How to Prepare for a Winter Road Trip

Winter road trips can be exciting, but if you're not prepared, you may be in for more excitement than you bargained for. If your route takes you through areas with cold temperatures or snowy mountains, you need to be sure that you and your vehicle are ready.

Steps

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    Prepare for winter driving by taking your car to the shop for a check-up. Ask the mechanic to check your vehicle's brakes, lights, oil, tires, exhaust system, heater and defroster.
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    Have your battery tested, especially if your battery is more than three years old. Auto repair stores usually perform this test for free if you don't own your own battery tester. Clean any corrosion from posts and connections.
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    Check your vehicle's belts and hoses for wear and tear. Replace any belts and hoses that look worn.
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    Have your vehicle's oil changed. Read your vehicle manual or ask your mechanic about the best type of oil to use for a winter road trip, as cold temperatures will cause oil to thicken.
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    Check the antifreeze level in your radiator. Use a mixture of half water and half antifreeze, which will prevent your radiator from freezing, even in very cold temperatures. Antifreeze is easy to test using an inexpensive antifreeze tester that you can purchase at hardware or auto parts stores. An antifreeze tester is a small plastic gadget that will determine the level and condition of antifreeze in your engine.
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    Replace any worn out wiper blades, as worn out blades will decrease visibility in the event of rain or snow.
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    Keep your gas tank at least half full to keep your vehicle's gas lines from freezing in cold temperatures due to build up of condensation in the lines.
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    Check the windshield washer fluid. If you're traveling in a cold climate, use a fluid that is rated for a minimum of −40 °F (−40 °C). Keep an extra container of fluid in the trunk.
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    Inspect your tires and replace any that are worn. Check your tires often throughout your trip as tire pressure decreases in cold weather and under-inflated tires can be dangerous, especially on slick roads. If you'll be driving in snow, use winter tires which will provide better tracking and improve vehicle braking in the even of a skid.
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    Pack a winter survival kit that includes an ice scraper, shovel, sand or kitty litter, road flares, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, small tool kit, candle, matches, tin can, booster cables, tow rope, flashlight with extra batteries, extra shoes and socks, extra gloves, a change of warm clothing, paper towels, blanket and tool kit, at least one jug of water and extra food such as granola bars.
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    Plan your route in advance, using up-to-date road maps. Use main roads which are more likely to be plowed or sanded in bad weather. Let at least one friend or family member know your route, destination and your expected arrival time.
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    Check road conditions and weather on your anticipated route and make any necessary adjustments such as altering your route or going earlier or later in the day. If possible, avoid night driving during inclement weather.
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    Pack plenty of snacks in case you're unable to stop for meals. Include CDs or books on tape. If you're traveling with kids, pack a few games to prevent boredom.
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    Prepare for winter emergencies. Carry a car charger for your cell phone, as your cell phone may be your lifeline if you car breaks down or if you're lost or stuck in the snow. Program your phone with any important numbers, such as emergency road service or weather or traffic reports.

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Categories: Road & Rail Travel