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Winter Drive Survival Kit: 5 Things to Keep in Your Car This Season

Winter Drive Survival Kit: 5 Things to Keep in Your Car This Season

Winter Drive Survival Kit: 5 Things to Keep in Your Car This Season

Winterizing your home in case of an emergency snow-in is one major task you should attend to before winter, but you must also consider the possibility of being stranded inside your vehicle during a snowstorm. Assembling a "winter survival kit" for your car is one of the best ways to prepare, and there are many items you would do well to include. Here are our tips for the 5 most important things to include in your survival kit: 

  1. Warm Clothing

A warm blanket or sleeping bag that covers your whole body will be essential if you are trapped in sub-zero conditions for many hours. Also include extra winter hats, gloves, and scarves. Finally, stock a few pairs of warm socks to change into if those you are wearing become wet, sweaty, or simply aren't warm enough.

  1. Non-Perishable Foods

Store two or more gallons of pure drinking water along with small packages of food that can be eaten without being heated. Don't rely on canned goods unless you use pull-open lids or include a can opener and silverware in a sealed plastic bag. Store snack foods like raisins, trail mix, energy bars, and small candy bars.

  1. A Small, Fluorescent Flag

If your vehicle becomes stuck in the snow, tie a small, brightly colored flag onto your car's antenna or drape it out of the side window. Fluorescent flags are more visible at night, particularly if your dome or head lights are reflecting light off of it. To save the battery, only use your emergency flashers as potential rescue vehicles approach, but always have your flag out and always have at least one vehicle occupant awake and watching.

  1. A Cell Phone Car Adapter

Most cell phone models have a car adapter available that will plug into the lighter socket and charge your phone while traveling and during an emergency. Calling 911, police, or friends and relatives will often shorten your emergency situation by many hours. Bringing your cell phone and being able to charge it while stranded can even be critical to survival if the weather outside is sufficiently severe. Should you want to conserve car battery, it’s also a good idea to travel with a portable cell phone charger.

  1. An Emergency Distress Sign

Pre-make a poster board sign with your name, address, and phone number written on it in large characters. Also bring a permanent marker so you can add your destination to the sign if you need to leave your vehicle. While staying put in the shelter of your car is normally best, if you must leave, put the sign in the windshield so rescue searchers can find you if necessary.

Place your winter survival kit under a passenger seat, if possible, in case the trunk becomes frozen or jammed shut. Also, always keep at least a half tank of gas during winter driving, and always let someone know where you are going and what route you will take. Finally, if you bring a shovel, do not overexert yourself and avoid getting clothing wet unless you have extra clothes with you. Shoveling in low temperatures greatly increases the chances of a heart attack, and wet clothes cannot insulate you and may lead to hypothermia.

Keeping a well-stocked winter survival kit in your vehicle and following basic safety tips will do much to maximize your odds while stranded in your car during a snowstorm. These kits are relatively cheap, easy to assemble, and not infrequently save people's lives.

How to Drive in Snowy Weather: Five Tips for a Safer Commute

How to Drive in Snowy Weather: Five Tips for a Safer Commute

How to Drive in Snowy Weather: Five Tips for a Safer Commute

Driving on our nation's highways is challenging enough during the springtime, summer, and fall, but when winter arrives, the dangers of the road increase dramatically. Learning how to handle the snow and ice is crucial when you need to commute on a daily basis, so it is important to follow winter driving tips, such as the five given below, to best understand how to drive in snowy weather, and minimize the risks of your winter drive.

1. Use the Right Tires

One of the most important ways to keep yourself safe on a snowy road is to be sure your tires have sufficient tread and are fit for winter use. New tires generally start with treads about 10/32 of an inch (7.9 mm) deep, and good traction is maintained down to 6/32 or 5/32 inch (4.7 or 3.9 mm) - but not beyond. You can buy a tread depth tester or ask a tire shop to check the measurement for you. Also make sure you are using winter tires. Summer tires can harden so much that they lose all traction and slide right over the snow in sub-zero temperatures.

2. See and Be Seen

Visibility is as important as traction. Use your headlights as soon as it gets even a little bit dark outside, but don't blind other drivers with your brights. Make sure your wipers are in good condition, and fill up with plenty of deicing fluid. Also carry an emergency can of deicer and an ice scraper in the car. Finally, run your defrost before you begin your commute, and have a dry rag on hand to wipe any lingering condensation off the edges of your windshield.

3. Slow Down and Manage the Hills

You should never drive over 45 mph on an icy road, and it is best to go even slower. If you accidentally get going too fast and need to slow down, never slam down suddenly on the breaks. Instead, pump them so you decelerate gradually. Furthermore, keep a distance of at least four seconds between you and the next driver instead of the three-second, non-winter following distance.

