Winter Driving in the Tri-States = No Problem. 10 Tips to Keep You Out of that Ditch

- Turn that Fear into Confidence with our Winter Prep Tips!... cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by byrdiegyrl

Ah November – the month of wonder… Imagine my surprise this morning as I was clearing my groggy eyes, stumbling into my kitchen, glancing out the window, to see something that made me second guess if I was actually awake or still dreaming… SNOW. With the change of scenery it’s easy for one to wonder many things… will my car start in the cold? How is my car going to handle with snow on the ground? Am I ready to drive in this stuff for the next couple of months? Easy there… before you call doctor Phil for some psychological help with winter whose, let us help you with some basic things you can check to make sure your vehicle will run smoother than a sled down a snowy fluffy hill this winter.

1. Are your lights in working order?
You may just automatically think that all of your lights are working like most of us do. The owners of those cars that you see all the time with a tail or headlight out… they are probably thinking the same thing. Get out of your car and check your headlights to make sure they are working properly. Have someone look at the rear of your car as you brake to ensure your tail and brake lights are functioning. Lastly turn on your hazards and make sure all lights are working properly.

2. Is your battery up for the job?
If your battery is harder to wake up than you on a cold winter day when you are under warm blankets, then you might want to consider finding a replacement. If you have seen any signs of hesitation trying to start your car or it takes a couple of tries before it turns over, be sure to take it in to get checked. The last thing you need is to wake up at 7:00am, take a shower and run out the door to make it to work by 8 just to find yourself sitting (calmly, uttering kind words – I’m sure) in a vehicle that isn’t as anxious as you are to start moving.

-A good set of windshield wipers is essential for winter driving... cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by soundman1024

3. When’s the last time you replaced your windshield wipers?
Let’s restrict your viewing range and make everything blurry as you walk down a log bridge over a pit of alligator’s. You’re effectively giving yourself the same disadvantage when you use faulty or worn wipers. Consider purchasing a special set of wipers designed to cut through snow and ice during the winter and a normal set for the other seasons. A good set of wipers is vital to safe driving during the winter.

4. What good are wipers if you can’t get that gunk off of your windshield?
Make sure you have plenty (top it off, carry extra) of winter formula windshield wiper fluid. Not having any liquid might lead to catastrophic results, using stuff that just smears everything on your windshield wouldn’t result much better. Get yourself some quality liquid that is made to handle below freezing temperatures.

TIP* be sure to have a needle or pin in your glove compartment!
Have windshield wiper fluid but nothing is coming out? Check the spray nozzles for debris or wax and clear the passages using the needle/pin.

5. Practice vehicle optimism – keep your tank above half full!
Having a full tank of gas will reduce condensation, resulting in easier starts during cold days. Too much condensation could result in water being frozen in your fuel lines preventing gas to get to your engine.

6. Think Heavy.
This one is for rear-wheel-drive vehicle owners. Put a couple of bags of sand in your trunk to offset the heavy weight of your engine to create more friction to your back tires. If you get stuck the extra weight will help your tires grip to the snow. Having a heavier rear-end will help you drive in winter as you will be less prone to slipping and sliding than with an empty rear on your rear-wheel-drive vehicle.

7. Inspect your engine’s belts and hoses
If you have any frayed or cracked belts they don’t stand a chance to survive the cold and strenuous weather. Belts are generally inexpensive – you don’t want to be caught stranded because you kept ignoring your cars annoying cry’s for attention.

- Tire tread looking like this? I'd say your good to go!... cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Rennett Stowe

8. I hear tanks (at least Snow Cats) handle pretty well in snow…
So be a tank. Be sure that the tread on your tire is beefy enough to handle the snow and ice on the road. Even though modern technology enables us to drive “all season” tires, consider buying a set of specialized winter tires. You’ll have better traction and control and you’re normal tires will have much less wear on them sitting on the sidelines.

9. Check your Anti-Freeze Levels
*BE SURE YOUR ENGINE IS COMPLETELY COOL BEFORE ATTEMPTING TO CHECK ANTI-FREEZE LEVELS* Using a tester (you can find at any auto supply store) check the levels of your anti-freeze to ensure a 50/50 ratio (50% Distilled Water / 50% Anti-Freeze) which will protect against freezing down to -34 degrees F. Flush if needed or adjust by adding more anti-freeze / distilled water to get the correct ratio.

10. Prepare your survival kit.
It’s winter; your kit needs a little tweaking. In addition to the standard medical items and car jack,  be sure to include blankets, food bars, water bottles, sand/kitty litter (to help with traction when stuck), flares, help sign, jumper cables, and a flashlight (with extra batteries) to prepare yourself for any situation.

Take the time to prepare yourself and your vehicle this winter and you should have no problems getting around and being ready for any situation. Hopefully this list will make those that love winter love it more and those that hate winter hate it less as you find yourself getting around on the roads just fine!

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