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Winter Driving Tips

Driving in the winter is unavoidable, so ensuring you are driving and traveling as safely and prepared as possible is important. This article will provide tips on how to prepare your vehicle for the winter months, what to carry in your emergency kit, tips on avoiding a crash, tips on traveling in the snow, and what to do if you become stranded.

Preparing Your Vehicle for the Winter

As the winter months approach it is important to ensure your vehicle is mechanically ready for the cold change. Have a mechanic check the condition of the following systems before you head out on the road:

  • Ignition
  • Brakes
  • Wiring
  • Hoses and fan belts
  • Spark plugs
  • Air, fuel and emissions filters, and PCV valve
  • Distributor
  • Battery
  • Tire wear and air pressure
  • Antifreeze level and freeze line

In addition to checking these systems you should switch your wiper fluid over to a wintertime formula and try to keep your gas tank full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.

Emergency Kit Items

Year round you should keep an emergency kit of supplies and tools in the truck of your vehicle in case of an emergency. These items should be checked and replenished/replaced at least every 6 months. Some items you may need are:

  • A spare tire, wheel wrench, and tripod jack
  • Jumper cables
  • Tool kit
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Reflective triangles and brightly colored cloth
  • Compass and maps
  • First aid kit with gauze, tape, bandages, antibiotic ointment, aspirin, non-latex gloves, scissors, a thermometer, tweezers, hydrocortisone, and an instant cold compress
  • A blanket, gloves, socks, and hats
  • Nonperishable, high protein foods such as unsalted nuts, dried fruits, and granola bars
  • Drinking water
  • Reflective vest
  • Car charger for your cell phone
  • Duct Tape
  • Rain poncho
  • Shovel
  • Snow brush
  • Cat litter
  • Tow and tire chains
  • Matches in a waterproof container

You may want to keep copies of your insurance cards and phone numbers of emergency contacts in the kit as well as in your phone. Remember, this kit is to ensure you are safe rather than sorry. You can never be too prepared.

Tips for Traveling in the Snow

The winter months bring a number of reasons to travel while also bringing new hazards to watch out for. Before traveling follow these tips to ensure your safety:

  • Check weather conditions and if possible, avoid traveling when the weather service has issued advisories or if possible avoid traveling in winter storms altogether.
  • Inform a friend or relative of your proposed route and expected time of arrival.
  • Warm up your vehicle before setting out on your trip.
  • Never warm your vehicle up in an enclosed area such as a garage, even if the garage door is open.

Tips for Avoiding a Crash

You can fully prepare your vehicle for winter weather, however you vehicle does not drive itself. Here are some tips on driving in winter weather:

  • Know whether you have antilock brakes, which will “pump” the brakes for you in a skid
  • Increase following distance to 8 to 10 seconds
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly
  • Look and steer in the direction you want to go
  • Never use cruise control in wintery conditions
  • If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather
  • Never mix radial tires with other types of ties
  • If possible, don’t stop while driving uphill
  • Keep your gas tank as least half-full

What To Do If You Become Stranded

You’ve done everything on this list and still, you find yourself stranded in your car. Follow these safety rules if you end up in this situation:

  • Make your car visible to rescuers. Tie the brightly colored cloth from your emergency kit to your antenna, raise the hood of your car if it’s not snowing, and turn on the inside overhead lights with your engine running.
  • Move the items you need from the trunk to the passenger area in your vehicle.
  • Stay with your car unless safety is less than 100 yards away.
  • Keep your body warm using the blanket, socks, gloves, and hats from your emergency kit. If you are with other people, huddle together to gather heat.
  • Stay awake and stay active. This will keep you less vulnerable to cold-related health problems. If you are seated, frequently move your arms and legs to improve circulation.
  • Run the motor and heater of your vehicle for about 10 minutes per hour.
  • Ensure that snow, mud, or objects are not blocking the exhaust pipe.