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How to Prepare Your Car for a Road Trip in the Winter
Or if you are like me – you just choose to forget all about driving in ice and snow during summer.
1. Your mechanic should perform a basic tune-up.
2. Have a mechanic ensure your car is in optimal condition for winter
As your mechanic to go through a vehicle safety inspection checklist with you. Let them know you where you will be going and what type of conditions you might drive through. They should be familiar with traction laws (see the tips) and requirements for mountain driving.
3. Check the lights and blinkers
4. Check the windshields and wipers are in optimal condition
Caution: Be Prepared with this Winter Driving Safety Checklist
Get Your FREE Copy Now!! Receive the Winter Driving Checklist to prepare your car for your winter road trip as a FREE gift for signing up for the newsletter. Plus, you will receive inspiration and tips to launch into your next family adventure.
Snow or all-weather tires are vital to keeping control of your car in the winter. One time I assumed that my tires had plenty of tread heading into winter, unfortunately, I was wrong.
I was alone with 4 kids on a 200-mile winter road trip and spun out. Fortunately, I was able to gain control of the war before hitting someone or sliding off the mountain. My poor kids were panicked though. The 4-year old was so scared he threw up when we came to a stop. Poor little guy.
5. Check the age, tread, and inflation on your tires
6. Get new snow or all-weather and chains if necessary
7. Plan your route, have the information about the roads you will be driving and tell someone where you are going.
Make a plan to check in with them throughout your journey.
8. Check the Weather and Road Conditions
Prepare your car and make sure you are stocked up for winter stocked up
You should carry basic snow supplies, as well as supplies to help in case of an emergency, in your vehicle.
9. Brush and scraper
Every autumn as winter sets in, I find myself trying to warm up the car and scrape my windshield with my library card. Fortunately, I am usually at home, and my fingers take enough of a beating that I remember to buy a scraper.
10. Winter grade washer Fluid
Stock an extra gallon (or two or three) of winter-grade windshield washer fluid. Water or regular washer fluid will freeze to your windshield in cold weather.
11. Start with a Full Tank of Gas
If you are stopped or stuck waiting for help you may need to stay warm. (Keep the tailpipe clear and run the engine intermittently to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. More on emergencies in at the end)
12. Pack you tire chains and know how to use them
Not only chain a good idea, but some also stated such as Colorado and California may require all vehicles to use chains in winter driving conditions.
Embarrassingly, I borrowed Charles’s car one time and couldn’t get the chains on. Fortunately, I was a small side street in town and was able to maneuver to another street.
13. Snow Removal and Traction Supplies
Prepare and Pack a Winter Emergency Kit
14. Buy a winter emergency roadside kit
15. Check the kit for essential supplies and add extra if needed
16. Be prepared to survive a winter night in your car
17. Pack snow clothes and warm blankets
18. Keep the cold weather gear accessible
Tips on Winter Driving
19. Drive slowly and cautiously, even with 4-wheel drive.
20. Know how to use your 4-wheel drive
21. Accelerate and decelerate slowly
22. Keep going slow and steady.
23. Do not over-correct if you slide
24. If you encounter animals on the road, do not swerve.
Safety Tips While on the Road in Winter Conditions
Keeping kids safe inside the car is important.
25. Keep Kids activities and blankets within their reach
This tip actually comes straight from our article – 17 Tips for a Road Trip with a Toddler
Reaching into the backseat to hand young children a blanket or drawing pad is dangerous anytime but especially in winter. Keep blankets,
26. Dress warmly even inside the car
27. Beware of the dangers of wearing a coat under the car seat harness
28. Wear seatbelts properly
29. Keep kids in 5 point harness car seat.
I was in a small fender bender with my son when he was 2 years old. Fortunately, it was just a small accident but he slept soundly in his car seat through the entire ordeal.
Have the car seats installed correctly before driving? Check NHTSA’s child passenger safety recommendations. This car seat is the one we use to get 3 across in a small car.
What to do In a Winter Roadside Emergency
30. Do not leave your car
In an emergency do not, I repeat do not, leave your car and venture into a snowstorm unless you’re in a very unsafe situation such as on railroad tracks or balanced on the edge of a cliff. The “I shouldn’t be alive TV series” had a couple of episodes where people left the car.
31. Bundle up and wait for help
.If you do stop, bundle up, have some snacks and stay hydrated. Place the bright markers and flares out so emergency workers can see you and calling on your phone. If you don’t have service, check if your GPS will send an emergency notification on your cell phone or GPS device.
32. Run your car with caution
If you do need to run your car, make sure the tailpipe is clear of snow or debris. The NHTSA advises running your car and heater intermittently to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning and asphyxiation.
33. Remain calm for you and your kid’s sake
We have found our kids are cooperative and understand problem situations but, if we are calm or even playful, they are generally unfazed by the stress.
A winter road trip can be fun and safe. We have more road trip resources to help you make your family vacation a success.
- 17 Tips for a road trip with a toddler
- How to Make a DIY Travel Binder for Kids
- The best vacation packing checklist for families
- 60 Inspirational Family Travel Quotes Sure to Ignite Travel Fever
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The showdown between RVShare vs Outdoorsy for renting an RV. Based on both research and personal experience of renting and owning campers. Find out who we suggest you should rent from.
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