With winter weather upon us, slick road conditions and limited visibility can make for dangerous driving. Yet, many people must still go about their daily activities - and those can require driving.
Commuting in severe winter weather conditions can be both scary and dangerous for most drivers. Therefore, when doing so, it is important to be cognizant of the rules of the road. It can also be essential to ensure that the vehicle you are driving is well prepared for the potentially cold and hazardous road conditions that you may face. Check out our winter driving safety tips.
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Ensuring That Your Vehicle is Ready for Winter
Prior to even taking on Old Man Winter safely, there are some items that you should check in order to ensure that your vehicle itself is in tip-top condition for those winter roads. Knowing that your vehicle has been properly serviced and checked can make you - and your auto - more ready to take on whatever the winter has to give.
In servicing your vehicle, be sure to include the following items in your checklist:
1. Checking the Battery
As the temperatures fall, so can your car's battery power. This is especially the case for engines that are powered by gas, as it can take more battery power to get the engine started. With that in mind, be sure to prepare your vehicle's battery for winter by:
- Checking for sufficient voltage
- Checking the charging system and belts
- Tightening the battery's cable connections
2. Checking the Cooling System
Your vehicle's cooling system should also be checked, because when coolant freezes, it tends to expand - and this expansion can potentially be damaging to the engine block on your vehicle. In checking the cooling system on your vehicle, be sure to:
- Ensure that there is enough coolant in your vehicle, and that it is able to withstand the winter temperatures in your particular area
- Check your vehicle's cooling system for any potential leaks
- Flush the cooling system if it has not been done in several years
3. Filling the Windshield Washer Fluid Reservoir
When it snows, your vehicle can potentially go through a lot of windshield wiper fluid. Therefore, it is a good idea to make sure that your wiper fluid is full now - before you get in a bind. When doing so, be sure that you use the "no freeze" type of wiper fluid. You may also want to consider keeping an extra bottle of wiper fluid in your vehicle - just in case.
4. Having Your Vehicle's Tires Inspected
In any type of weather, it is always a good idea to have your car's tires inspected at least once per month - and always prior to heading out on a long road trip. But it is especially important to check your tires prior to winter weather. In doing so, be sure that you check the tire pressure and ensure that all of the tires are filled to the vehicle manufacturer's recommended inflation pressure amount. (This amount is typically listed in your vehicle's owner's manual).
As a part of your tire inspection, you should also be aware of the age of your tires. This is because the structural integrity of tires can oftentimes degrade over time. When this occurs, tires are much more apt to fail. It is especially important to be aware of your tires' age, as the effects of worn tires may not always be visibly detectable.
5. Know Your Vehicle Well
One of the most important tips - especially when driving on snowy, wet, or icy roads, is to know your vehicle. All vehicles will handle a bit differently - so, take the time before the roads get bad and learn how to handle it in various situations. One way that you can practice this is by driving in snow - but not on any main roads. For example, go out to an empty parking lot and try different maneuvers with your vehicle such as turning, stopping, and backing up. You should also practice driving slowly, as it is typically harder to stop or to control a vehicle on slick or snow covered surfaces.
6. Carry an Emergency Kit
Having an emergency kit with you at all times is also extremely important - and especially during wintery weather conditions. Therefore, be sure that your kit contains items such as hand warmers and flares in case you become stranded on a cold or snowy road for a long period of time. Don't miss our article on Car Care to Improve Any Drive.
7. Remain Calm
In any event, it is essential to remain calm. While winter weather may throw a wide array of challenges at you, panicking will only make the situation worse. By practicing - both physically and mentally - how to drive in winter conditions, as well as by having your vehicle in top shape, you will be ready to take on these less than perfect road conditions.