Old Man Winter is set to show up pretty soon, and probably sooner than some of you think, too. When winter’s chilly blast shows up, is your vehicle ready to roll down the road for errands or even a holiday, cross-country road trip? Most of us have no problem getting ourselves ready, dressed, and packed for any kind of trip we take, but a lot of us let it slip our minds to prepare our cars for the kind of winter conditions we’ll be driving in?
In this article, we’ll give you a list of essential tips for preparing your vehicle to travel with confidence during the winter months.
- Get Your Car Serviced – The last thing anyone wants is to be broken down in a car far from home in the cold, or stranded in a snowy scenario. That’s why it’s imperative to get your vehicle maintenance and tuned up. Be sure to ask your service department to check hoses for leaks, or any other parts that might need to be replaced that could go faulty.
- Check for Recalls – If your family is anything like mine, you probably have a small stack of recall notices from your vehicle manufacturer stating that a car part or sub-assembly is faulty and could have the potential to cause injury or even a car accident. Some vehicle owners may not even be aware that their car has an open recall that needs repaired. You can look up your vehicle on the National Highway Traffic Administration recall page, where you can enter your Vehicle Identification Number to see if your vehicle has any open recalls pending. Getting your recall problem fixed is free, too. So, a good time to have this done might be when you take your vehicle in for regular servicing. Just tell them about any known recalls that you are aware of, or ask them if they can look up your vehicle in their system to see if it has any known recalls.
- Know Your Car – If you’ve never driven your vehicle in the snow, make sure you practice driving on snow-covered and icy road conditions in your area. Perhaps in an empty parking lot would work nicely. See how your car handles sharp turns, hitting the anti-locking brakes, and other maneuvers.
- Check Fluid Levels and Battery – Make sure your windshield wiper fluid is full of anti-freezing fluid, the radiator is topped off, and your engine has enough oil for your trip.
Also, check to make sure your battery is fully charged. You might also check to see if you should use a thinner oil in winter, by checking your owner’s manual. For instance, if you typically use 10W-30 oil, then see about switching to 5W-30 in the winter months.
- Tires – If you don’t have snow tires, make sure your all-season tires are rated for snow. If you do invest in a new set of snow tires and wheels, be sure that you have sensors added to the new wheels so you can monitor the air pressure on those as well. Your dealership or tire shop should be able to help you out with this as well.
- Emergency Car Kit – If you spend any amount of time driving far from home in the snow, then it’s a pretty good idea to have a car emergency kit prepared in the event your car breaks down, or you are in an auto accident waiting for emergency responders to show up. Here’s a quick list of items and supplies you’ll want to gather and store in a clear Rubbermaid container for your Emergency Car Kit:
* Ice scrapper and snow shovel.
* Kitty litter to pour under your tires for traction, if you get stuck.
* Flash light, whistle, flares, reflective tape, and triangle to alert emergency services to your location.
* Jumper cables.
* Extra clothes, gloves, hats, blankets to protect against the cold.
* Always have a cell phone charger in your car.
* Non-perishable food in air-tight containers or packaging, water, and extra medicine for longer trips.
- Avoid Risky Behaviors – Don’t become a sad statistic by ending up in a collision due to distracted driving. Also, it’s wise to drive under the current speed limit, if the roads are covered in snow or ice. Obviously, never drive impaired, either. Likewise, don’t drive if you feel fatigued or sleepy.
- Driving Tips – Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid the gas line freezing up. Never use cruise control when the road surface is wet or slippery. Always steer into the direction you want to go, in case you lose traction in the snow.
We’re pretty sure a book could be written on this whole subject, but at least we hit some of the most important topics on driving in the winter. For more information and tips about winter driving, go to AAA’s YouTube channel.