Winter driving can be a nerve-wracking experience. Strong winds, blustery snowstorms creating whiteouts and icy, slick streets can increase your risk of getting into a serious automobile accident. There are ways to adjust your driving to increase your safety, such as slowing down and leaving more space between your vehicle and others.
Of course, you also need to ensure that your vehicle is in good condition and performing properly before the snow hits. There’s never a good time to have something go wrong with your vehicle, but in the middle of a snowstorm is the worst possible time.
Upgrade or at Least Maintain Your Tires
If you’ve had the same tires for several years, late fall or early winter could be the best time to replace them. Newer tires offer better traction, which can help you avoid slipping, spinning and sliding in icy conditions. Some people even invest in special snow tires that they only use in the winter.
If you aren’t going to replace your tires, make sure you rotate them. Doing so will ensure more even wear off the tires and possibly improve your traction. You should also regularly check your tire pressure in the winter. Cold air can result in lower pressure, which can have an impact on traction.
Check Critical Fluids and Top Them Off
While antifreeze doesn’t seem like a serious concern in the summer months, it can be the difference between your car starting or not in the winter. Make sure you have adequate antifreeze to prevent your engine from freezing in intensely cold weather.
Similarly, you should check and top off other fluid levels, including coolant. You should also replace your windshield wiper fluid with a specially designed formula for winter use. These wiper fluids handle cold weather better than the standard kind. Instead of freezing when they hit your frigid windshield, they can actually help melt the ice and snow that’s accumulated on your windshield.
Have a Thorough Mechanical and Body Inspection
Have a trusted professional look over your vehicle and ensure there is nothing malfunctioning or on the cusp of failing. The fall is also a good time to address any issues with rust on your vehicle. After all, the winter will bring both a surplus of moisture and plenty of salt to corrode the underside of your vehicle. Powder coating or other treatments could reduce additional rust development.
Addressing any body or mechanical issues that could leave you in a compromised position in case of a crash keeps you safer all winter. While the ideal is to avoid any kind of crash or collision altogether, you also need to focus on keeping yourself safe in the event that you have issues while on the road.
Pack a Winter Survival Bag or Box in Your Trunk
If you don’t already have emergency supplies in your vehicle, now is the time to put together an emergency kit. In the event that you get into a crash or go off the road, the supplies in this bag or box could be the only thing between you and a serious case of frostbite, or worse.
You should have one or two blankets in the vehicle, as well as a set of clothing for anyone who regularly rides in the car. This ensures you can stay dry, even if you get soaked trying to get your car out of a ditch. Also, in the event that you go off the road or get into an accident when you’re wearing dressy or seasonally inappropriate clothing, you’ll have something warm to put on instead. You want to have some gloves, hats and maybe spare socks as well.
A bag of clay cat litter or sand can help you gain traction if you’re stuck. Flashlights ensure you’re visible in the long winter night. Keeping a few non-perishable snacks and water bottles in your kit is also a good idea.
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