Winter Driving Safety

Tips on preparing your car for winter driving safety. Things to check under the hood, and items to put in your car to prepare for the winter driving season.

Winter is just around the corner, so it is time to start preparing your vehicle for winter. I am from Northwest Pennsylvania, where at times we can get quite a bit of snow. It is better to be safe than sorry, and I for one, would rather be over prepared than not.

First off, check out your car. Make sure your battery and charging system are in good working order. Inspect all belts and hoses for signs of wear or cracking, replace any that do not look to be in good condition. If anything is going to go wrong, you can bet it will happen to you in the winter time.

It is also a good idea to change your motor oil to a lighter weight oil, which will make your engine a little easier to turn over during cold weather. If you need an oil change anyway, this is the best time to take care of this.

Make sure that you have four good snow tires on your car. It doesn't matter if your car is front wheel drive or rear, put on four good tires.

Also check your antifreeze, they sell testers in automotive stores. It looks like a rather large eye dropper, you just remove a little of the coolant from your radiator using the tester. There are little balls inside the tester, which will float to different levels inside. This will tell you at what temperature your antifreeze will freeze. If need be, drain some of the coolant from your system and add more antifreeze.

Change your wiper blades to winter wiper blades: these are heavier and can push snow and ice easier. Also make sure that your washer reservoir is full, it is always a good idea to carry a spare gallon of washer fluid in your trunk. It will never fail that you will run out of washer fluid while traveling, not a home in your driveway.

Now it is time to start packing your car for winter driving. Make sure that your spare tire is in good condition and full of air. Also make sure that your jack is in good working order, and that all the parts are where they should be. Here is a list of items that you should be carrying in your trunk for winter emergencies. A small tool kit, with a pair of pliers, a phillips and straight screwdriver, a hammer, a pocket knife and some other small tools. A set of jumper cables, tire chains, a small bag of sand or cat litter (this can be used both for weight in a rear wheel drive car and to place on a slick roadway to give you more traction), an blanket, some extra clothes (toss in a few jackets, gloves and hats that you no longer wear), a pair of boots, bottled water, and some food (it is a better idea to keep the food in the trunk so that you are not tempted to eat it while driving). The food recommendations are high energy nutrition bars, munchie type foods, and anything else that will keep and not freeze. Also carry a first aid kit, a flashlight with a set of extra batteries, matches in a airtight container, reading material, something brightly colored that can be used for flagging and a small shovel. A small broom for snow removal and a heavy duty ice scraper should be carried in the front of the car where they will be easy to get at.

Also never let the gas tank in your vehicle fall below ½ for winter driving. Not only will a fuller tank of gas give your car more weight, it could also mean the matter of staying a little warm or freezing to death, if you are caught in a snow storm.

If you absolutely do need to go out in a storm, try not to go alone, take someone else with you. Two people can usually get a car unstuck, when one person can't. Dress warmly, in several layers. Even though it will be warm in the car while you are traveling, if you do end up stuck somewhere, it may get cold very quickly. If you do get stuck, tie the flagging to your car and open the hood. Try to only run the car for 10 minutes per hour, run the heater only when the car is running, to save the battery. Also, if it is dark, run the dome light only when the car is running. Before starting the car, get out and check and make sure the tailpipe is clear. Also be sure to crack your window a bit when the car is idling. You must be very careful of carbon monoxide poisoning.

If it is snowing hard, stay with your car! You may get confused in the storm and not be able to get back to your car. Keep moving around, exercise a bit if need be, this will help you stay warm. Get the extra clothes and the blankets from your trunk, if there is more than one person in the car, huddle together to stay warm. Or even cover yourselves with road maps, newspapers or even the car floor mats.

Of course many people now have cell phones and can make a call if they have problems. But don't forget, cell phones don't always have signals. Or if you do get in touch with someone to come help, it still could take several hours, particularly if the roads are practically impassible.

Remember, taking good care of your vehicle before winter and packing the right supplies could be a matter of live and death. And drive carefully and slowly!

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