(ARA) - If you're fortunate enough to live on a large lot, you likely enjoy the added space and privacy. That is, until the snow falls, and then you're faced with the challenge of clearing a long driveway or the prospect of being stuck at home.
In the past, homeowners with long driveways had been limited in their snow removal options. Shoveling is out of the question. Waiting for the snow to melt or trying to drive over it are probably also not realistic or wise decisions, especially given the risk of slip and fall litigation.
That leaves two options: Either pay a professional contractor and hope he shows up exactly when you need him, or struggle to get your snow thrower started and spend the next few hours clearing snow.
This winter, however, thanks to new technologies and product innovations, there is a more attractive option - plow it yourself ("PIY") and become a self-sufficient "PIYer." Once thought of as an option reserved for contractors, businesses or public institutions, plowing is now an affordable and convenient option available to homeowners across the country.
If you think you're ready to enter the ranks of being a dedicated PIYer, here are a few considerations to keep in mind when shopping for a snow plow:
How much should I expect to spend? As is true with most products, you can expect to find a wide price range. In the case of plows for residential use, you could pay as little as $1,500 or in excess of $5,000, depending on the model and features you purchase. It's important to match up budget with desired convenience and safety factors.
What kind of vehicle is required to handle a plow? The addition of a plow puts additional stress on a vehicle's transmission. That's why some truck manufacturers suggest not adding a plow to specific makes or models. Traditional bulky plows weigh more than 600 pounds and typically require a full-size truck or tractor for operation. But the lighter weight models, such as the Home Plow by Meyer, are compatible with most popular SUVs and light pickups, as well as many leading utility vehicles.
How difficult is the plow to assemble? This is a major obstacle for many people considering the purchase of a plow. That's because most plows on the market today require professional installation. However, improvements have been made in this area. In the case of the Home Plow, initial assembly can be completed in less than an hour by nearly any knowledgeable DIYer, because the product ships mostly assembled and does not require auxiliary lights to be hooked up.
Can the plow easily be operated by more than one member of the family? No one can predict when the snow will fall. So you need a product that's ready to go at a moment's notice and can be operated by almost any driver in the family. This is the basis for some of the newer features on today's residential plows, including the innovative Quick Link receiver mount on the Home Plow by Meyer that allows the plow to be connected or disconnected in less than a minute without the need for any tools. And, at only 245 pounds, the Home Plow is lightweight and can easily be maneuvered by young or old, male or female.
How much time can I expect to save by plowing? Depending on the amount of snowfall and the length of your driveway, you could literally save hours off the time you would have spent shoveling or operating a standard snow thrower. With a product the size of the Home Plow, even long driveways can be cleared in less than 10 minutes. Even better, since all of the controls are inside the vehicle, you never have to leave the comfort and safety of the vehicle to control or adjust the movement of the blade. A remote control handles hydraulic up/down movement, while the patented Auto-angling system senses the weight of the snow and automatically angles to push snow off to the side. Many models require the operator to be outside the vehicle to make manual adjustments.
With the right snow plow, homeowners who once felt restricted in their snow removal options can now be self-reliant, get the job done quickly and easily and be on their way. That's good news in light of the not-so-good preliminary winter forecasts that have already been released for the 2010/2011 winter season. AccuWeather of State College, Pa., which was credited with accurately predicting record-breaking snowfall last year in the mid-Atlantic region from New York City to Richmond, Va., is expecting the winter battleground to shift north and west this year into the Midwest, Great Lakes region and even the northeast. Specific cities being cited as potential targets for above-average accumulations include Chicago, Omaha, Minneapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, Seattle and Portland.
To learn how you can better arm yourself in preparation for this year's winter blast, visit thehomeplow.com.
(ARA) - From lower air temperatures and falling snow to icy roads and even reduced visibility due to fewer daylight hours, winter driving poses a number of challenges. While you can't change the driving conditions, you can help ensure your vehicle is prepared to navigate them safely.
Consider the following tips for getting your car in shape before colder temperatures hit:
* Maximize your visibility. Replace worn wiper blades - generally, they should be replaced every six months - and ensure that your heater and defroster are working properly to aid in window clearing. Before you start driving, always remove all snow and ice from the hood, roof and trunk surfaces of your vehicle, not just the windshield, and defrost all windows.
