Fort McCoy News October 28, 2016

Planning, maintenance make for safer trips

U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center

Which season is more important for vehicle maintenance: summer or winter?

There isn't a right or wrong answer because both are important.

"The change of seasons is a good time to check your vehicle to ensure it's ready for what's coming," said Walt Beckman, Driving Directorate, U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center (USACRC). "If you get into the habit of checking your vehicle each spring and fall, it will decrease the chances of encountering a maintenance-related problem on the road."

Safety graphic

For do-it-yourself motorists, checking a vehicle requires just a few minutes to complete.

When approaching the vehicle, walk around and check the tires for proper inflation and overall condition. Pop the hood and check the hoses and belt, battery, cooling system, and windshield-washer reservoir. Then check the oil, brake fluid, power steering, coolant, and transmission levels, and don't forget the wipers. If a vehicle is parked outside on a freezing night, consider raising the wipers so they won't freeze to the windshield.

Inside the vehicle, check the heater and defroster, and have someone else stand outside while checking lights and turn signals.

"If you don't have time to check your vehicle, many auto-service facilities offer free safety checks. It's a good idea to have them do one each time you have your oil changed," said Beckman.

The USACRC website,, contains vehicle maintenance information as well as links to a variety of resources that explain how to prepare a vehicle for the season. The vehicle owner's manual also provides manufacturer-recommended maintenance requirements.

Before any trip when weather and road conditions could be a problem, check the weather forecast, and don't be afraid to cancel a trip or change a route based on predicted weather conditions and events.

While a maintenance overview and checking the weather and road conditions are smart, it's also a wise idea to carry additional items that are useful when stranded outside in cold weather.

"Winter brings an additional requirement to be prepared in case of hazardous weather," said Robert Myrick Jr., Driving Directorate, USACRC. "Even if you don't have a maintenance issue, you could be delayed by traffic congestion or accidents, weather conditions, or events beyond your control."

If that happens, it's smart (and could be a lifesaver) to have emergency supplies in the vehicle.

These include items such as blankets, food, water, a charged cellphone, jumper cables, flashlight and warning devices, sand or kitty litter for traction, snow shovel, broom, and ice scraper.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that if motorists become stranded outside in winter weather while on the road, they should stay with their vehicles, not overexert themselves, put bright markers on the antennas or windows, and keep on interior dome lights.

To avoid asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning, don't operate a car for long periods with the windows up or in an enclosed space. If a vehicle must be run, clear the exhaust pipe of any snow and crank it sporadically — just long enough to stay warm.

Summer or winter, vehicle maintenance is an important part of being safe. Plan and be prepared for changes in the weather.

For more information about safety at Fort McCoy, call the Installation Safety Office at 608-388-3403.