Summer’s over, for some of us that means it’s time to slow down, and for those with kids, it’s just the beginning. With the Fall season comes cool, wet weather, and shorter days. All of which can have an impact on driving. There are many things you can do to improve vehicle handling and visibility this year, and most of them you can do yourself for little to no money.
So here it goes, 6 tips for staying safe this autumn.
Headlight Restoration - Over time the polycarbonate that modern headlight lenses are made out of starts to oxidize and turn yellow. Not only does this make your vehicle look 10 years older, but it can reduce light output up to 50%. Luckily most headlights can be restored in your driveway in just a few minutes. We recommend using rubbing compound, if you don’t already have some it can usually be found at your local auto parts store for a few dollars. Usually compound is used to buff out scratches in the paint, in this case we’ll be using it to remove the oxidized plastic or clear coat. Simply place a dime sized drop on a microfiber towel and rub until the headlight looks clear. Many times you’ll see the recommendation to use bug repellant or toothpaste. While these products can improve the look of the lights, they actually can cause long term damage. We recommend sticking to products designed for automotive use. If rubbing compound doesn’t work we recommend finding a professional detail shop. They will sand down the headlight removing all the oxidation and failed clear coat then polish and recoat them.
Clean Windows - Another thing that can impact visibility is having streaky or dirty windows. When headlights from another vehicle beam into your car it can create a glare making it hard to see. Using a dedicated glass cleaner and a microfiber towel can make quick work of dirty windows. For combatting streaks we recommend having a friend shine a bright flashlight through the glass while you buff dry so that you can see any residue you may have missed.
Tire Tread - This is especially important with the wet weather. Tires with too little tread lose resistance to hydroplaning and you can say goodbye to traction in the snow. Water can’t be compressed, and tires are designed to allow rain to escape through the grooves of the tire so when you have less than 4/32” of tread remaining the water may not be able to escape fast enough and can cause hydroplaning. There are two critical depths and it’s simple to check each of them. First, the quarter test: Insert a quarter into your tread groove; if you can see all of Washington’s head, you have less than 4/32” of tread left and should think about replacing your tires soon and start to monitor them closely. Second, the penny test: Insert a penny into the tires tread groove; if you can see all of Lincoln’s head, your tread depth is below 2/32” and your tires need to be replaced now.
Cruise Control - Use special care in deciding when to use cruise control and when to control speed with your right foot. When it’s raining we recommend ditching cruise control all together. With rain comes decreased visibility, and a puddle in the road can come out of nowhere. With cruise control on, your vehicle may try to compensate in the wrong spot and cause hydroplaning to be greatly exaggerated and put the vehicle out of control. Using your right foot to control acceleration will make wet weather driving much safer.
Wiper Blades - We already touched on dirty, streaky windows; but what about the rain? After several months of your wiper blades sitting idle, the rubber starts to deteriorate, and doesn’t do as good of job removing the rainwater from your windshield. Replacing wiper blades can be done in as little as 5 minutes and costs about $15. It’s a good idea to do this at least once a year at the beginning of the rainy season. Another thing you can do to improve visibility in the rain is applying a rain repellant such as Rain-X, or go to a professional detail shop and have a coating applied that can last up to a year.
Use Caution - While you might be doing everything you’re supposed to, there may be other motorists out there not paying attention. Always use caution, especially in areas where another driver could do something unsafe and put you in harm’s way.
Thanks for reading, hopefully you learned something new you can use to make your autumn commute safer this year. If you have any further questions or want to learn more about car care and auto detailing, feel free to contact us.