These fabric covers are easy to install and removable, reusable, tensioned, durable and compact.
Courtesy Auto Service also encourages drivers to inspect mechanical conditions to prepare for winter driving. Tire shops and mechanics are busiest during and after a winter storm, which is why Welsh joins Washington State Department of Transportation in recommending that drivers schedule a winter maintenance check-up before the first storm of the season hits. A thorough inspection will include a vehicle’s lights, wipers, heating system, radiator, belts, hoses, radiator, brakes, fluid levels and battery.
“There is no trick to identifying wear and tear,” Welsh explains. “The best course of action is to have a professional technician perform the proper checks to advise you of the condition of your car. You cannot do this in your driveway or garage. The knowledge and tools are not available to the average consumer to make the proper inspections and determinations about the conditions of tires, lights, wipers, fluid condition and other safety and weather-related items that need attention.”
An emergency kit is another invaluable investment. Keep a bag of emergency supplies in your vehicle that includes a flashlight, batteries, blanket, snacks, water, gloves, boots and a first-aid kit. Some other winter essentials to keep in your car include tire chains or a pair of AutoSocks, an ice scraper or snow brush, jumper cables and road flares. Avoid driving with less than half a tank in your car and be sure to preprogram your radio with WSDOT radio at 530 and 1610 AM.
For the convenience to South Sound drivers, Courtesy Auto provides a completely free light, tire and wiper inspection by appointment every day. Looking to kill two birds with one stone? Drivers who come in for services such as an oil change or regular maintenance will also enjoy a complimentary inspection of all visible components of the car, such as belts and hoses, at no additional charge.
The shop adds value to their service in the form of highly trained professionals and cutting-edge technology. Service techs keep their skills and certifications up-to-date, and use tablets to create detailed inspection reports that include photographs, notes and maintenance recommendations.
Customers appreciate distinguishing factors like these, and service reviews sing the shop’s praises time and time again.
Welsh and his team of knowledgeable techs encourage drivers to keep safe during the holiday season. Don’t be caught off-guard by inclement weather; prepare for it instead. Schedule a free inspection at Courtesy Auto Service today and help protect yourself, your passengers and your vehicle from hazards on winter roadways.
Courtesy Auto Service & Tire of Tacoma
Address: Tacoma Mall, 4502 S Steele Street, Tacoma, WA 98409