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Tips and Tricks for Winter Driving

Thinking ahead and being proactive is one of the best ways to prevent an emergency from happening while driving in the wintertime. If something does happen when you're on the winter road, and you're not prepared, then it's already too late.

That's why it's important to plan ahead for winter driving. Our first tip is simple yet crucial: know the weather before you go. If you're driving a long way, check the weather all along the route. If you see significant snow and high winds, you may want to change your route or delay the trip altogether.

The second tip we have is to have some type of kit with winter essentials in case an accident does occur. What should you put in a winter emergency car kit? Read on for useful tips on the things you should have packed and ready before the temperature starts dropping.

First Aid Winter Emergency Car Kit

You can buy a winter emergency kit from a number of stores or online. These kits are easy because they're ready to go! Or, follow some of our Caliber Collision suggestions to create your own compact first aid winter emergency car kit. Your winter emergency car kit should include at least the following:

  • A waterproof container like Tupperware to hold the supplies
  • Bandaids of all shapes and sizes
  • Medical tape to hold on gauze pads or splint a finger
  • Gauze pads
  • Scissors to cut the tape or clothing, if necessary
  • Antiseptic cream that is available over the counter
  • Ice pack/hand warmers that get hot or cold instantly
  • An emergency rescue blanket
  • Minimum one gallon of water
  • Winter Car Essentials

    Whether we are currently approaching colder weather or not, it's good to have the essentials handy in your car. Don't forget to have these items at the ready. You can store them in your trunk or pack them under a seat until needed for winter driving.

  • Extra clothes and blankets to keep warm
  • Ice scraper and brush
  • Kitty litter - this item may seem strange but it can provide traction if you get caught on ice
  • External battery for charging a phone and other devices
  • External battery for jumping a car
  • At least one gallon of water, preferably in an insulated container
  • Non-perishable snacks
  • Jumper cables - it's also a good idea to read up on how to use them properly!
  • Flashlight and/or flares with spare batteries
  • Foldable snow shovel
  • Insulated snow boots with good traction
  • Spare antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid
  • Winter Car Prep

    Now that you've stocked up on your winter car essentials, it's important to prepare your car for the upcoming cold weather.
    Unfortunately, cold weather tends to bring car problems with it. Aside from frozen water potentially doing damage to doors, side windows, and making things stick, tires will lose air during big temperature swings, and vehicles also need more power to start in the cold.
    For this reason, you should not delay in keeping up with your scheduled maintenance. Make sure your tires have the recommended air pressure and have been rotated regularly. If you wake up one morning and the temperature has dropped significantly, check your tire pressure with a tire gauge to see if they lost pressure. Be sure to get your oil changed at the recommended mileage, and have all your car's fluids topped up before winter comes. Caliber Auto Care is the perfect place to visit for all of your maintenance needs before traveling on wintry roads.

    It may also be a good idea to check over your windshield and wiper blades. If your windshield shows any signs of cracks or chips, it is best to replace it before the weather turns -- check out Caliber Auto Glass if you need help there. Small chips and cracks can spread drastically when the temperature drops suddenly. Replacing wiper blades before every winter is also a good practice to ensure that they will be working properly when most needed.
    If you are able to have a professional look over your vehicle before winter, make sure that your battery is a part of their service. Car batteries tend to die more often in the winter. The cold weather puts added strain on batteries, and a dead battery would certainly add stress to your winter commute. A professional can test the battery and check it over for any corrosion on the terminals.
    We will say again: check weather and road condition reports often. Even if you are not planning on leaving the house today, it is important to keep up with the status of the roads. Layers of ice and snow may have been piling up for a while, and if you are not driving with snow tires and/or all-wheel drive, icy roads can be downright impassable.

    Winter Driving Tips

    Always give yourself extra time when planning to drive in the winter. It's likely that your regular commute will take longer than you are used to. In fact, it's better that they do. Driving slow in winter gives you more time to react to others.
    If you're planning on doing some longer drives this winter, be sure to fill up your gas tank all the way. Don't let it get below a quarter tank if you're driving somewhere with very few gas stations. You don't want to be caught without gas, especially if you get stranded somewhere cold.
    For areas where snow is more prevalent, it might be useful to change over to snow tires at the start of the season. In most areas, you can keep your snow tires on for the duration of the winter. Don't forget to check the local weather in both your current area and your destination. That way you will know what to expect.

    Driving In Snow or Ice

    It's best to avoid driving in snowy or icy conditions if you can. If it becomes necessary to go out in bad weather or you hit unforeseen snow, here are some important things to remember:

  • Stay calm
  • Make sure your windows are clear of snow and ice
  • Wear comfortable clothing: too many layers can make it hard to check your blind spots!
  • Go slow
  • Don't slam on the brakes or accelerate quickly
  • Avoid stopping while going uphill
  • When going down hill, let the car's momentum take you without applying the gas
  • Increase the following distance between your car and other drivers
  • Stay on main roads: they are more likely to have been cleared
  • Keep your low-beam headlights on, even during daylight hours
  • Do not use Cruise Control
  • If available, use your four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive system if your car does not activate it automatically. This gives you the best chance to maintain traction in snow-packed roads
  • If Your Car Gets Stuck in Snow

    In the unfortunate event that your car is stuck in the snow, first analyze the situation. Why is the car stuck? Is it because the car has no traction on slippery ground, or has snow around the vehicle physically trapped it? Here are some tips to try to free your car from the snow:

  • Always wear warm clothes, gloves, and snow boots when shoveling snow
  • Keep dry if possible
  • Clear built up snow from around the vehicle - dig out from underneath the vehicle as well
  • Clear your exhaust of any snow
  • Don't spin your wheels if you're not getting traction: this is likely to get you more stuck!
  • Use kitty litter or floor mats under your tires to help gain traction
  • Try melting ice with salt
  • Turn your wheels: you may find a spot with better traction
  • Rocking - if you can get a little traction but can't get unstuck, try to rock the car forward and back to get unstuck

    If you do get stuck, there's a chance you could be there for a while. That's why it's important to prepare ahead with a winter emergency car kit, just in case!

    *Disclaimer: drivers should consult certified professionals before attempting any vehicle maintenance and should assume their own risk while driving in hazardous conditions

    Sources used:
    https://exchange.aaa.com/safety/driving-advice/winter-driving-tips/#.X48iTUJKjBI
    https://www.dummies.com/home-garden/car-repair/how-to-jump-start-a-car/
    https://www.almanac.com/content/winter-car-emergency-kit#
    https://www.wsdot.com/winter/files/winter-driving-what-to-carry.pdf
    https://blog.calibercollision.com/
    https://www.redcross.org/store/first-aid-supplies/first-aid-travel-kits
    https://www.canadadrives.ca/blog/tips/driving-tips-for-winter-in-canada
    https://www.canadadrives.ca/blog/maintenance-tips/5-ways-to-start-preparing-your-car-for-the-winter-now
    https://www.businessinsider.com/car-winter-storage-prepare-cold-weather-2019-11#check-your-battery-and-have-it-replaced-if-necessary-1