* Check your tire pressure. Recommended tire pressures for your car can usually be found on the inside of your driver's-side door frame. Properly inflated tires will help ensure you have the best traction possible on wet or icy roads. Have a professional check the tire pressure often, as tires lose approximately one pound per square inch of pressure for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit of temperature drop.
* Prevent fluid freezing. A variety of fluids are needed to keep your car running efficiently, and require different techniques to prevent them from freezing. Fill your windshield washer reservoir with a winter-rated washing solution. Keep your gas tank as full as possible. Have a shop check for your manufacturer's recommended mix of antifreeze (coolant) and water inside your radiator.
* Light the way. Make sure your headlights, taillights and turn signals are all in working order. Clear them of snow each time you drive. If driving in fog, heavy rain or snow, be sure to not overdrive the beams of your headlights. Drive at a speed that keeps you within your field of vision.
* Invest in preventive maintenance. Consult your owner's manual for recommended preventive maintenance according to the odometer reading you're approaching. If an oil change is called for, make sure you receive oil with the correct viscosity for your vehicle at this time of year. Oil tends to thicken as it gets colder, and oil that's too thick won't do its job properly.
* Examine under the hood. Have a shop take a look at your belts and hoses and test the battery. Battery cables should be properly connected and free of corrosion or harsh wear and tear. If they're not, fix them now. Ask your local Midas shop for a multi-point visual courtesy check, which will tell you about your car's condition and help identify whether your vehicle may benefit from winter maintenance services.
* Consider putting on snow tires. If you live in an area that's prone to heavy snow, particularly if you have hills to navigate, snow tires will give you extra traction and help you avoid sliding or getting stuck.
* Pack an emergency kit in your car. Even the most well-maintained car can get stranded in deep snow or inclement weather. Some things you might want to keep in the car: blankets, first aid kit, windshield scraper, jumper cables, safety goggles, small shovel, bag of sand or cat litter or even tire chains for traction, tool kit, waterproof matches, highway flares, brightly colored cloth or "help" sign, bottled water and energy bars.
* Plan extra driving time. Whether it's rainy, snowy or icy, your car is at risk of hydroplaning, slipping or sliding if you drive too fast. Allot extra time to get to your destinations during winter months so you don't have to rush.
"Whether you're making a short trip to work, or embarking on a long drive home for the holidays, the last thing you want is for your car to fail and leave you stuck," says Brian Watkins, director of training at Midas. "Don't wait to make sure your vehicle is prepared for winter driving."
For more winter driving tips, or to schedule a Midas Touch Maintenance Package or Oil Change Plus, including a complimentary courtesy check to help you find out whether your car is prepared for winter travel, visit your local Midas shop or www.midas.com.
In fact, 24 percent of accidents are weather-related, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The best way to avoid a weather-related accident is to refrain from driving when conditions aren't ideal. But since that's not always possible, you should take steps to protect yourself and your vehicle before the weather turns bad.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration recommends taking the following actions before winter hits:
* Get your car serviced to see if you have any major issues that could leave you stranded in bad weather.
* Make sure your battery has enough power to start your car in cold weather.
* Make sure you have the proper amount of coolant to avoid freezing and consult your owner's manual to see if you should change the coolant/water ratios.
* Fill up on wiper fluid and inspect your windshield wipers.
* Check tires for cracks and worn tread. Make sure your tire pressure is at recommended levels as colder air can cause them to deflate.
* Stock your vehicle with emergency items like a shovel, sand, blankets and jumper cables.
These preparations can also help protect your vehicle from winter wear:
* If you drive a truck, spray-on truck bedliners, such as those offered by LINE-X, can help protect your truck bed from rust and other negative effects of road salt and extreme temperature changes. LINE-X Protective Coatings has also been used to protect many of the nation's bridges from corrosion, as well as the walls of the Pentagon against blast mitigation, so it has the reputation for standing up to the elements year round. More information can be found at www.LineX.com.
* Wax your car before winter hits. While you might think of waxing as more of a cosmetic treatment, it can also protect your car's paint from road salt and scratching caused by extra sand on other debris on the road.
* Wash your car frequently in the winter to remove rust-causing agents. Pay special attention to the undercarriage of your vehicle and the wheel wells, as these are often the first areas to rust.
Now that you have all the information to prepare your car for the winter, be sure to drive carefully and pay attention to other drivers - not everyone is as well-prepared for winter driving as you are.