1. Increase Your Wheel Power
Snow tires or chains are a must-have in areas where harsh winters are common. Don’t wait until the first big snow to change over to a deeper tread. If you use chains, make sure to keep them in your trunk, not in the garage, in case a bad storm catches you by surprise. Make sure your tires are inflated to the correct pressure, and check the pressure regularly. Tire pressure drops by about one pound per ten degrees of temperature, so as the weather gets colder, your tires can become dangerously under-inflated.
2. Keep It Clean
Many states require you to clean off every square inch of your car before hitting the road. Even if your state doesn’t mandate this, it’s an excellent idea. Slippery winter driving conditions and poor visibility are a deadly combination. Make sure all of your windows, lights, and mirrors are 100% clear, and brush away any excess snow from your hood and roof to prevent it from blowing into your or other drivers’ field of vision. Also, check your wiper blades and fluid regularly. There’s little worse than a windshield full of muddy spray and no way to clear it away!
3. Get a Full Auto Check-Up
Breaking down in the summer is a mild inconvenience, but breaking down in the winter can be deadly serious. On top of that, cold weather is harder on your car’s working parts. Before the worst winter weather hits, take your car in for a check-up. Make sure your battery and charging system is in good shape. Replace your break pads now, rather than later. Check your cooling system for leaks, and make sure your anti-freeze is always topped off.
4. Take It Slow
Even if you have four-wheel drive and studded tires, driving in the snow is dangerous. When the roads are slick, your tires have only the smallest grip on the pavement’s surface, and that can be easily broken. Take it easy on the gas and the brakes, and be extra aware of your surroundings. Even if you’re an expert at driving in the snow, not everyone who shares the road with you will be. Keep extra space between yourself and other drivers.
5. Be Well Stocked
Keep your trunk full of emergency supplies, including blankets, extra gloves, boots, flashlights, a compact or folding snow shovel, ice scrapers, repair tools, etc. Make sure your gas tank is always near full so you can run your vehicle’s heater if you have an accident or get stuck. Keeping a bag of sand in your trunk is also a great idea; not only can you use the sand to gain traction on ice or snow, the extra weight could also provide just the leverage you need. And never drive without a fully-charged cell phone programmed with emergency roadside assistance numbers.