Expensive Advice

December 31st, 2011 by Potato

There is some truly bad advice out there on the internet, some of which can be expensive. I see a lot of it in the fall as pertains to the seemingly mandatory “list of things to do to your car to get ready for winter” articles pop up. One particularly egregious example encouraged people to rotate their tires (but not change-over to winters), change their coolant every year (most cars only need a change every other year, and many newer cars have formulations that last 5 or more years, and a coolant flush isn’t all that cheap), add fuel line antifreeze with every fill-up (winter gas eliminates this need, and when have you ever heard of someone getting a gas line freeze-up in the last 10 years?), and get an oil change and inspection.

I put up my winter driving prep list last year, and as expected the number one tip was get winter tires. I should have bolded it then, too. The up-front cost is a little high (few hundred dollars, either for a dedicated separate set, or the incremental cost over all-seasons to get winter-rated all-weathers), but well worth it in terms of safety, and also saving some wear on your summer set of tires and rims. You can even get a discount on your insurance from many providers.

Then along comes Marianne, who earlier in the fall was on a tight budget, and somehow prioritized rustproofing, an inspection, detailing, and winter mats over a safety feature like winter tires (and don’t get me started on other things she decided were better uses of her money than snow tires). She complained of the cost, and of only using them for 4 months (though Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar seems to be 5 months to me, and possibly 6 if you do your driving at night and it’s chilly through half of October and April — and fully half the mileage if you do more trips by bike in the summer).

That attitude may have changed as she now relates to us a harrowing tale of a near-miss spin-out on snow-covered roads over the holidays.

I will say it again: I know people with all-season tires who don’t think the cost of winter tires is worth it, and people with winter tires who think it is worth it, but no one with winter tires who thinks it’s not worth the cost. They give you such a large margin-of-safety on cold and slippery roads, it is easily worth the few hundred bucks.

The other things on these perpetual winter driving lists are good, but can be expensive advice. Winter tires should be the #1 point on all those lists, and despite the up-front cost, are the least expensive advice there is. I won’t come out and say that regular inspections are a bad idea, but if there’s nothing suspicious happening with your car, the money is better spent elsewhere. For a car that’s driven regularly in most of the populated regions of the country, a gas antifreeze additive is a waste of money. Coolant is good for a few years; if you need to, you can push it a little bit (and it’s much cheaper to get tested than indiscriminately replaced). Rustproofing has its advocates, but if expenses have to be prioritized and deferred, it can be put off until the spring, or even for a few years. And as much as I love rubber winter mats — I leave ’em in all year long — no one ever died of salt stains on their carpet.

One Response to “Expensive Advice”

  1. Netbug Says:

    I agree 100% on the winter tires after spinning out in the left hand lane of the 404 southbound and ending up 15 feet into the median between southbound and northbound lanes.

    Yet I still haven’t gotten them. :(