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PHOTO CAPTION:  Pueschel Wolfgang, USAG Bavaria safety specialist, measures a car's tire tread depth to ensure it can perform in freezing rain or snow.

November 5, 2013
By Catalina Victoria, USAG Bavaria Family and MWR Marketing

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- With record high temperatures experienced throughout the summer in Bavaria, it might be easy to overlook the fact that the winter months are approaching. The fall season is the perfect time to start preparing your vehicle for safe winter driving.

The Automotive Skills Centers have the necessary tools, equipment and the skilled staff to assist you with preparing your vehicle for winter weather. Several components of a vehicle should be inspected to make your vehicle winter ready.

Windshield wipers and fluid:
Drivers should ensure their vehicles have a good pair of wipers. Worn out wipers can be a hazard and are not as effective during rain or snowy conditions. It is also important to switch to a windshield fluid that will not freeze.

Lights:
Be sure all of the lights on your vehicle are in working order. These include the high beams, headlights, day lights, fog lights, brake lights and tail lights. Properly functioning lights are important so visibility is not affected. Shop staff can advise drivers on how to clean their headlights and headlight covers if they are yellowed.

Tires:
From about November through March, when snow is expected, drivers must ensure their vehicles have winter tires or all season M/S (mud and snow) tires in preparation for snow and ice-covered roads. Winter tires marked with a snowflake have treads and a rubber mix that help it grip cold roads better than all-season tires, especially at temperatures below 44 degrees Fahrenheit.

All season tires with M/S designation on the side are considered acceptable for winter driving, although not ideal. While all season tires are allowed, they still might not protect the driver from getting a ticket for not having proper winter tires in the event of an accident.

Drivers should also check the tread and air pressure on their tires. These two factors determine how much traction the tires will have to properly grip the road.

The treads on a tire control the stopping power of the car. Low tread levels can make a vehicle very dangerous to drive and cause tires to slide. Be sure tires have a tread depth of at least three millimeters and make sure they are properly inflated. Check your spare tire for proper inflation as well.

Antifreeze:
In Bavaria, the temperatures during the winter months frequently drop below freezing. The staff at the Automotive Skills Centers can help you check the concentration of the coolant and antifreeze. It is important to check this periodically, especially before the winter months when the coolant requires more antifreeze and less water.

Other components:
Check the battery and voltage regulator and ensure the ignition and thermostat exhaust system are working appropriately. Verify that the heater and defroster in your vehicle are functioning. Check the brakes and have them adjusted if necessary. Be sure to switch the vehicle's oil to winter weight oil.

Check the weather conditions:
Throughout the winter months it is important to know what the driving conditions are before you hit the road. Community members can check the garrison webpage (www.grafenwoehr.army.mil) for up to date driving conditions.

If you learn that there will be inclement weather, plan your trip accordingly and consider whether or not you have to drive. If driving cannot be avoided, be sure to have an ice scraper and broom in your car, dress warmly and in layers, keep water and nonperishable food in your trunk. Having these items in your vehicle will keep you safe in the event you are trapped in a storm for a long time.

In addition, it's also a good idea to maintain the gas tank at least half full at all times.

If you are not sure how to check any of these components on your vehicle, you can visit the Automotive Skills Center and have a staff member show you how. You can also join us for our educational workshops on winterization where we invite you to bring your vehicle for a day dedicated to getting our vehicles ready for the winter.

Visit FMWR's webpage (www.grafenwoehr.armymwr.com) or social media sites for updates on upcoming workshops.

Automotive Skills Centers
Tower Barracks, Bldg. 528 DSN 475-6239, CIV 09641-83-6239
Rose Barracks, Bldg. 711 DSN 476-2521, CIV 09662-83-2521
Hohenfels, Bldg. 392 DSN 466-2690, CIV 09472-83-2690
Garmisch, Bldg. 256 DSN 440-3580, CIV 08821-750-3580

For more information, visit USAG Bavaria's Facebook page or call CIV 09641-83-7623.