Anyone’s who’s driven in snow understands the challenges that real winter driving conditions present. Most importantly, you understand how imperative it is to prepare beforehand, and to be ready for whatever an icy road–and other drivers–might throw your way.
“But it’s only the beginning of November,” you might say. “It’s too early to start thinking about all that.”
Except it’s not. With the first flurries of snow already hitting the U.S., now is the ideal time to prepare yourself, your family, and your vehicle for safer winter driving over the months ahead.
Check Your Battery and Fluids
Make sure you have enough gas (or are fully charged) to get you where you need to go, or at least to a convenient gas station or charging station along the way. Check your oil for adequate levels and cleanliness/transparency.
And check your windshield wiper fluid. At a certain point, snowy roads tend to throw up plenty of dirty and icy water right onto your windshield. So, make sure you have plenty of ammonia-based fluid which, unlike water, won’t freeze up at certain temperatures. Then, use it liberally to keep your view clear when you’re on the road.
While you’re under the hood, see what kind of condition your battery is in. You want it relatively clean overall, with no fluffy mineral deposits at the connections. If you’ve had it a while, you should also check the voltage with a multimeter.
Check Your Tire Pressure
When the weather starts getting colder, that often leads to a loss in tire pressure. And if your winter driving route includes a rise in elevation, that pressure could become even lower. So, check all your tires and make sure that they are at the correct factory specs for cold weather.
Clean the Windows
Yes, you have your windshield wiper fluid at the proper level. But why not start off with a clean slate anyway (pun intended)? And the windshield wiper fluid won’t do much to help your side windows if those are dirty. Clean all your car’s windows before you go. And bring some glass cleaner with you, in case you need to touch things up on the way.
Prep an Emergency Roadside Kit
Of course, the worst would never happen to you. But be prepared just in case it does. If you shimmy off the road, your vehicle’s battery dies, or something else incapacitates you, bring the things you need to get yourself out of trouble or summon help.
What should your winter driving emergency kit include?
- Chains, sized specifically for your car’s tires
- Road flares
- Spare tire
- Car jack
- Cat litter or gravel
- Escape tool
- First aid kit
- Battery-powered cell phone charger
- Cell phone signal booster
- Portable car battery charger and/or jumper cables
- Non-perishable snacks
Secure All Occupants
Seatbelts are obvious. But babies and children require additional efforts to make sure they’re property and safely secured.
Infants need to be secured in a car seat, installed facing backwards. Toddlers who have outgrown the infant car seat can sit facing forward, but still fully secured in a harness-style car seat. Children less than 4-foot-9 should use a booster seat with a seatbelt.
Stay Focused on the Road (No Texting)
While especially important with winter driving, this one is true any time of year. To put it simply, keep your eyes on the road. Always. Set up any navigation on your phone before you’re in motion. And if any calls or texts come through? Either ignore them, use any hands-free capabilities, or pull over to answer or reply.
If any of your occupants tend to be a distraction, make provisions to stop it before it even starts. Set the kids up with snacks in reach. Put barriers in place between them to forestall any arguments. And have devices and earbuds with downloaded TV shows or movies all ready to go.
Maintain Safe Distances
With winter driving, slick road conditions require greater caution when it comes to speed and distance between vehicles. Just how much slower and how much more distance you give depends primarily on the specific conditions you’re facing. Once you get a feel for the road, stick with what feels comfortable to you.
You might feel pressure from other drivers to maintain a higher speed. Ignore them! You’re the one in charge when it comes to your sense of safety when driving in snowy conditions.
Photo credit: Andrey Vasiliskov – www.shutterstock.com