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Preparing your Vehicle for Winter

Driving in the winter months can be intimidating. However, understanding how to handle the uncertainties that come with snow covered and icy roads will make it far less nerve wracking.   Snow, slush, or icy roads are involved in nearly one in four weather related vehicle crashes. These conditions make it harder for drivers to slow down, see, and stop – all of which can increase the chances of an accident.

If you  must travel during the winter months, preparing your vehicle in advance, knowing the weather forecast, and driving  based on road conditions are three key ways to help you arrive safely at your destination. Below are some winter driving tips to help you prepare for the winter elements.

Preparing Your Vehicle

As temperatures begin to drop, it is time to make sure your vehicle(s) are fully stocked with all the winter driving necessities.  This includes: snow scraper, snow shovel and sand or road salt. It is also a good time to check your tires to determine whether it is time to replace them or whether you need snow tires.  A few habits to adopt regularly during the winter months can also help prepare you for snowy, unpredictable road conditions. Keep your windshield wipers in good condition and your windshield fluid reservoir filled so you can clear snow and ice from your windshield. Make it a practice to keep your gas tank above half a tank  to minimize the amount of water vapor in your tank, which can freeze as temperatures drop. This will also help incase you get stranded so you can stay warm.  Consider keeping your vehicle in a garage and using fuel additives such as dry gas to help eliminate water vapor that could freeze the gas lines. You should also either drive or run your vehicle in a well ventilated area at least every few days to help avoid a dead battery, another cold weather concern.

Watching the Weather

If you’re planning on traveling over the winter months, monitor the road and weather conditions by checking the local news stations or internet traffic and weather sites. Do not check your phone while driving and avoid unnecessary distractions when you’re behind the wheel.  Do not check your phone  while driving and avoid all unnecessary distractions when you’re behind the wheel.

Driving for Winter Conditions 

Before you   leave the driveway or parking lot, take the time to clear off your vehicle from snow and ice, including your windows, mirrors, lights, reflectors, hood, roof, and trunk. Drive with your headlights on at all times to improve visibility. Use caution when snow banks limit your view of oncoming traffic. As you get on the road, remember that speed limits are meant for dry roads, not roads covered in snow and ice. You should reduce your speed and increase your following distances as road conditions and visibility worsen.   Avoid using cruise control in snowy or icy conditions – you want to have as much control over your vehicle as possible. Be cautious over bridges and overpasses as they commonly ice over first. Avoid passing snow plows and sand trucks because the drivers may have limited visibility.

Breaking Down or Getting Stuck

If you are unexpectedly stuck in a snowstorm and are stranded or stuck in the snow, if your car is out of harm’s way, stay in your vehicle and wait for help. You can run the car heater to stay warm for 10 minutes every hour, but first, be sure your exhaust pipe  is clear of snow. There is a danger of carbon monoxide poisoning if snow blocks the pipe and enables the deadly gas to build up in your car. Open your windows slightly to help prevent any buildup.

Remember, driving in  winter can be challenging, even for experienced drivers. Slowing down, allowing increased time to come to a stop, wearing your seatbelt, devoting your full attention to the road and being aware of changing conditions can help you drive more safely.

Know your Car’s Capabilities 

Check out My Car Does What?   to find what safety features are already built into your vehicle.  Some familiar safety features include traction control and anti-lock braking system (ABS). Traction control is now standard on most vehicles. This function helps your vehicle gain traction  on snowy, icy, or wet surfaces, particularly when accelerating from a stopped or slowed position, or when trying to make it up a slippery hill. The anti-lock braking system (ABS) helps you steer in emergencies by restoring traction to your tires and is standard on most new vehicles as well. ABS may vibrate or pulse when engaged. This is normal, continue to press and hold pressure to the brake pedal.

Remember, Auto Body Xperts is always here to assist in your vehicle questions or collisions.