How To Keep Safety Sensors Clean In The Winter

Modern cars use a variety of advanced safety systems whose sensors can get dirty and clogged during frigid winter weather. For example, life-saving features like automatic emergency braking (AEB) and forward-collision warning (FCW) use radar sensors mounted in the vehicle’s grille or on front bumpers. If these sensors can’t “see”–because ice or snow has built up–they can’t effectively do their job and will often stop working. Follow these steps to avoid losing sensor function in your vehicle this winter.

Know Sensor Locations

It’s always prudent to familiarize yourself with the owner’s manual since it contains regular maintenance schedules and details about your car’s unique components. This guide will also tell you where the sensors are on your vehicle. Knowing their location and ways to keep them clear of debris will help ensure optimal performance and function.

Keep Things Clean

A tidy car has many benefits, but maintain safety features by focusing your efforts on these key areas:

  • The windshield – Many automakers keep cameras and sensors behind the glass. Since they will be strategically placed away from the windshield wipers’ path, you may need to stop occasionally and wipe the entire area to ensure clear line of sight.
  • The grille – Since many sensors live within the grille or in the front bumper, make sure to thoroughly examine the area for built-up dirt, ice and snow.
  • The rearview camera – Without a clean lens, this safety feature becomes ineffectual.
  • Front and rear bumpers – These areas house the parking alert systems, those that warn you when you get too close to another car or object. Makes sure to wipe the areas regularly.
  • Rear body quarter panels – Blindspot monitoring systems usually hide here, and certain older models (Volvo and Acura, for example) use a camera that sits below outside mirrors. Monitor these areas frequently, keeping them as clean as possible.

Additional Tips

Weather permitting, regular car washes provide the best defense against dirty sensors. If doing the task yourself, be extra delicate around fenders, as salt, ice and snow can aggravate your car’s paint.

Use a clean paper towel or rag after cleaning to dry the area thoroughly. Any excess moisture complicates an already icy situation.

Take the time to remove snow from your car before driving (it’s the law in some places) and if traveling through winter weather, remember to stop periodically (especially during a long trip) to clear the sensors. Some experts recommend pulling over at least every 20 miles to check high-risk areas.

For all your vehicle’s needs, call Fairfax Auto Repair at 703-822-5911 and schedule an appointment today!

Call Fairfax Auto Repair at 703-822-5911 for an appointment today!


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