Winter Checklist for Your Vehicles
Cold weather is on its way, so is your vehicle ready for cold mornings and snowy or icy roads. Are you ready for cold weather? It is time to inventory your vehicle’s emergency gear and to pull out the swimsuits and sandals and replace them with cold weather clothing. Vehicle maintenance is important as well, and so there are certain things that should be checked before the first cold snap.
Already you may be thinking, “Really another checklist for winter driving”. Yes, there are hundreds, if not thousands of articles out there on this very subject, and yet every year people jump in their cars and head out unprepared.
They wear their office/work clothing and inadequate footwear when snow and ice storms are predicted, because they think it is only a few miles to work and I can beat the storm. Many have no gloves, hat, or any cold weather survival gear in their vehicles.
Some end up stranded, and this is when tragedy strikes, and so yes, another article, call it a friendly reminder, if you will, that nature is unforgiving and we are not yet able to control it or even forecast it very well.
1.) Depending on your location, you may be required to have snow chains available. Signs usually go up stating they are needed to proceed along the highway or road, so you better have them if you live in certain parts of the country.
Keep in mind studded tires are not a replacement for chains if tire chains are called for. Typically, there is a weight requirement when it comes to studded tires, some states do not allow them on vehicles over 10,000 pounds. Obviously, make sure the tires themselves are serviceable, because worn tires are a hazard regardless of the weather.
All wheel drive vehicles are usually exempt from chain requirements, but check your state laws. There are only certain times of the year that you can drive with studded tires/chains so check first. Studded tires are not nearly as common as they were a few years ago, because of all wheel drive and advances in tire chain technology.
2.) Anti-freeze should be checked and it is always a good idea to have your system flushed and checked once a year. Adding anti-freeze on top of old anti-freeze or on top of water dilutes the solution and this could lead to problems when the cold gets extreme. You can check the solution yourself with a coolant tester available at any parts store or at many retail stores.
3.) Have cold weather shoes/boots in the vehicle. While you should always stay with the vehicle if it is safe to do so, you may have to hike out in some circumstances, or even explore in and around the vehicle so you need the proper footwear. You cannot walk on slippery surfaces with high heels and loafers and some people have been stranded, because their footwear would not let them get 10 feet from their vehicle if the ground is slick with ice or snow.
5.) A cell phone charger could be a lifesaver, so make sure you have the right one in the car, and having a spare battery is not a bad idea either. Batteries are expensive so it is not always practical to have extras lying around, but keep it in mind if you happen to find a deal on one. The point is you always need the means to communicate. You cannot let a dead battery come between you and survival.
6.) If you get stranded for more than a few hours you will need water for hydration. Have a gallon of fresh water on hand at all times. Break it up into bottles that can be carried with you, and in some cases you may have to protect it from freezing if your vehicle is left outside for an extended period in the cold.
7.) Food is important for morale. You won’t starve if you go for 24 or 48 hours without any, but you need it to keep your energy levels high, and to keep your spirits up. Food as it digests will also help maintain proper core body temperatures. When choosing, consider what effects the cold will have on your foods. It is not likely you would have the means to cook foods but some Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s) will come supplied with a heater.
8.) Extra battery/battery pack and cables for jump starting a dead battery. You can jump start your vehicle battery from a spare battery if you have the cables. Battery packs can be used and the cables are already attached, but you have to match the cranking amps with your battery. In the manual for some packs the fine print may state works best or only works with six cylinder vehicles, so match the pack with your vehicle to ensure it has the power, because in some cases you only get one chance.
9.) Basic tool kit and other gear. Duct tape, small battery operated or hand crank radio with a weather station, multi-tool and small tool kit for minor repairs. Today’s cars are complicated and most repairs would be out of the question alongside the highway, but you can replace radiator hoses, or patch one that holds long enough to get you to a service station.
Make sure you know how to change a flat tire and that the jack and lug wrench are in the car and they actually match the vehicle. Carry matches, lighters, road flares, and signal flags, along with glow sticks, flashlights and candles in a metal can for emergency heat and light.
10.) Do not get in a hurry and stay informed on weather conditions. Leave yourself plenty of time if you are worried about getting to work or to anywhere on time. You simply cannot rush when the roads are slippery and you need to be patient.