Drivers Are Already Prepping for Winter

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( — September 7, 2019) — We’re shortly entering fall, and that means the first snowfall could be here in a matter of weeks. It may not seem like it, but we’re already on the verge of winter, and if you live in an area known for snow and ice, now’s the time to get your car ready for winter.

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that car accidents are especially common in winter, due to the loss of traction associated with snow and ice and lower visibility. Fortunately, with the right precautions, you can decrease your chances of getting involved in a car accident, and stay safe if you end up in one.

Get an Oil Change (and Check Your Other Fluids)

First, get an oil change in your vehicle if you need one. The standard advice for oil changes may not apply to your vehicle, so make sure you check your owner’s manual and comply with the advice listed there. Seasonal changes are a good reminder to check to see if you’re due.

Similarly, you’ll want to check and refill the various fluid levels in your vehicle. Antifreeze is vital for winter months, and you’ll also want to check your windshield wiper fluid.

Inspect and Repair Your Heater

This is also a good time to check to see if your heater is working; it’s much better to discover this in September than in the middle of December, when you need it most. Run it for several minutes to make sure it’s working optimally. If it isn’t, get it repaired. Never underestimate your need for this vital car component.

Inspect and/or Replace Your Tires

Your tires are essential for safe winter driving, since they provide you with traction and control. Make sure you inspect them thoroughly.

  • Treads. New tires have deep treads, which allow you to keep traction and control even in rough conditions. Over time, those treads wear down, making snowy and icy weather especially dangerous. Check your treads to monitor their depth, and replace your tires if necessary.
  • Pressure. As the weather grows colder, the air pressure in your tires will naturally decrease, making it less safe to drive on them. Keep a close eye on your tire pressure and inflate your tires to the proper levels.
  • Snow tires. Depending on the severity of weather in your area and the nature of your vehicle, you may want to invest in snow tires. These are specially made to handle snow, and can give you all the traction you need.

Inspect and/or Replace Your Battery

Car batteries have lower capacity in cold weather, so this is a good chance to evaluate its capacity. If your battery is old or not working properly, it may be a good time to replace it. Otherwise, you might be stuck and unable to start your vehicle.

Put Together an Emergency Kit

It’s also a good idea to prepare and store an emergency kit for your vehicle, with extra additions for winter:

  • Snow brushes and scrapers. These are must-haves that can keep your windshields and windows free from snow and ice. Never drive without clearing a path for visibility.
  • Kitty litter or sand. If you’re stuck in ice, you’ll need to find some kind of traction for yourself. Kitty litter works exceptionally well and is relatively cheap. Sand works too.
  • Clothes and blankets. Always take some extra clothes, including coats, boots, hats, and gloves, as well as some blankets. These can keep you alive if you end up stranded.
  • Food and water. Again, if you’re stranded, the extra food and water can keep you alive.
  • First aid. A basic first aid kit is never a bad thing to include in your car-based emergency kit.
  • A flashlight (and batteries). If you’re stuck in the dark, you’ll need some extra visibility. Keep a reliable flashlight in your kit, as well as extra batteries to make sure it remains operational.
  • Jumper cables. Even with a new battery, there’s a chance you could be stuck somewhere, unable to start your car. Jumper cables give you the power to revitalize your battery, so long as someone can help you out.
  • Tire chains. You may also consider investing in tire chains, which can temporarily help you get enough traction to escape a predicament.

Remind Yourself of Good Winter Driving Habits

Finally, remind yourself of good winter driving habits. The first major snowfall usually takes people off guard, so spend some time mentally preparing for the possibility. Be ready to drive slower, increase your following distance, and avoid driving when possible during major storms. In combination with the strategies above, you’ll greatly reduce your chances of a car accident in the coming months.