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All of us in New Jersey are pretty amazed at our recent historic snowfall. Many of us are sick of it, too. The temperature has been pretty warm since the snow stopped and the white stuff is melting quickly. While that is a welcome development for me and many others, the melting snow means that the roads are full of new hazards. These include water on the roads, a slushy mix of ice and dirt, limited visibility and grime from other vehicles. If you live in a sunbelt state, I invite you to come to New Jersey some winter to see just how gross and disgusting snow and its aftermath can be.

It’s critical to watch out for these things because all of them could potentially cause an accident. In addition, the icy weather may not be going away just yet, which could lead to surprisingly challenging conditions on the road.

I’ve compiled a list of 5 hazards to watch out for when the roads start to thaw. The weather may be warmer in the daytime, but this is still New Jersey so your fellow citizens aren’t getting any better at driving.

I.  POTHOLES are an irritating inconvenience that can damage your car’s suspension and throw off its alignment. Unfortunately, you may hit plenty more of them the next time it snows and that melts and we go through the snow/thaw cycle again.

This time of year is more prone to potholes because when snow thaws, the water seeps into the cracks in the pavement. This softens the gravel, and if it freezes again it expands, cracks and breaks, causing potholes to form.

What’s even worse is that potholes are very hard to fix during this time of year. The asphalt mix used during the winter months is a “cold mix” that does not harden like the “hot mix” used during the summer. That means that some potholes have to be filled and re-filled several times until the temperatures warm up for good.

So what can you do about potholes? Not much, really — besides trying to avoid them when you see them coming, that is. Not only can they damage your car, they can also cause accidents.

II.  The problem we just mentioned — WATER FROM MELTED SNOW — is just as much of an issue on the surface of the road as it is when it seeps into the asphalt. With the snow and ice starting to thaw out, that water will stick around and make the roads slippery. Rain showers won’t be helping things much either.

Watch out for the roads to be extra wet these next few days. As always, drive with caution on days when there will be a lot of water on the roads, and try to avoid large puddles — you never know if one of them is covering a huge pothole that’s lurking beneath the surface. Also, try to avoid splashing other drivers with water. You don’t want their vision being obscured by dirty water either, as this could lead to an accident.

This is also a good time of year to make sure your tires are in good condition, and to swap out those old winter tires with all-season ones if you need to. In addition, while things are starting to thaw out, I can guarantee that temperatures will drop again. That means you need to be mindful of ice on the road as well. Keep your winter driving skills in mind and take things slowly, and do your best to avoid black ice on the road.

III.  SLUSH
You know that gross, gray, sludgy mix of snow and dirt that forms on the side of the roads when the ice starts to melt? That slush can create serious problems when you’re driving, and it’s very different from driving in ice and snow.

While driving on snow and ice usually means proceeding carefully so your tires don’t slip, slush is grabby and can suddenly slow your car down. Way down. Slush can also grab at your tires and make lane changing a difficult operation. Remember to drive extra slowly in and around slush, and don’t panic if you lose control of the car; stay calm and regain control by lifting off the accelerator or gently applying your brakes.

Another problem with slush is that it can accumulate on your windshield, which blocks your vision. Sometimes you’ll have to pull over to wash it off because your windshield wipers simply won’t cut it. Slush along with dirt, grease and chemicals from the roads can also accumulate on the bottom of your car and cause corrosion. So make sure you’re keeping your car properly clean during these conditions.

IV.  THE THAW-FREEZE CYCLE
You don’t think the freezing winter conditions were over, do you?  We’ve still got a long way to go before it starts to get  warmer and it’s likely we’ll get more snow.   During this time, it will be a common occurrence for things to warm up during the day and then freeze again at night.

This constant thawing and re-freezing can be a big contributor to so-called “black ice,” which is nearly transparent and therefore hard to spot when driving. This makes driving on bridges and overpasses especially dangerous because they are so prone to overnight freezing.

So what do you do when it’s constantly freezing and thawing out, and the ice is hard to spot? Reduce your speed and keep a safe distance from other motorists, for one. Also, know the conditions on the roadways before you set off on your trip. In addition, know the limits of your vehicle and don’t try to exceed them.

V.  MAINTAIN YOUR VEHICLE
The winter months can be pretty rough on our cars. If you didn’t check things out before Winter Storm Jonas, please do it before we get slammed again. All the ice, water, cold temperatures and bumpy roads can be bad for engines, suspensions, tires and more.   A reminder: It is a good idea to inspect and replace a few things on your vehicle. With any luck, other motorists will do the same, because a vehicle that isn’t properly maintained is just a disaster waiting to happen in the next snowstorm.

First and foremost, replace your windshield wipers. Those should be replaced every six months or so anyway, so now is a great time to do it after they’ve seen a lot of use during the winter. Worn out wiper blades aren’t able to clear water and dirt off your windshield, blocking your vision and making driving unsafe.

Next, wash your car carefully. This may seem like a purely cosmetic move, but it’s important to remove all the built up snow, salt and chemicals from the roadway that might have accumulated on and underneath your vehicle. These things can cause corrosion and lead you to a premature trip to the body shop.

Check your brakes and tires for excessive wear. Those also tend to take a lot of abuse when the weather is bad, so make sure your tread isn’t too worn and replace your brake pads and rotors if necessary.

Finally, check all your fluid levels and make sure everything under the hood is in proper working order. You don’t know what might have happened to your engine during that storm is a good time to find out before you get left on the side of the road.

-Karim

Kids playing in Union City, NJ

 

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