The rainy fall season has arrived, which means several things are around the corner: holidays, pumpkin pie and snow. You may look forward to the season, but few people look forward to driving on snow and ice. To keep you and your family safe on your way to and from family gatherings and other celebrations, consider the following tips:
The drop in temperature and freezing snow, sleet and salted roads all take a toll on your vehicle. To avoid being stranded on the side of the road, perform some simple maintenance procedures and keep your car safe and running in good condition:
- Gas levels – Try to keep your gas tank filled at least halfway throughout the winter to keep your fuel injectors and gas lines from freezing.
- Battery – Check your battery’s power levels, something that can be done for minimal cost at most auto shops. Replacing your battery before it fails will save you a lot of time, frustration and money in paying for a tow on a blustery winter night.
- Headlights – Keep your headlights free of haze by cleaning them with a combination of toothpaste and baking soda. Some elbow grease and time will keep your visibility on the road clear during snowstorms.
- Wipers – Check your wiper blades before bad weather hits. If they are worn or leave streaks on your windshield it’s time to replace them for the difficult winter weather.
While regular vehicle maintenance is needed to keep your car running in the harsh winter cold, some emergency preparedness is necessary as well. While you may never touch your emergency kit, it’s still important to keep some emergency supplies at hand. In your emergency kit you should include:
- First aid kit – Include bandages, antiseptic, anti-inflammatories and more.
- Extra coats and blankets – If you run into a snowy embankment and have to wait for assistance to arrive, you’ll be thankful for the extra warmth. Keep a thermal emergency blanket folded in your glove box or somewhere you can reach it in case of an accident.
- Tire chains, deicer and sand – In addition to road flares and jumper cables, always keep deicer and an ice scraper in your car. If it snows a lot where you live, keep a shovel in your car, too. Sand can help you get traction if you get stuck on snow or ice.
The best preparation for handling icy roads is to brush up on your driving technique and observe the following best practices:
- Start and stop slowly – The ice and slush on the roads will make starting and stopping more difficult and time-consuming. Try to use natural deceleration as your main means of slowing down, as braking can cause dangerous skids. Similarly, be patient when applying acceleration, as slipping traction can leave your tires spinning.
- Keep your cellphone charged – Make sure that your phone is charged before you leave and let your friends or loved ones know when you are leaving and when you expect to arrive. Communicating before you get on the road will keep you from being stranded with no one aware of where you may be.
- Allow extra time – Most importantly, allow extra time for travel during bad weather. Unforeseen road blocks and accidents can take longer than usual.
Keep your car maintained and supplied in preparation for the coming winter. Avoid rushing during your drives and keep some extra granola bars around in case you get stuck. Check the forecast before you leave home, too – you may find that it’s better to delay a trip, if inclement weather is on the way.