Winter is just around the corner, and with it comes a lot of things to enjoy: gathering with family for the holidays; watching professional football, basketball and hockey; and getting out for hunting season, to name a few. But with winter comes inclement weather, and inclement weather causes accidents. In fact, icy roads cause over 150,000 crashes per year, and more than 1,300 people are fatally injured in these accidents.
But you do not have to put your life and the lives of your loved ones at risk just because of poor road conditions. Taking steps to get your car in the safest condition possible for winter weather can help to keep you safe, even when driving through ice and snow.
- Get your vehicle serviced
Before the snow, sleet and freezing temperatures arrive, take your car to a trusted automotive shop to get it serviced. The mechanic should check that the battery is in good condition and has enough power to start your car in cold conditions. The cooling system should have the correct ratio of antifreeze to water. Brakes should be in good shape to maximize your stopping power in suboptimal conditions. And belts, hoses, spark plugs and cables should all be checked to make sure a breakdown doesn’t strand you in freezing temperatures.
- Maintain tire pressure
Keeping the correct pressure in all your tires is crucial for maintaining traction. For each 10-degree change in temperature, there is a gain or loss of 1 pound per square inch of tire pressure. Check your tire pressure often, and keep your tires filled to the manufacturer’s recommended PSI. The correct PSI can be found on the driver’s side door jamb or in the owner’s manual.
- Consider winter tires
Rubber compounds in winter tires are designed to resist hardening in freezing temperatures and help the tires grip the road better. While winter tires usually aren’t a necessity in our part of the country, they can still add to your car’s cold-weather safety.
- Keep washer fluid at the ready
This may seem like a mundane detail, but windshield washer fluid goes a long way to increase visibility in poor conditions. Snow, sleet, ice and rain can all dirty your windshield and make it hard to see. Washer fluid can remedy this. Be sure to use a fluid that contains antifreeze to keep it from freezing up your lines, and always try to have an extra bottle in the trunk.
- Pack a safety kit
Being stranded in the winter is much more dangerous than being stranded when the weather is nice. While we can often rely on cellphones if we get into trouble on the road, if you’re traveling in rural areas or other places without reception, there’s a chance you could be stuck for a while without help.
Along with a cellphone and a car charger, your safety kit should have car tools, warm clothing, nonperishable food, water, jumper cables, a first aid kit, a flashlight, an ice scraper and matches. You can never be too prepared for an emergency.