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Winterizing Your Car and Driving

Its that time of year again when we dust off the hats and gloves, put the extra quilt back on the bed, and start loading up on supplies to make endless quantities of soup. One area that is commonly overlooked as we prepare for the cooler months, however, is our vehicles. Although it can feel tedious or time consuming, it is important to prepare for anything the winter weather may throw your way so you can drive safely and confidently throughout the winter months.

The first step of winterizing you vehicle is to make sure you have the proper supplies to help you if you get stuck in snow or ice. Such supplies, as recommended by the Today Show, include:

-An ice scraper for your windows. Preferably one with a brush on top if you park outdoors so you can remove the snow off the top of your car before you start driving.

-Extra gloves and thick socks

-A blanket

-Non-perishable food such as granola bars, water, any medications you use on a regular basis

-Window deicer

-A flashlight

-A first aid kit

-Kitty litter or sand to use for traction

-A lighter

-Safety triangles or flares

-Paper towels

-A small shovel

Although this list is long, these tools could make the difference between life, death, or, in the very least, a very large tow truck bill. If this seems like a lot to pull together, fear not, there are many kits on the market that offer most of these supplies packaged in a convenient bag or bucket.

The next step in preparing for cooler temperatures is to check your car to make sure it is safe to drive in snow or ice. The Weather Channel suggests the following safety inspections and modifications to improve your car’s safety for the winter:

-Check your battery to make sure it hold a strong charge. You can do this at most auto shops.

-Check your car’s windshield wiper fluid and antifreeze levels-make sure they are up to the line in their tanks to decrease the chance that the fluids will freeze.

-Check your windshield wipers and make sure they completely clear all obstructions in their path across your windshield.

-Check the tire pressure of all four tires. When tires are low on air, the space between the treads is diminished meaning less traction on slick roadways. Make sure you check the pressure to the number on the door jam, not the numbers on the side of the tires to ensure proper inflation for your car’s specific make and model.

-Check you brakes to make sure they are working and in good condition.

-Try to keep your gas tank as full as possible to prevent the gas from freezing and decrease panic if you get stuck.

 The final step to prepare for winter driving is to review the dos and don’ts of driving in icy conditions. AAA suggests:

   -The dos:

-Do clear off the exterior of your vehicle completely every time you drive. Poor visibility and falling snow are very dangerous to you and the drivers around you.

-Do go slower than usual; especially around corners or curves. Icy conditions require more time to increase and decrease speed.

-Do create a buffer-zone around your car by leaving about three times more space than usual between your car and the one in front of you to decrease the odds that you will hit another car while braking

-Do brake slowly.

-Do leave plenty of space between your car and any snowplows you may encounter.

-Do remember to be extra careful on bridges, overpasses, on/off ramps, and roads with little traffic-these roadways tend to freeze first.

-If you start to skid, do slow down, but do not slam on your brakes, and try to steer in the direction you want to travel.

-Do stay home if possible. The best way to stay safe is to stay out of nature’s (and other drivers’) way.

   -The don’ts:

-Don’t speed even if you are the only car on the road.

-Don’t let your tires spin if you get stuck; instead try digging around your wheels or laying down some sand or kitty litter to improve traction.

-Don’t stop for anything unnecessary. You may get stuck because it takes more momentum to start moving from a stop on icy roads.

-Don’t stop suddenly or hard. Icy roads require more time to stop and suddenly slamming on your brakes may cause you to slide forward or lose control of your vehicle.

-Don’t drive fatigued. You will need to be at the peak of your game

-And, as always, don’t use your cell phone while driving and do your best to minimize all distractions in your car so you can dedicate your full attention to the road.

Winter driving can be scary, especially since we do not get much practice here. It can be made safer, however, with a little planning and preparation before wintery conditions occur. We hope you stay safe driving this winter! For more information about winter driving we recommend checking out this one-page cheat sheet about safe winter driving from the Department of Labor.

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