Buckle up! It’s that time of the year that road trips aren’t fun anymore, but we have to make them. So how do you make each mile count? In this article, I will share with you my top tips on how to prepare your car for a winter trip. Ride along, shall you?
1. Safety First
The major causes of death during winter are car accidents. This is according to a report published by FEMA. And most of these accidents happen due to impaired visibility, as a result of snowstorm whiteouts and black ice. You need to ensure your windscreen is up to the task. Invest in a quality windshield wiper fluid that is designed for winter. Ordinary wiper fluids tend to freeze quickly in the cold. Fluids meant for use in winter remain liquid despite the severe temperature drop and they also help loosen snow and ice from the windshield for better visibility.
2. Prepare the Engine
You can get your engine ready in two ways:
The Engine Oil
Right before the onset of winter, replace your oil with a winter grade oil. This oil is thinner and therefore able to resist freezing. In technical terms, a winter grade oil should have a viscosity of 5W-30 and lower.
This is the appropriate time to top up your anti-freeze. Ensure you check the coolant and anti-freeze level before starting your drive. If the coolant freezes, you car engine will “knock”. That means no motion, no AC, and no hope. Now having a faulty car in a freezing cold environment full of snow is an experience you don’t wish ever to encounter. You can purchase a kit for checking your car engine’s coolant level from your local hardware store.
3. Check The Tires
Winter is not the season to drive with old worn out tires. You need every little grip on that tire. In fact, if you live in regions with severe snowing, you need to invest in special winter tires. A good tire thread should “swallow” a penny’s Lincoln’s head.
Secondly, ensure the tires are well inflated to the manufacturer’s recommendation. You can do a quick check with simple pressure gauges available in most auto supply stores.
4. Get Armed With Appropriate Accessories
Finally, you need to be prepared in case of an emergency while driving through the snow. This is very important. Your toolkit should have a flashlight, first aid kit, road flares, an extra pair of gloves (in case you need to get your hands dirty along the way), ice scraper, warm blankets, and a bag of sand to aid in traction. These are just a few of the must haves but feel free to include any other tool you feel will be of help.
Some Driving Tactics During Winter
- Overpasses and bridges freeze first. Don’t steer off the road suddenly or change speed when you approach them.
- Anticipate stops and turns in advance. This will give you ample time to make decisions gradually.
- Resist the temptation to over speed. A speeding car will lose control much faster than a moderately driven car.
- Don’t drive slow either. Your car needs momentum to cruise past the layers of sliding snow to avoid getting stuck.
- Keep a good distance from trucks and heavy vehicles. They will spray rain and snow directly on your windscreen causing obstruction.
- Keep your lights on. You need to see and be seen.
The Bottom Line
The above tips are not only essential when preparing your car for that winter safari, but they could also make a difference between death and arriving safely. Watch out for the news and take note of any blocked roads. Winter safaris can be creepy, but with a few preparations, you should be good to go.