Caution: More than a catch phrase

Article Published: Jan. 13, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Caution: More than a catch phrase

Area experts urge motorists to exercise caution - and vehicle maintenance -while driving in the wintertime.

Photo by Rob Moore

With frigid winds and blowing snow, it's easy to see why staying home with that mug of cocoa is a wise alternative to hitting the mean white streets.

But for some, snowbound prison, however toasty, isn't an option. Take Beech Mountain Police Capt. Jerry Turbyfill.

"I've lived here all my life," he said.

So, he's the Steve McQueen of the Beech Mountain Parkway?
"I can still be taken by surprise," he said.

Whether you've lived here 10 months or 10 years, caution is more than that warning you hear on the radio. For Turbyfill, who's been hitting the streets responding to High Country crashes over the past week, caution's status quo, and he has advice, both for the "snow experts" and the non-initiated.

"Don't make any sudden moves," he said. "Brake very slowly. Give yourself a lot of room to slow down and keep your speed low."

What sounds like common sense is a different animal in the moment, he said.

"It's very, very difficult to get your foot off the brake when you're sliding," he said, but that's exactly what you have to do.

"Your car can turn into a sled very quickly," he said. "But if you can keep the wheels rolling, you can still maintain some control."

While luxuries like 4-wheel-drive, studded tires and snow chains can help, they're no substitute for caution and, according to Clark Tire regional manager Thomas Hand, they can bring their own problems.

"If you drive on dry pavement with snow chains, you can actually break the chains," he said.
And that can be a bigger problem than losing your set.

"If the chains break off, it can swipe the side of the vehicle," he said, even punching your tires, a much less thrifty fix than simply unsnapping those chains in the first place.

Whether chained or unchained, your tires need to be in good condition during a High Country winter.
"A tire is considered worn out at two thirty-seconds of an inch," Hand said.

And, even if you don't work at a service center, it's easy to tell when your tires aren't up to par.
"Most tires have a wear bar indicator in the tire," he said.

Another easy way to tell? Use a penny.

"Stick it in the tread, and if you can see Lincoln's head, you probably need new tires," he said.
But tires aren't the only problem service centers see this time of year, Idol Tire and Service's Chuck Style said.

Salt damage.

All that spray on the roads ends up on your undercarriage.

"It will get up in all the little grooves and crevices and actually rust your car out," he said.

And he's not kidding. "The last one I saw, I saw the rear subframe of a Subaru had rusted out," he said.

And repairs to that '03 Subaru ran in the quadruple digits.

A cheaper fix? Preventing the rust from happening by running your vehicle through a car wash. "I would run it through at least once a week," Style said.

One last tip? Keeping blankets and a charged cell phone in your car: Just in case.

A better option? When the streets turn white, skip the ice scraper and stay inside with a book.

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