It’s that time of year: the autumnal equinox is quickly approaching, and with what feels like a deluge of rain over the past couple of weeks, Kenai Peninsula roadways are getting dark and dingy.
With that in mind, it’s a good time for peninsula drivers to make sure vehicles are ready for the change in seasons. We haven’t seen the word “snow” show up in any weather forecasts just yet, but overnight temperatures are dropping and icy morning commutes can’t be too far off.
For starters, check your headlights. Are they both working? High-beams too? Are they properly adjusted so you won’t blind oncoming drivers? Make sure you have a rag handy to clean them off, too. Splashing through mud puddles can leave them dirty, making it harder to spot things in and along the road.
Some other things to consider as the season turns:
■ Check your antifreeze. Make sure it can handle temperatures that get as low as 20 degrees below zero.
■ Do you need an engine block heater? They are designed to help your engine start easier in cold weather.
■ Be prepared: Do you have winter wiper blades, jumper cables and washer fluid? These basics can make a difference when the weather is bad.
■ Get a tune-up. This is the best way to make sure you don’t have an unexpected breakdown. Any problems can be corrected before the cold makes them a major issue.
■ Check your oil and other fluids, belts and your battery. It only takes one thing to turn a simple trip into a nightmare.
Now think safety behind the wheel. You’ve heard the tips from us many times, but they bear repeating. If one more person puts them into practice each season, it’s potentially one less accident. With that in mind, here are some winter driving reminders:
■ Common sense is the best defense against accidents. This means slow down and increase the distance between your car and other traffic. Slowing down not only drops your chances of locking bumpers, it also saves you fuel, which saves you money.
■ Moose will appear out of nowhere. Slowing down and glancing the road’s edges help eliminate problems.
■ A winter survival kit can keep an inconvenience from turning into a catastrophe. It should contain a flashlight, blankets, booster cables, a warning device (flares or reflective triangle), a small bag of abrasive material (sand or cat litter), a cloth towel or roll of paper towels, a small shovel, water, some emergency food and a book of matches.
■ An ice scraper and good windshield wiper blades are a must for good visibility. Don’t try to save time by scraping just a little hole in the frost off your windshield. A credit card is no substitute for an ice scraper. Avoid those drivers who have not cleared their windshields — they can’t see you. Also, don’t forget to clear the snow from your headlights and taillights.
■ No matter how short a trip you’re making, dress for the weather. If you have car trouble or are involved in an accident, you’ll be glad you took the time to don your boots, coat, hat and mittens. At the least, keep some winter clothes in the car for an emergency.
■ Four-wheel drive does not protect you from accidents. It may help you maneuver through snow, but it absolutely will not help you stop on a slick road.
Autumn goes by quickly here on the peninsula. Spend a little bit of time now to make sure you’re ready for what we all know comes next.