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September 30, 2015

Winter is Coming: 6 Ways to Prepare Your Car for Safe Driving

Winter_DrivingMany cold weather climate regions are currently experiencing a warmer-than-average fall that makes it feel like summer is still going strong.

But you’d be wise to remember that, no matter how it may feel now, real winter weather is coming…

People all over the northern United States will soon be hauling out their down coats and industrial-strength boots.  One morning in the next couple of months, you’ll wake up and see inches of snow piled up outside your door and, if you’re like many, you’ll think, “Oh no, I haven’t even winterized my car yet!”

Every year, winter weather conditions cause hundreds of thousands of accidents.  And often these accidents are not due to bad driving skills or poor decisions – in many cases, Mother Nature is the main culprit.  Though you can’t control what she does, you can take measures to improve your safety by preparing your vehicle for the conditions ahead.

1.     Tune Up
If you take your car for a check-up at the mechanic once a year, do it before winter weather hits.  Tell them that you want to make sure your ride is in tip-top shape for cold weather and that you’d like them to check the following:

  • Battery
  • Brakes & Brake Fluid
  • Headlights
  • Heater
  • Defroster
  • Radiator
  • Ignition
  • Exhaust
  • Emergency Flashers
  • Oil

You may even want to give that list to the mechanic to ensure that no important area is left off.  Then, when you pick up your car, ask for the rundown on everything that was checked and repaired. 

2.     Sweat the Small Stuff
If anything in your car seems like it’s not working properly or if you suspect an issue of any kind, address it now.  Seemingly minor glitches are often exacerbated by extreme weather, so you should nip any problems in the bud before the freezing temperatures and snowstorms hit.

3.     Winterize Your Windshield
Visibility is absolutely crucial to safe winter driving, so you should take the time now to get ready.  Not only should you make sure that your windshield wipers are working well and that you have plenty of wiper fluid, but consider getting special winter versions.  You can buy wiper blades and fluid that are created especially for extreme winter conditions.  Considering that you can get both for less than $20, there’s no reason not to make these easy safety upgrades.

4.     Tire Upgrade
If you’ve ever gotten your car stuck in a snow bank or experienced the fear of spinning out on an icy road, you know the importance of good tires. If these are common issues for you, you may want to invest in a set of winter tires that have better tread and more resilient rubber.

At the very least, you should have your tires inspected and rotated to avoid wearing the treads away in the same spots year after year.  And throughout the winter, be sure to check the pressure on a weekly basis.

5.     Prepare for the Worst
You should keep an emergency kit in your car all year round, but being prepared for an emergency is especially important in the winter.  You never know what might happen – in the big Chicago blizzard of 2011, nearly 1000 cars became stranded on Lake Shore Drive and many were trapped in their cars there for as long as 12 hours.  It’s just this type of situation that makes winter emergency kits so important.  Here’s what yours should contain:

  • Shovel
  • Window snow scraper
  • Extra windshield wiper fluid
  • A bag of kitty litter (to use as traction in case you get stuck)
  • A blanket
  • Extra insulated, water-proof gloves
  • Jumper cables
  • A basic first aid kit
  • Waterproof matches
  • Flashlight
  • Non-perishable snacks and water

 6.     Extra Protection
Sometimes it seems as if winter driving is ruled by Murphy’s Law: If something can go wrong, it will.  So there’s really no such thing as being too prepared.  Fortunately, there are dozens of innovative products that have been designed to help drivers be ready for anything.  Depending on the challenges you know you’re likely to face, you may want to pick up a couple of these handy items:

  • A portable jump starter so you don’t need to wait for someone to come help you out in case your battery dies
  • Tire chains to add extra gripping power to your year-round tires
  • A windshield snow cover
  • Lock de-icer for those freezing mornings your key won’t even go in the frozen lock
  • Cell phone power bank
  • Throw a couple gift cards in small denominations in your glove box – when a kind stranger helps shovel your car out or gives you a jump, you’ll have something to thank them with
  • Whenever you expect snow, pull your windshield wipers away from the windshield and use special blade covers (or a pair of long tube socks) to prevent them from freezing to the car.

Driving in the winter can be stressful, nerve-wracking and downright dangerous if you’re not prepared.  But you shouldn’t let common, predictable issues threaten your safety.  Put these tips into practice and you will greatly minimize risks when you’re on the road during the coldest months of the year.

About the Author:  John Zaid is an auto accident lawyer in Houston and the founding member of Zaid Law.  He is also an avid blogger and enjoys sharing his knowledge and experience to help people avoid injuries and accidents whenever possible.  To learn more, visit www.zaidLaw.com today.

 

 


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