COLUMBIA — Transportation troubles associated with heavy snowfall extend beyond slick roads, according to mechanic Howard Hall. A large buildup of snow around a car’s wheels can lead to mechanical problems.
When packed snow and ice stick to a car’s tires, the balance of the wheels can be thrown off, leading the car to vibrate violently when it reaches speeds of 20 to 40 mph.
“It’s harmful for the vehicle if you keep driving like that,” Hall said. “It will damage components (the car’s steering and brake system). It can shake things bad enough that possibly bolts can come loose, and the vibration can deteriorate other parts over time.”
A solution is to spray warm water on tires until the snow and ice have melted away. Parking the car inside a garage until the snow melts off the tires will also work — although this may take awhile. According to Hall, 4 to 5 pounds of ice and snow can accumulate on tires after a heavy snowfall.
Hall offered a few more tips for keeping vehicles safe in the snow:
- Apply brakes lightly and earlier than usual when first driving a car that has been parked in the snow to make sure the brakes work. Snow buildup around brakes and brake pads can thicken the hydraulic fluid responsible for the function of the brakes, causing them to stick. Once the brakes have warmed up, this should no longer be a problem.
- Make sure your car's mirrors and windows are clean before you start driving.
- Pay attention to warning lights in case mechanical problems have occurred due to the snow.
- Follow your car’s maintenance schedule so tires and brakes are in top shape when a snowstorm hits.