When you approach a hill, come at it with enough momentum to carry you to the crest without pressing down hard on the gas. Once you reach the top of the hill, be sure to reduce your speed on the descent. Note that the worst thing you can do is to stop mid-hill and start from a stand-still since that would likely lead to a tedious ascent with wheels slipping and spinning all the way up.

4. Make Your Car a Safe Place to Be

General car safety measures become even more important in extreme winter weather. Be sure to keep a half tank of gas or more to prevent gas-line freeze-up. Check that your exhaust pipe is not clogged with snow, ice, or mud since carbon monoxide poisoning could result. Inspect your car from top to bottom to make sure it is not a danger to yourself or other drivers.

5. Make It Easy to Get To/From Your Vehicle

You don't want to drive carefully all the way home from work only to slip on your own driveway. If you have a heated driveway, don't forget to turn it on. Do not neglect your other snow removal methods. Consider investing in effective and efficient, heated floor mats to ease the walk from your car door to your front entryway.

There are numerous ways to make your winter commute safer. We have mentioned five: tire traction, high visibility, safe driving speed and braking, general car safety practices, and a snow-free entry path. Putting these winter driving tips into practice will greatly reduce the risks of winter travel.

10 Must-Do Steps To Make Your Car Winter-Ready

10 Must-Do Steps To Make Your Car Winter-Ready

10 Must-Do Steps To Make Your Car Winter-Ready

If you live in an area that experiences cold temperatures, sleet, and snow during the winter, there are certain steps you should take to prepare your car and yourself for inclement weather. You should also be prepared if you're traveling from a warmer region to a cooler region for road trips or during  the holiday season. So, locate your owner's manual, put on some work clothes, and use these tips from the pros for getting your car winter-ready.

Change the Oil

Your car's engine needs regular oil changes to prevent excessive wear and seizing of engine parts. The frequency of oil changes varies from make and model. Additionally, note the viscosity of your oil in winter time, as excessive thickness can make it harder to start the engine. Most experts suggest a 5W oil for winter use, though you should consult your owner’s manual for the ideal recommendation for your car model.

Check the Battery

Trying to find someone to help jump your car when the battery depletes isn't a good situation. Check the posts and connections on your car battery to ensure they're free of corrosion. If your battery is more than three-years old, have it checked for charge-holding capacity. Proper battery storage with a charger can avoid some of the problems faced in winter, and an effective battery charger costs less than buying a new battery every year, so invest in something that will keep your battery sharp throughout the winter.

Prepare Your Tires

Cold weather can reduce air pressure in tires. Check air pressure every two weeks to make sure the tires stay at the recommended levels. If you live in a hilly region with a fair amount of snowfall each winter, consider switching to snow tires for the season.

Service the Radiator

The radiator is an important component that helps keep your car from overheating. Dirt and debris get lodged in the narrowly-spaced fins, which reduces the radiator's efficiency. Take your car to an auto service professional to have the radiator flushed, cleaned, and refilled.

Check the Heater and Defroster

The heater can keep you comfortable in cold weather, while the defroster provides safety by keeping the windshield clear of foggy condensation. If the windows inside your car become too foggy, open the airflow intake on the heater to allow outside air to mix with heated cabin air.

Brake Inspection

Check the brake fluid level and top off if needed. If your brakes feel "soft" or slow to engage, take your car in for a professional brake inspection. Scraping and squealing noises from the rotors and drums require the attention of your auto pro.

Change Spark Plugs

Old and dirty spark plugs or distributor caps can prevent your car from starting in any weather. If your vehicle's ignition turns over just fine but is slow to start, take it in for an inspection. Even if the spark plugs aren't the problem, your car has an issue that needs to be addressed.

Check the Windshield Wipers

New windshield wipers are a small investment for safe driving. Additionally, change the windshield-cleaning fluid to a winter blend which prevents freezing. If your wipers are streaking, you might want to change the blade to avoid diminished visibility during poor weather.

Fuel Treatment

Add a bottle of fuel deicer to your gas tank as the temperatures drop. Repeat the process each month through the winter. Try to keep the gas tank filled above the three-quarter mark. A full gas tank prevents ice from forming in the tank and fuel line.

Emergency Preparedness

You never know when your car will break down or a snow storm stops your car in its tracks. Prepare a winter driving safety kit of the following items to keep inside each car you drive.

  • First-aid kit

  • Blankets, boots, clothes, and gloves

  • Bottled water and food

  • Small shovel, ice scraper, glow sticks, and flashlight with extra batteries

  • Jumper cables and toolkit

  • Flares and small reflective traffic cones

  • Spare tire, tire-pressure gauge, and tire-changing equipment

These tips to winterizing your car are really important for safe winter driving. A visit to your auto mechanic can take care of most of these tips, but it's good to know what should be done for continued do-it-yourself checks through the colder months.