Despite the allure of snow-days; the nostalgia in remembering school closures and entire afternoons dedicated to sledding, we know that—especially these days—our lives and responsibilities don’t just go away because of Old-Man Winter. And while the weather always seems to have an edge, there are many strategies and preparations that can help you curb the impact of the snow on your travels.
Hark! Here are your Top 10 Tips to Prepare for Winter Driving!
1. Get the right kind of oil change
If you’re approaching the time for your next recommended oil change, go ahead and schedule your appointment. Schedule it even if your car is slightly shy of the recommended mileage or time interval, and be sure you’re using oil with the right viscosity (thickness) for cold weather. Oil will thicken as it gets colder, and if it’s too thick it won’t keep your engine lubricated properly. Check your owner’s manual for guidance about which oil to use in different climates and temperatures.
2. Improve your visibility
Windshield wipers should be replaced each year. Be sure to keep the wiper fluid reservoir full with wiper fluid that is rated to perform in cold temperatures. Plain water won’t do the trick because it will freeze on your windshield this time of year. You should also check to see that both your windshield and rear window defrosters are working properly so you can maintain clear visibility.
3. Have your battery checked
Dead batteries are the number-one wintertime cause of motorists becoming stranded. To avoid this unfortunate situation, have your service shop inspect your car’s battery to be sure it holds a charge and that the posts and connections are free of corrosion.
4. Check your tire pressure
Improper tire inflation will cause poor handling and can jeopardize your safety, so be sure to have your tire pressure checked once per month. Tires can lose 1 pound per square inch for every 10-degree drop in temperature. Your owner’s manual will specify the proper tire pressure for your vehicle, and most service shops will fill your tires for free.
5. Consider snow tires
If you’re fortunate enough to live in a sunbelt state, you can skip this step. But, for most of those who deal with driving in snowy and icy conditions, installing snow tires for the winter months is a smart choice. Despite the added cost, investing in winter tires will add to your confidence and peace-of-mind, and is ideal for those making long trips in the winter.
6. Inspect your belts and hoses
No matter where you live, both hot and cold weather cause lots of wear and tear on belts and hoses. While they often go overlooked, forgetting to replace them can be another cause of finding yourself stranded on the roadside. Simply ask to have them inspected at your next service appointment.
7. Check your antifreeze mixture
A 50-50 mix of antifreeze and water inside your car’s radiator is ideal for winter driving. You can request to have your antifreeze mixture checked during a regular service visit, or you can check it yourself with an inexpensive antifreeze tester, which can be found at your local auto parts store.
8. For four-wheel drive vehicles...
If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, it’s important to be sure your vehicle’s four-wheel drive system is working properly (before you need to use it). Test it out by engaging and disengaging the system a few times while driving. If it’s not working smoothly, have your service shop do a thorough inspection. It is also important to be sure all drivers of the vehicle know how to properly engage the system, and are aware of the type of conditions that necessitate its use.
9. Prepare an Emergency Kit
There are several items you’ll want to have in your vehicle while driving in the winter. Some are more important if you’re going on a long-distance road trip, while others are necessary for going anywhere, even if it’s just around town. I personally keep a small, reinforced plastic tote in my trunk. It has everything I need in case of being stranded, and I feel much safer with it.
Please click below to view our Winter Driving Checklist, which you may print and use to help with gathering your own Emergency Kit.
10. Have an Emergency Plan
When you’re preparing for a road trip: always expect the best and prepare for the worst!
Always fill your fuel tank when the gauge reaches half-full and keep your cell phone fully charged with a car charger.
If you encounter the misfortune of becoming stranded, the first rule is, don’t panic. If your car is a safe distance from traffic or in another safe area, don’t leave your vehicle. Use your cell phone to call 911 and report your emergency and location. If help is not close by, rely on your Emergency Kit as needed, and don’t wander away from your car unless you’re completely sure where you are and how far away help is. Light two flares and set them at each end of your vehicle to call attention. If you have enough fuel, you can run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes for each hour that you’re waiting for help.
With some preparation, winter driving should be every bit as enjoyable as driving during the summer. Set aside some time to get your car winterized and put together the necessary items to survive a mishap. Your friends at Caritas Vehicle Services wish you many miles of safe and pleasant motoring. And, please don’t hesitate to contact us when we can be of service!