Winter driving can be hazardous to your health and well-being!
Anyone who lives in an area where winter weather creates all sorts of driving challenges knows how important it can be to have a vehicle one can depend on. Anybody who has had the misfortune of breaking down, or getting stuck, or otherwise disabled because of winter conditions also knows how important it can be to make sure their vehicles are checked out for winter use, and equipped with a variety of items, some of which can even help save lives.
There are a number of simple things you can do to help prevent some of the more common hassles that winter weather brings on. Some of these can be done by handy DIY’ers; others will need to be done by qualified auto mechanics.
Note: Always follow vehicle owner’s manual instructions for maintenance and upkeep of your vehicle, including recommendations for winter preparations. This list is intended only as a reminder of some of the more obvious winter vehicle preparation measures.
Tires — Be sure your vehicle is equipped with tires that are appropriate for your climate. Many tire manufacturers have very decent “all-weather” tires which are adequate if snowfall is typically minimal. However, in areas where snowfall tends to be heavier, it might be necessary to install actual “snow-tires”, which are designed with more aggressive tread for added traction in deeper snow. Also, you might want to consider “studded snow tires” if ice-storms are frequent in your area.
Note: It is also a good idea to check your spare tire, to be certain it is filled with air and in good condition.
Other Fluids — Check and fill all other fluid reservoirs as needed. Includes brake fluid, power steering fluid, cooling system fluid, transmission fluid.
Notes: If you are not sure how well protected your vehicle’s cooling system is, your local mechanic can perform a simple solution test to let you know. Also, if you are unfamiliar with any of the other fluid checking and refilling, ask your mechanic to check these for you.
Ballast — If you drive a pickup truck (especially two-wheel drive), you might want to consider adding some ballast weight in the bed of the truck to ensure added traction and control in winter weather driving. Some folks use sand bags, some use cement blocks, some fill the bed partially with soil or stone material.
Sand/salt — It’s a good idea to carry a container of sand/salt mixture in your trunk. Be sure the container is one you can seal up, since the salt can have detrimental effects on metals.
Shovel — Not that anyone wants to have to dig out from a snowbank, but if the need arises, a shovel can save the day. Small snow-shovels are available, if your trunk space does not allow for a standard shovel.
Old Rug Remnants — These can be very helpful in some situations when vehicles get stuck in snow or on ice. When placed under tires which have lost traction, they provide a medium for the wheels to grip, thus dislodging it from its stuck position (hopefully!).
Extra Blankets — Heaven forbid that anyone should be stranded away from home in a snowstorm! It does happen, however, and being prepared can mean a world of difference! A couple of extra blankets kept in your car might save your life if you do become stranded.
Cell Phone — Most people today own cell phones, and they can be lifesavers if you become stuck or stranded. Be sure your cell phone is fully charged at all times, especially during winter driving season.
Non-perishable Foods — It is a good idea to carry some extra non-perishable food items in your vehicle during the winter driving season, in the event you become stranded. Items such as packaged crackers, packets of condiments, dehydrated foods, even military ready-to-eat meal kits are good for starters.
First-Aid Kit — Every vehicle should be equipped with one of these, during any season.
Emergency Road Kit — Every vehicle should be equipped with one of these, during any season.
Flashlight — Keep a working flashlight in your vehicle at all times.
Tool kit — It is always a good idea to have a few basic tools in your vehicle, including screwdrivers, pliers, hammer, and the like.
There are other things you may choose to do in preparation for winter driving, and you should try to think about some of the things you, personally, would be concerned with, given your geographical locale, your vehicle condition, your driving abilities, your typical commuting route in relation to access for services (food, fuel, other necessities), your typical travel distance, and any other items more specific to your own situation.
Always follow manufacturers’ recommendations and guidelines for handling, using, installing, operating and maintaining equipment, tools, and products.
Some products used in automobiles are considered toxic or hazardous. Read the labels; if you need to find information about product ingredients, click the link below.