To ensure safe travel during the winter months it is important that your vehicle is operating properly. The following checklist is excerpted from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Get Your Car Serviced. Visit your mechanic for a tune-up and ask them to check for leaks, badly worn hoses, or other needed parts, repairs, and replacements.
Stock Your Vehicle. Carry items in your vehicle to handle common winter driving-related tasks or supplies you might need in an emergency, including the following:
Snow shovel, broom, and ice scraper.
Abrasive material such as sand or kitty litter in case your vehicle gets stuck in the snow.
Jumper cables, flashlight, and warning devices such as flares and emergency markers.
Blankets for protection from the cold.
A cell phone with charger, water, food, and any necessary medicine (for longer trips or when driving in lightly populated areas).
Plan Your Travel and Route. Before heading out, make sure to check the weather, road conditions and traffic. Don’t rush through your trip and allow plenty of time to get to your destination safely. And always familiarize yourself with directions and maps before you go, even if you use a GPS system, and let others know your route and anticipated arrival time.
Go Over Your Vehicle Safety Checklist
Battery: When the temperature drops, so does battery power. For gasoline and diesel engines, it takes more battery power to start your vehicle in cold weather, the driving range is reduced when the battery is cold.
Lights: Check your headlights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers, and interior lights. Be sure to also check your trailer brake lights and turn signals, if necessary.
Cooling System: Make sure you have enough coolant in your vehicle
Windshield Wiper Reservoir: You can go through a lot of windshield wiper fluid quickly in a single snowstorm, so be prepared for whatever might come your way by ensuring your vehicle’s reservoir is full of high-quality “winter” fluid with de-icer before winter weather hits.
Windshield Wipers and Defrosters: Make sure defrosters and windshield wipers—both front and rear—work, and replace any worn blades
Floor Mats: Improperly installed floor mats in your vehicle may interfere with the operation of the accelerator or brake pedal, increasing the risk of a crash
Tires: As the outside temperature drops, so does tire inflation pressure. Make sure each tire is filled to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure, which is listed in your owner’s manual and on a placard located on the driver’s side door frame. The correct pressure is NOT the number listed on the tire.
Regardless of the season, inspect your tires at least once a month and before long road trips. It only takes about five minutes. Don’t forget to check your spare tire.
If you plan to use snow tires, have them installed in the fall so you are prepared before it snows. Check out https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/tires for tire ratings before buying new ones and look for winter tires with the snowflake symbol.
Look closely at your tread and replace tires that have uneven wear or insufficient tread. Tread should be at least 2/32 of an inch or greater on all tires.