86th VRS offers winter safety tips

  • Published
  • By Airmen 1st Class Jaclyn M. Kosakowski & Chad Bruns
  • 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron
The recent dip in temperatures is a good indication that snow and ice is on its way.

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 and this experience has allowed us 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 vehicles 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 motorist 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, to include 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 out on the road ... driving safely.