Destiny Martin | 6/9/2005 9:53:59 PM
With hurricane season upon us, the last thing that you want to happen during an emergency evacuation is for your car to break down. "It not only can be expensive, but very frustrating and dangerous when time is of the essence," says LSU AgCenter engineering expert Dan Martin.
The engineering authority says by performing some simple "pre-hurricane" car checks, you can increase your likelihood of evacuating to safety in a timely manner.
Martin says one of the biggest problems encountered during this time of year is a lack of coolant that will cause your car to overheat. Take time to check the amount of coolant in your reservoir and add if necessary. If there is no coolant in the reservoir, it also will be necessary to fill the radiator, because it will be difficult to know exactly how much to add just from the gauge on the reservoir.
"Be certain that the engine and radiator are cool to touch before removing the radiator cap," Martin warns, explaining, "A hot radiator builds up pressure and can cause serious personal injury if the cap is removed under pressure."
Typically, a mixture of 50 percent coolant to 50 percent water is sufficient for most areas of the country. If travel is expected in rugged or hot, arid terrain, the amount of coolant may be increased.
Martin advises next to check the hoses and belts. Any visible signs of cracking or fraying should be remedied immediately. Belt failure not only can strand you, but also can cause very serious damage and expensive repairs.
"You can physically grasp each hose and squeeze to reveal otherwise hidden defects," Martin says, adding, "The hoses should be flexible and pliable and not hard or brittle." Auto parts discount stores sell emergency belt kits that are handy to keep in the car in case of emergency.
Make sure your tires are in good shape. The pressure should be adjusted to the manufacturer’s recommendations as listed on the sidewall of the tire or on a label inside the door panel. Air pressure in tires should be checked at every fill-up. In addition, look for uneven wear of the tires or bare spots. Uneven wear can be the result of improper alignment, unbalanced tires or improper inflation. Remedy any of these situations before hurricane season starts. Don’t forget to check the tread wear of your tires. If there is less than 4/32 inch of tread remaining on the tires, have them replaced.
Martin also recommends making and carrying a hurricane driving kit with you. The kit should include bottled water (enough for all anticipated occupants), booster cables, flashlight, cloth or roll of paper towels, blanket and warning devices (flares or reflective warning triangles).
Finally, always keep at least half a tankful of fuel in your gas tank. This will allow you to get to your destination quickly without having to stop for fuel, especially when lines may be long.
Look for on-line disaster publications "Living with Hurricanes" and "There's a Hurricane Forming" in the publications section of the LSU AgCenter's Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com.
For additional information about preparing your car for a hurricane, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.
Source: Dan Martin (225) 578-2229, or Dmartin@agcenter.lsu.edu.