Whether the thermometer is reading 50 degrees or well below zero (brrr!) it’s important to stay safe when you’re out there on a winter road. Once temperatures drop and the streets ice over, drivers should take extra precautions to help make the roadways safer. Here are a few ways you could help prepare your car (and your driving habits) for winter.
1. Check the Weather Before You Drive
Sure, there are times when unexpected storms hit, but often you can check the forecast to see what’s coming before you leave your home. If the weather looks questionable, consider running those errands another time. If you know certain roadways are prone to congestion, or certain bridges are prone to icing over, search for an alternate route. You should also leave some extra time to get to your destination, since traffic may be slower and your route could be unsafe in places. The last thing you want to do is to be running late and speed down an icy road.
2. Check Your Tires’ Air Pressure
If that little “low pressure” symbol lights up on your dashboard when winter hits, the change in temperature could be to blame. A tire’s pressure drops as the weather gets colder—approximately 1 PSI for every 10 degrees, according to Discount Tire. Even if the light on your dashboard doesn’t come on, check your tires (and don’t forget your spare!) once that first cold snap hits to make sure they’re at the right pressure. According to the folks at Goodyear, an underinflated tire causes reduced fuel economy. If you want to inflate your tires yourself, many gas stations have an air filling station. If not, head to your nearest auto shop. (Try your local Discount Tire—they do air checks for free, even if you’ve never gone to them before!)
3. Put Visibility First
Before you set out on a winter drive, make sure you can see out of your car at all angles. Take the time to use an ice scraper to clear off your windshield, side mirrors, and windows. To help keep your windshield clear when precipitation starts, change your wiper blades at the beginning of the winter season, and keep your windshield washer fluid nice and full.
4. Get Roadside Assistance
If you’re stuck on the side of the road in wintry weather, things can get dicey–fast. Having a Roadside Assistance plan can help ensure that you have things like mechanical help, gas delivery, and 24-hour emergency towing when you need them most. Make sure you have the number of your Roadside Assistance program saved in your phone’s contacts ahead of time so you can reach them at a moment’s notice. (Not sure if it’s worth the price? Direct Auto’s Roadside Assistance plan pays for itself after just one use!)
5. Put Together a Car Emergency Kit
Another way to be prepared for all contingencies is to keep an emergency kit in your car. This kit might include blankets; road salt, kitty litter, or sand; water; a flashlight; gloves; a reflective hazard triangle; jumper cables; a windshield scraper; and cell phone charger.
6. What to Do If You Skid on Ice
Traveling over ice patches is scary; losing control of your car and sliding on them is even scarier. If this happens to you, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety suggests that you do not slam on your brakes! Instead, take your foot off the gas pedal, and turn in the direction of the skid. The car may slide again as you straighten out, so be prepared to turn again when that happens. (This tip brought to you by folks who really know their winter weather: the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.)
Safe Driving with Direct Auto Insurance
Gearing up for cold weather? Check out more of our tips about preparing to drive in bad weather and winter car maintenance. Already got your cold weather prep down pat? Comment below to tell us how you stay safe on the roads in wintertime!