The only thing worse than driving in winter weather is driving a car that isn’t properly prepared for winter’s cold and snowy conditions. To get your car ready for whatever winter may throw at you, follow these simple five steps.
Get your car tuned up.
You wouldn’t run a marathon without stretching out or addressing your health. Your car needs the same kind of loving care. Now is the time to take it in for whatever routine maintenance it might require. Get an oil and air filter change, and ask your mechanic to check your car’s fluids–including antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid–and top off any that are low. Have your battery and all your headlights, taillights, and turn signals checked.
If you live in an area with a lot of snowfall, ask your mechanic to inspect your tires for wear. If possible, do some research on the best all-weather tires or invest in a set of snow tires that can be switched out for your regular tires each autumn
Get your paperwork in order
This is good advice for any time of the year, but when you run the chances of sliding off the road on ice, hitting deer or other animals that are more active in fall and winter, or being involved in fender-benders, you’ll want to make sure your paperwork is in order.
Make sure your driver’s license is up to date. Put proof of insurance in your glove compartment box. Consider joining an automotive club like AAA, and make sure you have your membership card and their number in your car or wallet.
Have the necessary numbers on your phone
It’s never a bad idea to have a few phone numbers or apps at the ready on your phone so you don’t have to be searching for them under duress. Is there a towing company in the area that you trust? Program in their number. Ditto with ride-sharing or taxi services. While you’re at it, make sure your contacts are all up-to-date. You never know when an accident or traffic conditions might make you late to an appointment or to pick up a child at school; make sure you’ve thought through your backup plans.
Do the little low-tech things to give you an edge in winter driving
In addition to snow tires, a little bit of additional weight in the trunk of your car can help stabilize it in snowy conditions. Consider buying a bag of water softener salt, sand, or even kitty litter to use as fifty additional pounds of ballast. Bonus points: if you need a bit of traction under your wheels, you can always open the bag and spread the sand or kitty litter in front of or behind your wheels.
If you’re interested, now might also be the time to ask someone to show you how to check tire pressure or even change a tire. These can be valuable skills to help maintain your car or help you in an emergency when auto clubs or tow trucks are busy with other stranded motorists.
Prepare a “winter-ready” kit for your car
Make a list of supplies that you need for both your car and anybody who might be riding in it. For the car, you will want to have an ice scraper and snow brush, a small snow shovel, jumper cables, traction mats (in addition to the sand or kitty litter), a flashlight, and possibly even some basic tools like a wrench or screwdriver set.
For yourself and your passengers, always have a box or kit with extra hats, scarves, mittens, and a blanket. Depending on how far you will be traveling, you might also want to pack a gallon of distilled water, a few high-protein snack bars, and a pack of disposable wipes or paper towels. Assemble a basic first-aid kit and put that in your trunk as well.
With a little bit of planning and preparation, both you and your car can be prepared for many of winter’s surprises.