As the first snowflakes begin to fall, you’re soon reminded how different driving can be when the roads are covered with the white stuff instead of plain, old liquid. Hit the road without warning and you may soon find yourself losing control of your car and on the side of the road…or worse. Get prepared before the first winter wallop hits and you and your car will survive all that comes your way.
1. Check your tires — All-season tires can handle most light snowfalls, but may not be up to the task for a major snow event. Ensure that your tires are properly rotated and are not worn. Rotate as needed. Put on snow tires or chains if you will be driving in hazardous conditions. Hint: snow tires go on the wheels driving the car — rear wheels for rear-wheel-drive and front wheels for front-wheel-drive.
2. Get it tuned up — No car should be on the road if it hasn’t been maintained. A car that is in need of tune up is one that will have a greater chance of breaking down when temperatures are coldest. Replace worn belts, inspect hoses, ensure that your battery has a sufficient charge and swap out spark plugs and check spark plug wires. Keep up with your oil changes too!
3. Keep it clear — Limited visibility means that you’re more likely to have an accident. Before winter sets in, your wiper blades should be new and operate streak free. Apply a water repellant to your windshield, mirrors and side windows before winter arrives. A product such as Rain-X combined with wiper blades can ensure that your vision remains clear. Provided that your defroster works right, too! Don’t forget the windshield scraper and brush.
4. Travel well stocked — Check your flashlight and replace with fresh batteries. Bring with you a set of booster/jumper cables. A bag of sand or kitty litter; a blanket; a shovel and hats, gloves and boots are essential as well. If you’ll be traveling far, then bring with you water and food. A fully charged cell phone, a mirror to signal for help and backup batteries are important too. Always share the route you’ll be traveling with someone in case you don’t arrive at your destination on time. This person will know your schedule, your route and can notify authorities.
5. Keep your distance — Your stopping ability will be greatly reduced if there is any accumulation on the road, therefore put some distance between you and the car in front of you. Take care when driving over raised surfaces such as bridges and overpasses as these roadways will freeze first. Pass cars with caution — never from the right side — and shift to a lower gear if traction becomes a problem.
Now that you’ve been sufficiently warned, the question that beg to be asked is this one: should you delay your trip until after the storm passes? That’s the safest option for everyone when visibility is limited and driving conditions are hazardous at best.