No one likes unpleasant surprises, especially when it comes to driving in the wintertime. An overheated radiator, faulty windshield wipers, tires that don’t grip the road…plenty can go wrong if your vehicle isn’t properly prepared for nasty weather.
Here’s a quick checklist to get yourself ready for deteriorating driving conditions in the weeks and months ahead:
- Don’t let the gas tank go below half full. This prevents fuel lines from freezing up and avoids damage to the fuel pump. More gas also provides more weight, which increases road stability.
- Make sure the windshield fluid reservoir is filled with fluid that can withstand below-freezing temperatures and that the windshield wipers are in good working condition.
- Clear the vehicle completely of ice and snow before heading out on the road. This includes headlights and rear lights and side mirrors. Don’t risk having your vision obstructed.
- Have your vehicle well-serviced to prevent getting stuck on the side of the road in a snow or ice storm.
- Turn on your headlights during inclement weather.
- Keep your tires properly inflated and make sure they have adequate tread.
- Don’t use cruise control on icy roads.
- Pack a travel safety kit that includes blankets, flashlight, jumper cables, a portable shovel, first aid kit, water, snacks such as dried fruit and nuts, an ice scraper and brush, cat litter (for use as a traction aid), wooden stick matches or lighter, candle, and a lock de-icer.
- Place some coats, scarves, boots, gloves, and a sleeping bag in the trunk in case you get stuck somewhere.
- Also stick a tow rope or chain in the trunk should you need help getting out of a ditch and a tow truck isn’t readily available.
- Get an LED-emergency beacon that’s battery-powered and works like a strobe light. At the very least, pick up some flares for use in an emergency.
- Before heading out, double-check that your cell phone battery is fully charged and that you have an operational car charger or backup portable charger in your vehicle.
- Rear-end collisions are common during winter driving, so properly adjust your headrests to prevent or reduce neck injuries should an accident occur.
- Clean your shoes of ice and snow before entering your vehicle to avoid melting and creating moisture build-up that could fog up the windows. If fogging occurs, run the air conditioner for a few minutes, since this will function as a dehumidifier, or turn off the air recirculation switch to draw in fresh, drier air.
In addition, consider these safe winter driving tips:
- Slow down and leave yourself plenty of room to stop if it’s snowing or icy. Allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the vehicle in front of you, or reduce your speed by 50 percent.
- If you’re stuck, don’t run the engine constantly. Experts suggest running it no more than 10 minutes every hour.
- Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your vehicle starts to skid, steer it gently in the direction you want the front to go and don’t touch your brakes. And if your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brakes.
- Use caution when traveling over bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, since they freeze first.
- Be aware of “black ice,” which can develop even if temperatures are above freezing. It’s particularly prevalent in shady areas and on bridges.
Be safe, not sorry, when out and about this winter.