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Car Care 101 Rules of the Road by Sears Auto

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Emergency Scenarios: Snowed In

Emergency Scenarios: Snowed In

Everyone loves a good snow day – the kind you spend cuddled up by the fire, working from the comfort of your house while the kids cheer because schools are closed. But if you get trapped in a snow storm, it can quickly turn from fun to a disaster. Below, we’ve outlined some tips to help you survive if you get caught in a sudden blizzard or just need to rescue your car from unexpected snowfall.

If you live in a snowy climate, be prepared:

  1. Always keep your gas tank at least half full during winter months. If you get trapped in a storm, you’ll need as much gas as possible.
  2. Keep emergency materials in your car. Experts suggest packing a fleece blanket (fleece is one of the few materials that retains its ability to provide warmth even if it gets wet), emergency food, a first aid kit and a container capable of holding snow in the interior of your car (to collect snow and melt it into water to hydrate if necessary). Sears Auto Centers recommend the RoadHandler® emergency kit, including:
    1. 8-ft. 10-gauge booster cables
    2. Crank flashlight
    3. PE gloves
    4. Reflective triangle
    5. Poncho
    6. 25-piece first aid kit
    7. Assorted cable ties
    8. Reflective vest
    9. Hose tape
    10. Multi-tool

Packing your materials in a trunk you can’t access from the interior of the car won’t help you in an emergency, always keep an emergency kit in the vehicles cabin

  1. Consider using LED bulbs.LED bulbs use about 1/12 of the energy of an incandescent bulb and cost less than a tank of gas. In an emergency, conserving the car battery is extremely important and LED bulbs can make a big difference.[1]

Stranded in the Snow

If you get stranded:

  1. Don’t panic. Check your cell phone and GPS to see if they are still functioning. If so, use them to contact authorities immediately.
  2. Always stay in your vehicle. If people are coming back to look for you, there is a better chance they will see a car than a person, and you will be able to survive longer in your vehicle than in the elements. Only leave your car if you are familiar with the surroundings and are certain you can easily walk to safety, or as a last resort if you feel you have no chance of surviving unless you try to walk to safety.
  3. Keep your seat belt on. In winter conditions it is possible that other drivers may slide into your vehicle after it has become stuck.
  4. Crack the back window slightly. The tail pipe may become obstructed by snow, which can cause deadly carbon monoxide fumes to get into the vehicle while the engine is running. Opening the back window gives those fumes a place to escape and allows fresh air to flow into the vehicle.
  5. Only run the engine for 10-15 minutes every hour. This will allow you to heat the car, melt snow into water and even warm a meal if you have packs of survival food. It will also conserve gas and prolong the life of both the engine and the battery. In an emergency, your vehicle becomes your lifeboat and you want it to be functional for as long as possible.
  6. Remember to keep moving. Clap your hands, stomp your feet and move around as much as possible at least once an hour. Try to keep your mind active without thinking about the worst possible scenarios. Keeping yourself from added stress will help you make smarter decisions when necessary.[2]
  7. Make your car is visible for rescue. Hang bits of bright-colored cloth or plastic from the windows. If the snow has stopped falling, open the hood of the car as a sign of distress.

Snow Shoveling Safety

If your car gets snowed in without you in it:

  1. Gather your gear. You want capable tools that won’t damage your car.
    1. Use a broom with feathered, soft bristle tips to do the main removal work.
    2. Use an ice scraper for the windshield.
    3. Be sure to wear gloves and lots of layers, as your hands will be cold but your body might become hot while clearing.
  2. Start digging out the car.
    1. Start with the wheels and the sides of the car, especially around the driver’s side door. Snowblowers can be extremely helpful in this situation.
    2. Shovel the removed snow away from the car, other cars and pedestrian walkways.
    3. Brush the snow off the roof of your car before you clear the hood, as much of the snow will land there.
    4. Use a scraper to clean the windshield, side windows, side mirrors, back window and any parts of the roof and hood that are not yet free of ice. Do NOT pour warm water on the windshield, as this will cause the glass to crack.
  3. After a major blizzard, snow may have filled the engine compartment.
    1. Prop open the hood, remove the snow and leave the hood open to let everything dry off.
    2. Check the windshield washer outlets to make sure they are clear as you may need to clean your windows more often during winter months. Use caution when clearing them, as they can sometimes become dislodged completely.
  4. Try to unlock the door with the key if the car doesn’t have a remote.
    1. As soon as you can get into the car, start the car and turn on the heat and the defrosters.
    2. If the locks are frozen:
      1. Use de-icer to clean the ice off or try another door.
      2. If you don’t have any de-icer on hand, use a lighter or match to heat up your key before trying to unlock the door.
  5. Make sure the tailpipe is clear. Exhaust must be able to flow freely from the tailpipe or it may build up in the car’s interior.
  6. Free up the wipers, if they are frozen. Be sure the wipers are turned off before you start the car; if they were running when you stopped the car, it may damage the wiper motor if you start the car and they can’t move. Let the windshield defrost before you begin running the wipers so as not to damage the blades by running them across ice.
  7. Do not drive away unless you have a clear path to do so.[3] Never spin your tires excessively to get your car moving. In some instances, the centrifugal force can cause your tires to explode, potentially injuring bystanders.

Follow these tips to stay safe during winter weather. Come into your local Sears Auto Center before you hit the road this winter for a full vehicle check-up to keep you and other motorists on the road safe and sound.


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