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How Do I Prepare My Vehicle for a Winter Storm?

Posted on: December 17, 2021

Traveling in the winter can be dangerous. Even if there is no snow or ice on the ground when you leave, there could be in a few hours. Having to go anywhere when the weather is bad presents dangers to you and everyone in your vehicle.

You can take certain steps to protect yourself and your passengers and avoid a car accident. Here are some tips to keep you safe while out driving in winter weather.

Winter Vehicle Checklist

Before the heavy winter weather hits our area, run through a quick checklist and look over certain components of your vehicle. If you know a winter storm is approaching, go check these items right away.

Tires. Start by checking the treads on your tires. You should see clear valleys in the threads, showing that you have traction available when driving. You can also try the penny test: Hold a penny upside down in the tread; if you can see all of Lincoln’s head, your treads are too worn.

You also need to check your tire pressure. You can find your car’s recommended tire pressure on the inside of the driver’s door.

Fluids. Check all your vehicle’s fluids: oil, coolant, wiper. Fill these up if they are too low. Remember that your coolant level should not be filled to capacity, as it needs some room to boil up when it gets hot.

Battery. Checking your battery level might be something you need a mechanic to do, unless you are comfortable doing vehicle work yourself. The last thing you want is to end up with a dead car battery on a cold winter road. Cold weather reduces the capacity of your car’s battery. Make sure your battery has enough life and enough charge to keep you going through the winter season.

Supplies. Before a winter storm hits or even before winter, put some extra supplies in your vehicle. Having these with you at all times will ensure that, whether you are heading to the store or hours away to see family, you have emergency supplies if you need them.

Carry the following items:

  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Hand crank or battery powered radio
  • Ice scraper
  • Flares
  • Jumper cables
  • Shovel
  • Rock salt or kitty litter
  • Warm blankets
  • Hats and gloves
  • Water
  • Food bars
  • Phone charger
  • Extra medication

Do not carry candles. Many people like to put candles in their car during the winter in case they get stuck. However, candles present a significant fire hazard and do very little to keep you warm.

Driving in the Snow

Driving in winter weather requires patience. It is even better if you have experience driving in snow and ice because these cause unique things to happen to your vehicle. Heed the following tips to help keep you safe when driving through less than ideal winter road conditions.

Travel time. Allow more time to travel. Driving in winter weather, even if there is not a great deal of snow or ice on the road, will take extra time. Not only can there be more traffic as people go to see family and friends, but also snowplows and salt trucks can clog up the roadways. Give yourself extra time to get to your destination, whether that is running errands or traveling hours away.

Snow and ice removal. Never drive your vehicle without first removing the snow and ice that may have accumulated. This is the law in many states. Snow weighs your vehicle down, making it more challenging to stop fast. You need to clean the snow off your windshield and also off your roof. Never pour hot water on your windshield to remove ice; that can cause your windshield to crack. Always use an ice scraper to remove the ice. Another tip is to turn on your car and the front windshield defroster for a few minutes before starting to scrape the ice away, as it can help loosen it and make your job a little easier.

Driving at an appropriate speed. Speeding has the potential to cause accidents at any time of year, even more so during inclement weather. The faster your car travels, the more time you require to slow down. If you hit an ice patch or are driving on light snow, you may not be able to stop before hitting the car in front of you.

Wearing a seat belt. Even if you are just going around the corner to pick up a few items, wear your seat belt. Winter weather presents unique road hazards, and too many drivers simply do not know how to drive in these conditions. You can end up in an accident quickly. Do not take a chance at getting injured. Wear your seat belt every time you sit down in your vehicle.

Avoiding distractions. This is a good tip for any time you are behind the wheel, but especially if there is a winter storm approaching. Keep your phone out of arm’s reach and make sure any passengers know you need quiet to help you stay focused. Driving always requires your attention, even more so when the road conditions are less than ideal.

What to Do if You Get Stranded

Although it is a scary proposition, if you get stranded on the road in a winter storm, do not panic. If you have prepared correctly, you have items in your car that can help keep you safe. The following guidelines will help.

Call 911. It is hoped that you have not suffered any injuries, but if you have, calling 911 will get you the help you need. If you are stuck in a snowbank or off the side of the road, call a friend or family member so someone knows where you are stranded.

Note your location. Tell the person you are calling where you are but also drop a pin in your map on your phone so you know where you are located. If you see there is a town, gas station, or other store close by, determine if you can walk to get help.

Check the exhaust tailpipe. If your tailpipe is covered with snow, do not turn on the vehicle. When the tailpipe is blocked, carbon monoxide can enter the cabin of the vehicle and poison you. Clear the area around the tailpipe if you can.

Dig out. If you can use your shovel to dig yourself out, do so. Use the kitty litter to help loosen the snow around your tires.

Use flares. Especially at night, make sure other cars coming by can see you. Maybe even someone will stop to help or give you a ride to safety.

Ration food and water. If you are in a truly remote location, ration your food and water. You do not know how long you will be stuck, and you want to make sure that you do not lose too much energy.

Run the car intermittently. Do not run the car the entire time you are stuck. You do not want to run out of gas. However, running the car occasionally will help to prevent hypothermia.

Freehold Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Help Drivers Involved in Winter Accidents

Taking steps to prepare yourself for the winter weather ahead is a wise idea. But even with all the right preparation, you cannot predict how other drivers will act on the road. Some may even cause an accident with you. If that happens, you may be able to collect compensation from the negligent driver. To help you, speak with the Freehold car accident lawyers at Ellis Law. For a free consultation, call us at 732-308-0200 or complete our online form. We are located in Freehold, New Jersey, and help clients throughout Freehold, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn, New York, and New York City.