U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Rucker, Alabama
During the winter, driving becomes more hazardous, and extreme weather can take its toll on our vehicles and drivers. Taking appropriate steps such as conducting by-the-book preventive maintenance checks and services and applying risk management before hitting the road could save you from breakdowns and potentially dangerous situations.
Climate changes not only affect us, but also have an impact on our Army vehicles and equipment. Reliable transportation is vital to keeping Soldiers safe and accomplishing missions. Soldiers and leaders must realize highways and roads can quickly become slick and treacherous during winter.
As road conditions deteriorate, drivers shouldn’t overreact with quick starts, turns and stops. When starting, drivers should accelerate slowly while keeping the front wheels pointed straight ahead. They should also keep their speed down and increase following distances behind other vehicles. A four-second gap or more is a good interval on a slippery road. Applying brakes with steady pressure may prevent locked wheels and skids. If the vehicle begins to skid, drivers should lightly turn into the skid and ease the foot off the gas pedal until they regain control.
Another important factor to consider before entering the winter season is vehicle preparation. Vehicle operators need to keep assigned equipment in proper running condition throughout the colder months. Vehicles should be winterized around September or early October — before cold weather sets in. During the winter, not only should vehicles be kept fully mission capable, they also need to be winterized in an effort to avoid inconvenient or dangerous situations while traveling in inclement weather. The last thing a driver needs is a vehicle that breaks down in harsh winter weather. No one should expect vehicles to operate correctly without proper PMCS.
As nearly any driver can attest, the cold months can be quite hard on Army vehicles. Not only does an engine require special attention to get it purring in freezing temperatures, the exterior and other components can take a beating as well. Although Army vehicles are designed to operate well in all temperatures, take the following measures before the winter weather arrives:
• Perform PMCS. Conduct the before, during and after checks as prescribed by the vehicle’s technical manual. Ensure scheduled maintenance is performed in accordance with the vehicle service intervals.
• Check engine coolant. Make sure the recommended coolant has the proper mix of antifreeze and water. A coolant system is not only designed to keep the engine from overheating or freezing, it’s also responsible for protecting it against corrosion.
• Check oil. Refer to the equipment TM for the vehicle-specific oil level and viscosity. When the outside temperature changes, it will influence the internal engine temperature, so make sure to use the proper oil for the conditions.
• Check battery. Have the battery checked by maintenance personnel. Also, during PMCS, ensure the battery connections are free of corrosion. A vehicle battery can die without notice. During extreme winter temperatures, a battery’s life may be reduced by 30 percent.
• Check lights, defroster and heater. Ensure all components are fully operational.
• Check tire tread depth. Ensure the depth is within the measurement prescribed by the TM and tires are serviceable to avoid hydroplaning or loss of control.
• Check tire pressure. Make sure to inflate tires with the proper PSI listed in the TM. Tire pressure is especially important during the winter, as a properly inflated tire will help guarantee better traction in wet, snowy conditions.
• Check brakes. Ensure the brake lines and hoses are serviceable and brake fluid is at the proper level.
• Check windshield wiper blades and fluid. Check the condition of windshield wiper blades and replace worn blades before driving. Also, check and fill the wiper fluid reservoir. Limited visibility while driving during the winter months can be frustrating. Precipitation and salt buildup on the windshield can wreak havoc while driving in winter weather.
• Check basic issue items. Ensure the BII inventory is complete and all items are in the vehicle during operations. Components of BII are designed to aid personnel during emergencies.
• Inspect tire chains. Ensure they are serviceable and crews are trained on how to properly install them.
• Carry an emergency kit. Additional items such as gloves, ice scraper, windshield washer fluid, jumper cables, first-aid kit, snow shovel and flashlight will assist during emergency situations.
• Don’t be overconfident. Whether the vehicle is a four- or two-wheel drive, both will slip on ice, so drivers must be extra careful.
• Check road conditions. Know the difference between conditions. Vehicle operations may start out as GREEN or AMBER, but could change to RED or BLACK during your mission.
Along with these tips, it's imperative drivers heed the warning and caution statements listed in the vehicle’s TM. Prior planning, winterizing vehicles and applying safe habits are all key components of safe driving habits. If you’re a driver or maintainer, don’t let frost bite your equipment!Did You Know?
Through proper understanding of winter driving and vehicle operations, the Army will achieve the standard of accident reductions in our formations. With volumes of information and resources accessible in the Driver's Training Toolbox, every Soldier in the Army has the tools readily available to drive and complete the mission safely. Visit the Driver's Training Toolbox at https://safety.army.mil/driverstrainingtoolbox
for more information.