When the temperature plummets, this may signal the beginning of the holiday season, cozying up by the fireplace, and much-anticipated snow play. However, the prospects of fully enjoying the winter weather may be slim without the proper preparations, especially when it involves your car. While a scenic drive through a winter wonderland can quickly turn into a precarious situation, there is plenty you can do to prevent that from happening.
It should come as no surprise that harsh extremes can really put your car to the test, and when your car isn’t performing at its best, you may be more likely to have an accident or emergency. While it is important that you keep up with the basics such smog checks, checking fluid levels, and rotating tires, you must also add these items on your checklist:
- Climate control and defroster
- Tire pressure
- Winter tires
- Battery volt test
- Lights in and outside the vehicle
You may be aware of some cautionary tales, for example, those involving drivers who end up with an auto mishap and need to sue a mechanic for negligence. This is a good reminder of why it’s important to recognize the signs of your car needing special attention even before regularly scheduled maintenance. Recognizing red flags such as engine check lights, any odd noises coming from brakes or engine, reduced gas mileage, stalling, or shaking, may all be telltale signs that something is wrong.
Beware of Road Conditions
While rain and snow can happen during any season in some parts of the country, most areas tend to experience these more frequently and steadily during the winter months. Checking weather and traffic conditions before you venture off is always a good idea, but extreme weather may require you to be more diligent. With technology today, you likely have the luxury of receiving up to date information before you even pull out of your driveway. This can help you avoid hazardous conditions altogether such as such as flooding, traffic jams, road closures, or an icy road accident, and provide alerts such as snow chain advisories.
Weather and road conditions are not the only things that may require a last-minute check; your vehicle does, too. With driving conditions more challenging in the winter, being involved in an emergency or stuck on the roadside waiting for help can be more dangerous during this time of year. To avoid this, make it a habit to conduct the following tasks upon your departure:
- Clear off snow especially on windows, mirrors, and lights.
- Have navigation settings ready to go before you pull out.
- Warm the engine if your car requires it.
- Double check windshield defroster.
- Ensure you have enough washer fluid and gasoline.
- Have chains ready in working condition.
If you get stuck waiting on the side of the road or have an emergency it might take longer to get help. Therefore, emergency and first aid kids are even more invaluable. It can be helpful to include a cellphone charger, jumper cables, a flashlight, a knife, and blankets.
Be a Considerate Driver
The winter months are not ideal for taking risks when driving, so continue being a courteous and safe driver. This means keeping eyes on the road, minimizing distractions, using hands-free devices, and taking government advisories seriously whether they stress using snow chains or staying home altogether. Some specific driving practices that can keep you safe in conditions with low visibility, slick roads, or uneven surfaces include the following:
- Keep a consistent, comfortable speed when going uphill.
- Avoid sudden stops.
- Allow ample braking time.
- Don’t take chances driving through flooded areas, especially when they are unfamiliar territory.
- Increase the space between your vehicle and the one in front of you.
- Be patient and follow the reduced flow of traffic.
- Avoid sudden speed changes.
Enjoy Your Surroundings
Winter is chock full of activities to enjoy, and the last thing you want putting a damper on your cold-weather fun is a vehicle malfunction or an auto accident. By following these practical guidelines, you can look forward to fully embracing everything that the season has to offer while steering clear of mishaps that can be easily avoidable. After some pre-winter preparations, patience, and extra effort to be a courteous driver, you can look forward to maximizing your winter itinerary without compromising anyone’s safety.