Auto expert shares 5 ways to prep your car for hurricane evacuations

WSAV Hurricane Central

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — With hurricane season underway, experts recommend having your supplies ready and a plan in place if a storm approaches.

In the event of an evacuation, the last thing you’ll want to worry about is car troubles as you’re heading out of town.

It’s why experts advise including a thorough vehicle inspection in your hurricane preparedness plans. 

“If your car’s not ready but you are, you’re still stuck, so you’re going to be in the same spot,” said Raymond Burton, store manager for Firestone Complete Auto Care on Abercorn Street.

He says he’s had customers in the past with vehicles that weren’t prepared.

“They didn’t fill their gas up, they might have been out on fluids, the tires were bad and were slipping everywhere,” Burton told WSAV.com NOW. “That’s actually not that uncommon.”

When weather reports show a possible approaching tropical storm or hurricane, Burton says it’s a good idea to have your ride checked out as soon as possible. 

“Storms are unpredictable, they may think next week and it could be here in three days,” he said. “You don’t want to wait until the last minute, because then you’re going to find that you can’t get out of town.”

In addition to checking your oil and fluid levels, Burton recommends doing the following inspections in advance — either yourself or with the help of an auto professional — so that if you need to evacuate, you and your vehicle are well-prepared.

Check your tires

Burton says drivers should keep an eye on the air pressure in their tires.

If you’re not sure what the pressure should be, he says simply check the door on the driver’s side.

“When you open your door, you’re going to see a placard which will tell you what they designed the car with, and that’s the air pressure you should be at,” Burton says, noting that with normal wear, the pressure readings will likely always be a tiny bit off from what you see written near your door.

If there’s anything in your tires, like a nail, that could be impacting the pressure, you can visually check the front tires while the car’s not moving by turning the steering wheel as hard as you can in either the left or right direction. 

“Look at the tire up and down; move forward a few feet, and you can look at the other half of the tire,” Burton said, noting that it’s slightly more difficult to examine the back tires on your own, as they’re underneath the vehicle and can’t turn left or right.

In that case, he says you can have a professional check the tire pressure for you; most auto shops will do it free of charge.

Burton also recommends keeping an air pressure gauge in your vehicle, allowing you to check your tires’ air pressure any time.

Make sure your battery works

To ensure your car battery still operates properly, Burton suggests leaving the headlights on for 10 minutes while the car’s not running. 

Then, shut off the lights and see if you’re able to start up the vehicle right away.

If the car hesitates to get started or won’t turn on, it’s a sign that the battery’s in trouble, according to Burton.

“It could be that the cells are starting to go,” he said. “Most of us have machinery that will actually read if there’s a bad cell, or if it’s just down or if it needs to be recharged or replaced.”

Replace worn-out wipers 

To check that your windshield wipers will function in heavy downpours, Burton recommends using your car’s sprayer to squirt fluid onto the windshield, ensuring that the wipers are mostly wiping your viewing areas clean.

Burton says it’s normal if they’re not 100% perfect.

If your sprayer isn’t working, try dumping a bucket of water on the glass or running hose water over it. 

“Do it and see if it clears enough that you can see real good out of the glass, because that’s going be pretty close to what it is when you get that hard rain, it’s going to look like it’s being poured down on you,” Burton said, adding, “If they’re wiping it off good, then you’re okay.”

You can also check the wipers with your hands by pulling them upward and feeling them with your fingers.

“[See] if they feel brittle, or if the rubber is starting to tear, or if it’s off — if it’s just a flat thing and there’s no wiper, and it’s just using the base that holds it,” Burton said.

Test your brakes

Before you evacuate, Burton advises making sure your vehicle’s brakes are in working order.

“If you’re driving, you start slowing down and you’re getting a vibration in your steering wheel, that usually means that something’s going on with the brakes, usually like the rotors are out of round or something of that sort,” Burton told WSAV.com NOW.

“If you’re getting a lot of high pitch all the time, get them checked; it could be just glazing on the rotors or something more serious,” he said.

The sound of any metal while hitting your brakes is a sign of a more critical problem that Burton warns should be checked out right away.

Don’t forget to fuel up 

A lack of gasoline will quickly hinder plans to dodge an impending storm by car.

Burton recommends keeping the tank at least halfway full with fuel at all times. 

“During the hurricane season, try not to let your car go below half a tank of gas,” Burton said.

If you do, your odds of getting stuck at home are higher as many people rush to fill up their tanks simultaneously.

There’s also the risk of gas stations running out of fuel prior to and during evacuations.

“Fill it up a little more often and keep it up over half a tank, because most cars will get 150 to 200 miles out of the evacuation area,” Burton said, adding that it’s a bad idea ever to let your tank run too close to empty.

“It will start to interfere with the fuel pump and everything else in the car,” he said. “There’s a chance you’re pulling anything that might be sediment in the bottom into it to be able to keep running, so never allow it to run out of gas.” 

Be sure to check out the WSAV Storm Team 3 2020 Hurricane Guide for more helpful storm preparation tips this hurricane season.

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