Top Six Preventative Measures For Winter Driving

By Pierre Manseau

With winter approaching, it's time to get your car ready. The amount of preparation you do will certainly be proportionate to the severity of your winter. If you live in the Southern states, you will need to prepare your car for winter stalls, ice storms, light snows and freezing rains. Further north, you will encounter dangerously low temperatures, daily snows, and blizzard conditions. All will need to be prepared for icy roads.

1. Make sure you can see! Check your windshield wipers and replace them if needed. For snowy areas, use rubber-clad (snow) wipers. For extra protection, keep a spare pair in the trunk. Wipers can get damaged during a winter storm or if pulled too hard when stuck to an iced-over windshield one morning. Many special wiper fluids have de-icing capabilities. This provides better visibility during snow, sleet, ice or freezing rain. Keep a jug of de-icer in the trunk to refill as needed.

2. Make sure you can start! Get your battery checked for reliability. Have the connections inspected to make sure that a short won't leave you stranded. Change your oil and anti-freeze for winter. Some experts recommend synthetic oil because it is less likely to thicken in extreme temperatures.

3. Make sure you can roll! Replace old tires with poor tread. If you live in a cold region, install your snow tires. Inspect your spare tire. Make sure you have a jack and other tire changing equipment handy. Pack your snow chains, if needed in your area. Get a can of quick-fix in case of a flat tire.

4. Make sure you won't quit! Many experts recommend that you keep a half-full gas level (or more) at all times. This isn't just to protect you from running out of gas in a blizzard. A reasonably-full gas tank will help keep moisture out.

5. Make sure you won't freeze! Have your HVAC system checked thoroughly. You want to know your heat and defrost are in good working order. You will also want to pack an emergency bag: blankets, rain poncho, flashlight and batteries (unopened package is best), flares, boots, crackers, water bottles, and so forth.

6. Make sure you know. Learn alternate routes. Find out the weather in advance and keep listening for more information. If you have a device with an internet connection, learn which services you can use to find out road conditions. If you are taking a long trip during the winter, make sure friends know your route, especially if it takes you through isolated areas. Have them check on you and make a plan if they can't get you. It might be email, if you have computer access via an IPod for instance. Program the non-emergency numbers for your regular route. This would be your local police force and your state patrol as well as any tow services that you might use. That way you will know how to get help if you break down.

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