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Preparing for long-distance driving in winter weather

Planning a lengthy drive during the winter months? Make all the usual preparations you would ordinarily do for a long drive, then take some extra precautions due to the shorter daylight and unpredictable weather of the winter season.

Basic preparations for a long drive any time of year include:

  • Check your vehicle’s oil. If an oil change is due soon, consider having it done the week before you depart so you don’t need to have interrupt your trip for service. Because modern lubricants are typically very good quality, vehicles using conventional oil usually need their oil changed every 5,000 to 7,500 miles (not 3,000), according to separate reports by the AAA and The New York Times. Your car’s age, your driving conditions (city vs. highway), and your driving habits (if you regularly tow heavy cargo, for example) might alter your calculation.
  • Check other fluids, too. The list includes transmission, differential and engine coolant levels. Ask to have these fluids checked and topped off during your oil change.
  • Check hoses. One of the first areas where hoses show weakness is near the clamps and collars where they are secured within your engine. Look for blisters and bulges.
  • Check belts. Particularly in older vehicles, look for ragged spots, frayed cords, tears or cracks. Turn them by hand to inspect all surfaces.
  • Check the brakes. Ask a mechanic to inspect them for you.

ingearauto

Winter preparations:

  • Check the battery. Your battery should be examined before any long drive, but it’s especially important during winter months. Sustained exposure to frigid temperatures, particularly temperatures at or below 0° Fahrenheit, can alter a battery’s internal chemistry and make it tougher to retain a charge. If your battery is older than two years, it’s smart to have it checked. Some auto parts stores will do this for free.
  • Check tire tread and tire pressure. Cold conditions cause tire pressure to fall. For every 10 degrees of temperature drop, tires lose one to two pounds of pressure. It is important to keep your tires within their recommended pounds per square inch (PSI) to maintain optimal traction, handling and durability. Carry chains in case you reach an area where they are required.

car emergency

On the road:

  • Stay alert. Daylight hours are shorter in winter, and driving in the dark can make drivers feel like it’s late in the day and they should be sleeping. If you feel yourself beginning to nod out, pull over and rest for up to 20 minutes. Always avoid driving when fatigued.
  • Avoid using cruise control. Cruise control is not intended for driving on slippery surfaces such as wet, snowy or icy roads. Plus, it can reduce a driver’s attentiveness to changes in road conditions. Your goal is to stay alert.
  • Listen to local weather forecasts. Seek out news-oriented radio stations that provide updates on road and weather conditions. Doing so allows you to avoid surprises.
  • Be aware of terrain variations on your route. Will you be gaining elevation to cross passes in mountainous regions? Refer to road-condition websites to keep yourself informed on what lies ahead. If snow is forecast for the evening, leave early and cross the pass before conditions worsen.
  • Accelerate and decelerate gradually. Press your gas pedal evenly and slowly when traction is unpredictable. Accelerating quickly can easily lead to a skid and a loss of control. When stopping, slow down far in advance of a stoplight or any vehicle stopped in front of you. It always takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Avoid speeding. Accept the fact that everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Adjust your mental approach when behind the wheel in challenging weather. Realize that when conditions worsen, your original schedule is going to be extended. Take a deep breath and accept that new reality. All customary maneuvers, from turning to stopping, often take longer in winter conditions than they do on dry pavement.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full: Doing so can prevent a fuel line freeze-up.
  • Check your exhaust pipe: Don’t let slush or snow clog your exhaust. Carbon monoxide gas could build up in your cabin if the pipe is clogged.
  • Be patient: Recognize many drivers around you be inexperienced in winter driving.

car emergency

Emergency items to carry:

  • Warm clothing, gloves and a blanket. Carry at least one winter coat and hat in your trunk so you won’t get caught unprepared in the event of a breakdown. Ideally, the coat will be waterproof, or include a waterproof shell. Your exterior layer should be a high-visibility color with reflective patches.
  • Mobile phone. Have your phone’s contacts section equipped with the numbers of any roadside emergency services of which you are a member.
  • Food and water. Roadside emergencies can take hour. It’s comforting to have snack items and bottled water in your vehicle to make your situation seem less dire. These items are particularly important if children are with you during a breakdown.
  • Jumper cables or portable battery-starter. Battery complications tend to occur more commonly in cold weather. Be ready to respond to any surprise. 

Any light source can be beneficial, but lights specially engineered for unexpected events on highways can deliver a huge boost in peace of mind. INGEAR, a specialist in lighting for auto maintenance and roadside emergencies, offers a pair of excellent options for keeping you prepared for the unknown:

    autoAlert 4-Way Roadside Emergency Flashlight: Beyond this flashlight’s traditional high-beam/low-beam settings, its handle features a bank of 18 LEDs, transforming itself into a wide-angle work light capable of illuminating a broad area. This allows you to keep your hands free while inspecting your vehicle. The handle also offers a strip of 10 brilliant red strobe lights, which make it easy for oncoming traffic to see your location. Built with aircraft-grade aluminum, the light also features a magnetic base that accommodates hands-free work.
    autoAlert 4-Way Roadside Emergency Flashlight

    autoAssist COB Slide Worklight: This inventive specialty light offers a traditional flashlight in its head. But extend its handle and you activate a compact light tower that uses COB (Chip on Board) technology to produce a brilliant, 200-lumen wide-area worklight. It offers both a magnetic base, which can be affixed to any metallic surface, and an extendible hook—both of which allow to position the light wherever you prefer while keeping your hands free for inspection or repair work.

     

    Prepare wisely. Give yourself the confidence that you are well-equipped for safe long-distance travel in winter conditions.

     

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