Road Safety Tips: How to Winterize Your Car
In the words of meteorologists and Game of Thrones fans alike, “winter is coming.” And with the change of the seasons comes a change in weather conditions. Winter weather—such as ice, snow, sleet, and hail—can make driving difficult and even dangerous. To help you prepare, we’ve put together a series of articles filled with tips on how to winterize your car in preparation for the chilly winter weather months ahead.
How to Prepare your Car for Winter Weather Driving
Making sure that your car is winter-ready before the cold weather hits is the best way to ensure safe winter driving.
- Get your vehicle checked by a qualified mechanic or repair shop for any maintenance needs and leaks. Cold weather driving can exacerbate any pre-existing problems, and the last thing you want is to end up stranded on the side of the road in sub-zero temperatures for a preventable issue. To properly winterize your car, ask them to check your vehicle’s battery, heater, and rear defroster as well.
- Top off all vehicle fluids, particularly antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid. This will prevent fluids from freezing and bursting hoses and pipes, and will also ensure that your car continues to run properly as you’re driving in snow and other wintry weather.
- If you live in an area where special snow driving tires or chains are allowed (or required), have them installed before the first winter storm hits. This is one of the most important steps you can take to help yourself practice safe driving in less than safe conditions.
- Whether you have snow tires or everyday tires, be sure to check your tire pressure regularly. This is a good driving safety habit to have all year long, but it is especially critical during the frigid winter months. For every ten degrees the temperature drops, your tire pressure will also drop by a pound. This can lead to tires with dangerously low pressure that can affect your ability to drive safely in winter weather conditions.
- Don’t neglect your windshield wipers. This winter driving tip is often overlooked, but it’s an important one to remember. You should inspect your vehicle’s wipers before and throughout the season and replace them as needed. Old wipers may have cracked rubber or other issues that severely diminish their effectiveness. Less effective wipers means less visibility, which can negatively impact your ability to practice safe driving.
Pack a Winter Weather Safety Emergency Kit
When you’re driving in the winter, it’s always a good idea to hope for the best but plan for the worst. Having a stash of emergency supplies in the back of your car can help you be better equipped for a winter weather driving emergency or a worst-case scenario. Suggested items to keep in your emergency kit include:
- Ice scraper, snow shovel, and/or snow brush
- Flashlight (with spare batteries)
- Extra warm clothing, blankets, hand warmers
- Spare boots or other heavy-duty shoes
- Road flares, caution triangles, bright swatches of fabric
- Back-up phone charger
- First aid kit
- Non-perishable foods and drinks with electrolytes
- A bag of sand
- Extra windshield washer fluid
- Ice-melting pellets or rock salt
- Tire chains
- Vehicle fire extinguisher
- Basic tool kit
- Jumper cables
Prepare for Safe Driving in Snow Before You Hit the Road
Before getting on the road, you should always completely clear your vehicle of all accumulated snow and ice. This is required by law in some states, but it is an easy and impactful way for all drivers to contribute to winter driving safety. A small section of windshield cleared in a hurry severely limits your ability to see the road and any oncoming traffic or road hazards. Snow-covered side mirrors or icy back windows have similarly dangerous effects.
But it’s not enough to just be able to see out of all your car’s windows. If you’ve cleared off your windshield, but there is still a mound of snow on the top of the car, all it takes is a slight hill or one short stop for that snow to slide down onto your windshield and block your view, effectively impeding safe driving. Extra snow on the top of your car can also fly off the back as the vehicle picks up speed, which poses a winter driving hazard to any cars or trucks behind you.
Depending on where you live, you may encounter the occasional inclement winter weather, or you may spend a majority of the winter months dodging ice storms and snow drifts. Whether you fall into one of these camps or somewhere in the middle, practice these safe driving tips to help you, your family, and your vehicle stay safe and accident-free this winter.
Now that you know how to properly winterize your car, you’re ready to hit the road – be sure to check back next week for our next entry of winter driving tips!