Winter road trips can quickly turn into a disaster if you fail to plan it carefully. Especially if you are driving, prepare your car for the rigors of the weather and the environment. The extremely low temperature can affect the different parts of the car, which changes the way it functions compared to other seasons. You might end up being stuck in the middle of the road with no help available if you don’t prepare for the trip.
How do you prepare a car for winter?
From inspection to must-have road trip essentials, keep on reading, and learn from the insights we’ll share.
1. Perform a Quick Inspection
Before you head out, the first thing that you need to do is to inspect the car. From the interior to the exterior, take the time to go through the entire car to spot any potential problem and remedy it before you embark on your trip.
Among others, one of the most important to check is the tires. See to it that the tires are prepared for the journey ahead. If the Bureau of Transportation Statistics is to be believed, on average, the length of winter holiday trips is 275 miles. Make sure that the tread of your tires will survive this journey. Check the depth of the tread to be sure. There should also be no visible physical problems that can cause more serious damage to the tires once you are on the road.
You should also check the engine oil. When it gets colder, oil tends to get thicker. As it thickens, it minimizes its effectiveness in lubricating the engine, which can start causing problems. Check the current capacity of the oil and change it when needed.
Like the oil, the battery is equally important to inspect, especially if the trip is going to be very long. The extreme temperature can affect the performance of the battery, so check it to make sure that it will not have an issue.
Make sure that your lights and wipers are working accordingly. You can get stuck on the road because ice accumulates on the windshield. For better visibility and safety, it is also crucial that you invest in ice scrapers and snow brushes.
2. Change Your Tires
In the same way that hiking shoes and snowboard boots should have excellent soles to have a strong grip on different surfaces, your cars also need tries with impressive traction so that it can get through snow easily.
If you have ordinary tires, now is the time for an upgrade. As you prepare the car for winter, consider investing in new tires, especially ones with deeper treads and a more powerful grip on the snow. This will lessen the chances of getting stuck because of tires that are incapable of handling the ground conditions.
3. Change Your Oil
Another effective way to prepare a car for winter is to have an oil change, especially if it has long been overdue. If your inspection tells you that oil is at a low level or if it has not been replaced for a while, change it before you leave.
If you need an oil change, make sure that you use a winter-grade oil. This is capable of resisting the extremely low temperature, which prevents the oil from freezing. An oil with a lower cold weather viscosity rating is recommended. This is more capable of handling the cold.
4. Change Your Windshield Fluid and Blades
Aside from the tires and the oil, preparing your car for winter also requires you to change the fluid in your windshield wiper. Traditionally, it is filled with liquid that can be good at any other time of the year except in the winter months. The fluid can end up freezing once the temperature drops, so you must change it with a fluid that is meant to withstand the cold weather.
Aside from not freezing, winter fluid for windshield wipers also have a special formula that allows it to loosen snow and ice on the windshield. This helps improve visibility when you are driving, making road trips safer.
Aside from the fluid, the blades might also need a replacement as a part of your efforts to prepare a car for winter. The rubber squeegee should not have visible damages. Otherwise, it warrants a replacement. If it often makes streaks, it is an indication that it needs to be changed before your winter trip.
5. Pack a Winter Car Kit
When preparing your car for winter trips, another important thing to do is to pack a winter car kit. This should include everything that you will need to ensure that your car won’t be left stuck. Some of the must-haves are briefly discussed below:
- Flashlight: You might need to repair your car in the middle of the road at night or your lights may suddenly stop working while on the trip. When you have a tactical flashlight in the trunk, you have one less thing to worry about.
- Jumper Cables: One of the most common problems that can happen during winter road trips is a dead car battery. With a jumper cable, it will be easier to bring the battery back into life.
- Knife: Keychain knives or pocket knives will be handy when you need to cut something to help you get out of an unfortunate situation during your winter road trip.
- Bag of Sand: This might sound a bit weird for some, but this helps a lot when you need additional traction to allow the tires to get through thick and slippery snow. Put the bags on each side of the rear wheel wells.
- Snow Chains: It improves the grip of the car on the snow. The chains provide additional traction so that it will be effortless to drive the car through slippery surfaces.
- Snow Shovel: A lightweight and compact snow shovel or avalanche shovel is also important. This helps you to dig snow on the ground if your tires get stuck.
- Reflective Tape: If you are stuck in a severe situation and help is scarce, it would be best to put an X mark on the roof of your car using reflective tape. This will make it possible for your car to be seen by aircraft that hover around the area.
- First Aid Kit: Be concerned not only about the car but the health and the safety of the passengers as well. When there is a medical emergency, it helps to have a first aid kit
- Food and Water: Roadside emergencies, especially in the winter, can last for hours. It may be hard to find help on the road or to contact someone. To survive, make sure that you have food and water with you.
6. Check Your Insurance Policy
Preparing your car for winter also entails the need to check your insurance and see what is covered. A little expense can help you save hundreds and thousands of dollars if in case something happens when you are on the road.
Call your insurance company and check if roadside assistance is part of the package, especially for long-distance travel. By adding this to your existing coverage, you can enjoy a variety of services, such as towing and flat-tire repair. This lessens the chances that your trip will end up being frustrating.
7. Be Armed with the Right Knowledge
It is not only the car that you should prepare for the winter trip. More importantly, you should also prepare yourself. Arm yourself with the right knowledge about winter driving. Research your route carefully, especially if it is an unfamiliar destination. By being familiar with the route, you will be more prepared to tackle whatever obstacle might confront you along the way.
To demonstrate preparedness for the winter road trip, you should also learn how to handle common mishaps. For instance, you should know how to change tires, how to jumpstart a car, and how to repair a faulty wiper, among other things. There isn’t always a mechanic or another person available on the road, so see to it that you can solve most car-related problems on your own.
You should also know what to do in case your car gets stuck in the middle of the road during a snowstorm. Learn how to survive an avalanche and the basics of dealing with hypothermia. Pack clothes and gears that will keep you warm in the car, including fleece jackets.
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Whether you are headed to a winter camping trip or checking out the best skiing and snowboarding destinations in the world, if you are bringing a car, pay attention to our suggestions above. To prepare a car for winter road trips, start by inspecting the parts. Change those that need to be replaced, such as tires, oil, battery, and wipers, among others. You should also pack the must-have items, especially those that will come in handy during emergencies.
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- 6 Tips to Prepare Your Car for a Winter Road Trip, TravelMamas.com
- 9 Safety Checks to Prepare Your Car for a Winter Road Trip, SafeWise.com