Be prepared for winter driving
There may not be cold and snow everywhere, but winter driving conditions can be unpredictable. That makes it important to be prepared, so an unexpected situation doesn’t turn into big trouble.
Even without freezing temperatures and lots of precipitation, packing a vehicular survival kit is a good idea. You don’t need to spend a lot or pack a giant toolbox, either. There are a few simple items you can fit in any car, but before you get started, one of the best investments you can make is in roadside service. Many automakers offer some roadside assistance as part of their standard new car coverage; roadside assistance is also covered under some automobile insurance policies, and some credit card companies offer it, as well. In any case, having a worry-free tow available at the end of a phone call is a piece of preparedness that doesn’t take up any extra room in your car, but offers huge peace of mind.
There are a few essential pieces of safety gear you can add to your vehicle to help you take charge of your safety on the road.
Low temperatures can be hard on batteries. Lights are on more often, and heating system blower fans, seat heaters, and rear-window defrosters all place increased demand on the electrical system in your vehicle. If your car won’t start for lack of battery power, having a set of good jumper cables that will reliably transfer power can help you get back on the road quickly. Make sure you familiarize yourself with how to use the cables properly. A mistake can make your situation worse, but they’re relatively simple to use.
Ice Scraper/Snow brush
It’s not safe to be driving a rolling snowbank. You can’t see out, and the stuff flying off your vehicle can put other motorists in danger, too. Having a snow brush and an ice scraper will make it easy to clean off your vehicle top to bottom. Getting most of the snow and ice off the windows will help your defrosters work quickly and maintain your visibility.
Full tank of fuel and a fuel container
Try to keep your fuel tank topped off. There’s no magic to it, but it’s a just-in-case measure. Having a full tank of fuel means that even if you can’t make it down the road, you can run the engine, make some heat, and charge up your devices. If you should happen to need fuel (and you don’t have roadside assistance), an approved one- or two-gallon fuel container comes in very handy.
Flashlight and extra batteries
Or better yet, more than one flashlight. LED flashlights are cheap, bright, and consume batteries slowly. There are even some with emergency features like flashers.
Pack extra hats, gloves and a blanket – even an extra jacket and pair of waterproof boots, if you have space. If you get caught in a freak storm or conditions change after you’ve already departed, having backup items in the car offers protection in case you need it. Materials like wool will even insulate when wet, an important consideration when preparing for the unexpected. Air-activated hand warmers and matches can also be handy and don’t take up much space.
Windshield washer fluid
Winter driving is especially dangerous when you can’t see. Salty spray from other vehicles will dry on your windshield and turn it into a streaky, caked-up mess. Washer fluid easily blasts this away, but you can use a lot of it over the course of even a modest commute. Keeping an extra gallon on hand will keep you making safe progress.
Depending on the space you have available and the conditions you’re facing, you can consider adding some extra items. Tire chains for very icy environments, road flares for visibility, and some sand for extra traction are all worth considering, as are extra water, snacks and an emergency radio.
Most of the time, even in winter, driving trips are uneventful. Packing some extra items is worth the effort to ensure you’ll be prepared no matter what you encounter. You also should stop by the dealership to make sure your vehicle can handle whatever winter throws your way.