SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --
As the season changes, the road conditions can become a challenge, especially for those not accustomed to winter driving at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The transition to winter brings foggy and icy road conditions. If you couple that with driving on the small, winding roads, prepping your vehicle for winter is an absolute must.
Starting Nov. 15 and lasting through March 30, all vehicles need to be equipped with winter or all-season tires in accordance with Spangdahlem Air Base Instruction 31-204, Air Force Vehicle Traffic Supervision. It's also German law to have these types of tires when driving during icy conditions, regardless of the time of year. Winter tires are typically marked with an M+S, M/S or snowflake symbol directly on the tire.
Another item to check is the tire tread condition. The tread depth needs to be at least 1/16 of an inch, or 1.6 millimeters, for the entire traction surface. To test, pinch a Lincoln-head penny, from the base, between your thumb and forefinger so the top of Lincoln's head is showing. Place the top of Lincoln's head into the tire tread grooves. If any part of Lincoln's head is obscured by the tread, you have a legal and safe amount of tread. However, if you can see above Lincoln's head or any of the "In God We Trust" letters above his head, then you are ready for a new tire. This penny trick works because the distance between the rim and Lincoln's head is 1/16 of an inch, the minimum required tread depth. When your tire tread is lower, your vehicle can have handling problems in adverse conditions.
Equally important is proper tire pressure. You can follow the recommended PSI, or pounds per square inch, posted for maximum traction typically found on the driver's side door. As you finish checking the tire pressure, you should conduct a visual inspection of your vehicle's lights. Make sure the front, rear and flashing hazard lights are all operational.
Next, ensure your wiper blades are in good condition. It's also a great idea to swap out your windshield wiper fluid with one that is specially made for winter conditions and designed to not freeze in cold temperatures. Finally, to defend against the use of road salts, you can protect your car's paint and body from rust by washing your car and finishing with a coat of high-quality wax.
With these simple, do-it-yourself measures, you can be ready for snow season.
For more information on preparing your vehicle for the winter, visit http://www.dmv.org/how-to-guides/winterize-car.php