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It's time to winterize your vehicle now!

5 Dec 2008 | Cpl. Margaret Hughes

When temperatures begin to drop, it is a sign that winter is right around the corner and vehicle problems and accidents are sure to follow.

Although Twentynine Palms stays relatively warm during the winter compared to other areas around the country, the temperature can still drop below freezing, which means winterizing your car is important, especially for Marines and sailors who are traveling up to those snowy mountains for skiing and snowboarding.

According to The Safety Corner monthly newsletter from the Marine Corps Center for Lessons Learned, there are many tasks that should be checked and taken care of to winterize vehicles before the winter season rolls around.

• Don’t put off a 30,000-mile full service.

• Flush the cooling system and replace the coolant.

• Have battery serviced and load tested to check its ability to hold a charge.  If the battery is more than four and a half years old, replace it.

• Check the lights, heater and defroster.

• Get a brake check if you haven’t had one in the last six months.

• Ensure a spare tire is filled with air and all proper tire changing equipment is in the trunk.

• Since air contracts in cold temperatures, check tire pressure regularly with a tire gauge to ensure tire pressure is at a safe level and ensure all tires are in good condition.

• Replace windshield wiper blades and ensure the windshield washer reservoir is filled with freeze-resistant windshield washer fluid.

• Keep the gas tank as full as possible to prevent moisture from freezing in the gas lines.

• Put together an emergency winter kit including blankets, extra boots and gloves, ice scraper, small shovel, flashlight, flares, water, and kitty litter for traction if stuck in snow.

“Following these basic guidelines can help save lives,” said Col. Monte Dunard, the director for MCCLL.  “Every year there are reports of people that go off the road and are not prepared for winter survival.  Having a few supplies can make the difference between life and death.”

Having these supplies is a necessity for those traveling to Big Bear, Calif., said Rachael Jahn, the safety compliance coordinator for Big Bear City Fire Department.

For those Marines and sailors traveling up to the mountains this winter, Jahn suggests to dress in layers, have a set of chains for all four tires, and always have food and water.   She also suggests to never drive below a half tank of gas because you might be turned away if the roads are too hazardous or if the vehicle is deemed unsafe for the road conditions at the time.

“Depending on the conditions, you can be turned back by local authorities if the vehicle doesn’t have chains or is not a four-wheel drive vehicle with snow tires,” Jahn said.  “Always carry chains if you’re heading up to Big Bear.”

Preparing your vehicle, equipment and plan before the season kicks into full gear can alleviate a problem you might have in the future.

“Think about a survival plan now, not when you get stuck in a snow bank coming back from a short or long ski weekend,” Dunard said.


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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms