Eight Tips for a Safe Winter Road Trip
If for your family, “To grandmother’s house we go” means 300 miles, 12 bathroom breaks, 5 sing-alongs and many, many hours of family fun driving through snow, then this list is for you. Here are some tips on how to prepare your vehicle for a winter road trip, and what to do once you’re on the road to make sure your family and your vehicle arrive at your destination happy, healthy and ready for the holidays.
Get an Inspection and Tune Up
Before the snow even starts falling, and long before your trip, get a multi-point inspection. Your mechanic will check your car’s tire pressure, windshield wipers, battery, steering & suspension, and all fluids should be changed.
Install Quality Windshield Wipers
Your ability to see the road clearly is one of the most significant aspects of safe winter driving. Installing special wipers with protective blade covers really does make a difference when the snow falls. You can also purchase wiper fluid specifically formulated with de-icers to help keep your blades clear.
Consider Winter Tires
If your winter road trip includes temperatures regularly below 45 degrees and lots of snow and ice, your vehicle could definitely benefit from winter tires. Winter tires or snow tires) offer better stability and control, and are designed with a unique technology that allows them to stay flexible in freezing conditions – improving traction and grip.
Make an Emergency Kit
Stock your trunk with a shovel, blankets, ice scraper, jumper cables, flashlights, batteries (and maybe even an extra cell phone battery), flares, sand or kitty litter, a first aid kit, water bottles and some non-perishable food. You might think, “How will I ever have room for all this AND my family’s luggage!?” Our answer to you is, just make it work. If you find yourself stranded by the side of the road, you’ll be glad you made room for the stuff that really matters.
Share Your Plans
It’s smart to share your travel plans (timetable and travel route) with someone who is not on the road trip with you, especially if you’ll be driving in rural areas without a lot of traffic. This person can serve as your go-to in case anything goes wrong.
Pay Attention to the Weather + Know Advisories
Weather can be very unpredictable, but you can at least try to prepare. Consider downloading a weather app (like this one from The Weather Channel so you can plan around snowstorms. Knowing the meanings of all the different weather advisories will help you decide if you need to panic and reroute, or if you can keep driving on. Here are the definitions, according to the National Weather Service.
- Winter Weather Advisory: This is issued when 2 to 4 inches of snow, alone or in combination with sleet and freezing rain, is expected to cause a significant inconvenience, but not serious enough to warrant a warning.
- Winter Storm Watch: This is issued when there is potential for significant and hazardous winter weather within 48 hours. It does not mean that this weather will occur for sure, only that it is possible.
- Winter Storm Warning: This is issued when significant combination of hazardous winter weather is occurring or imminent.
Don’t Run Out of Gas
This is true for any road trip, but it’s especially important in the winter. If you can help it, never let your gas level get below half-full in the winter. Running low on gas allows moisture to pool in your gas lines, and when the temperature drops, your gas lines freeze. A frozen gas line is as good as no gas line, so try not to allow this to happen.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Driving in severe winter weather requires a certain kind of patience and finesse. Make sure you’re well rested, well fed, and ready to take on the challenge. Accelerate and decelerate slowly, and always give yourself extra time to maneuver and slow down. Arriving at your destination late is better than not arriving at all.
Before you hit the road this winter, schedule a multi-point inspection at Sears Auto Center. Our trained technicians will make sure your car is ready for the harsh winter conditions ahead, and can even help you decide if winter tires are right for you. Here’s to a safe, warm, family-friendly winter road trip!