86th VRS offers winter safety tips

by Airmen 1st Class Jaclyn M. Kosakowski and Chad Bruns
86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron

The recent dip in temperatures is a good indication that snow and ice are on their way. Will you be ready?

Some may not know the 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron is charged with maintaining all of the installation’s snow and deicing fleet; a unique mission essential to ensuring the roads and runway on base are clear when the snow flies.  The squadron also provides transportation services 24/7, through all weather conditions including rain, sleet and snow. If you see a military bus driving around base, it’s most likely operated by the 86th VRS. The team has seen it all; this experience has allowed us to compile a list of helpful tips we’d like to pass on.

WINTER TIRES It’s mandatory to be outfitted with proper winter or all season tires with the tread measuring no less than four millimeters.  According to a German Law passed in November 2010, under icy and snow conditions you must not drive without winter tires.  Winter tires are specifically indicated with an M+S (mud and snow) marking.  Many all season tires also have the M+S marking. It is advised to change from regular tires to snow tires in October and have them remain on the vehicle until Easter since it’s often difficult to predict the weather here in Germany.

WIPER BLADES Be sure to replace the car’s wiper blades if excessively worn or tearing to keep your windshield clean of debris and increase outward visibility.

WIPER FLUID Windshield wiper fluid should be topped off to ensure a clean windshield when your vehicle wiper blades alone can’t get the job done.  Use a commercially made wiper fluid designed to resist freezing during frigid temperatures. Straight water will freeze and possibly damage your car’s windshield washer system.

DRIVING DISTANCE Allow yourself at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.

BRAKE GENTLY This helps to avoid skidding.  If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake. However, if your vehicle is equipped with anti-lock brakes (ABS), allow them to function as they’re designed to — you should feel a pulsating sensation when the brake pedal is depressed.

BRAKES Checking your vehicle’s brakes is essential in both winter and summer, but especially in winter where icy conditions may require you to brake quickly without having time to think about it.

LIGHTS Check your vehicle lights often to ensure they are working properly.  Continually make sure they are cleared of snow and dirt to increase your visibility to other motorists.
CRUISE CONTROL Avoid using cruise control or overdrive on icy roads or roads suspected of “black ice” due to freezing temperatures.  If you find yourself losing control over an icy patch, avoid making sudden changes in wheel direction or speed as it will make it more difficult for your vehicle’s tires to regain traction.

ICE PATCHES Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which often freeze first. Use caution
at all intersections and traffic circles, where freezing temperatures may cause ice patches to form.

SNOW EQUIPMENT Avoid passing snow plows and/or salt trucks.  The drivers of these vehicles have limited outward visibility.  Furthermore, you’re likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind them.

REMOVE LOOSE SNOW Be sure to clear excessive snow from your car’s hood, roof and trunk.  Loose snow from these areas could blind both you and the motorists around you.

ANTIFREEZE Antifreeze is an essential part of your car’s winter protection.  Check your vehicle’s engine antifreeze and antifreeze over-flow reservoir levels. Make sure the level is full and the mixture is close to 50/50.

SPARE TIRE Often forgotten until needed the most, ensure your spare tire is properly inflated to manufacturer specifications, and that you have the proper tire changing equipment readily available in your vehicle.

BELTS AND HOSES Check to be sure there is no excessive wear and tear to either; if necessary, have them replaced.

CAR HEATING Make sure your car’s heater, defroster and rear defroster are in proper working order.

EMERGENCY EQUIPMENT Carry emergency equipment in your vehicle, including but not limited to: ice scraper/snowbrush, jumper cables, flash light, extra batteries, flares, a shovel, first aid kit, basic hand tools, blankets, and if at all possible, a spare cell phone.

CAR BATTERY Have your battery and charging system inspected.  Your motor needs a fully charged battery to start in cold weather.

GAS Ensure plenty of gas is maintained in your vehicle. You never know when you may be stuck in traffic for an extended period of time during this winter season.

With these winter tips, both you, your family and your vehicle will be better prepared to operate in winter driving conditions and arrive at your destination. The 86th VRS looks forward to seeing all of you on the road — driving safely.