Icy pavement accounts for 154,580 crashes annually, while snow and slushy pavement cause 175,233 crashes, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. But accidents can be avoided with proper planning and winterization. Proper planning means having everything you need before you head out for a winter drive. Don’t assume you’ll have a warning before disaster strikes. In 2014, thousands of people, including young school children, were stranded overnight during a freak Atlanta snow and ice storm.
Here are five ways to prepare your car for winter and ensure you survive a winter wonderland on our roads:
Get a check-up
Give your car a thorough check-up that includes your ignition, brakes, wiring and hoses to ensure everything is working properly. Checking your spark plugs and battery are also good practice to prevent unforeseen problem on the road or a battery quitting when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere in freezing temperatures.
Before winter sets in, have the radiator serviced and brakes and brake fluid examined. It’s also imperative to look at the antifreeze level to keep your car running throughout the winter. Remember windshield wiper fluid may not hold up in freezing temperatures. Replace it with a wintertime mixture that won’t freeze.
Check and replace your tires
If you do nothing else, ensure your tires are in good condition and ready for rough weather. The time to replace worn tires is now, not when the cold sets in and ice and snow hit the roads. Regularly rotate and balance your tires and check the alignment. Neglecting the alignment can keep the treads in good shape. Otherwise, you risk an uneven tread and compromise your ability to control your car on slippery roads.
Pack extra supplies
It’s not enough to just prep your car for winter and hope for the best. Road accidents, delays and inclement weather can occur at any time. Protect yourself with an emergency kit easily accessible in your car. Pack flashlights and extra batteries as well as a first aid kit. Check your booster cables and bring a bag of sand or kitty litter for traction if you’re stuck in snow or ice. Blankets, wool hats, sweaters, water and high-protein snack foods are also essential for emergency situations. Consider packing a flare if you live in a remote area and ensure your cell phone is charged at all times.
Know what to do if you get stranded
Prepping your car and packing an emergency kit are only part of the safe winter driving process. Know what to do if you get stranded in your car. Only run the heat for up to 10 minutes at a time and only if you know the exhaust pipe isn’t blocked. Don’t assume the exhaust will melt the snow as you could suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning. But even if you know the pipe isn’t blocked, running the car occasionally ensures you’ll keep gas in your tank when you need the heat. Although it may sound counter-intuitive, keep at least one window open slightly to prevent heavy snow and ice from completely sealing you in. Use a brightly colored cloth to attract someone’s attention, or light a flair a safe distance from the car if possible.
More APN articles on winter car kits and winter preparedness available below: