Tips for Keeping Your Car and Family Safe: Winter Driving

Most Californians are fortunate to live in areas where the notion of “winterizing” our vehicles is not necessary, but winter driving season is near so keep reading if you live in or are planning to visit an area where the barometric pressure can take a sharp dive well before the winter solstice.

Winter Driving Image

The Department of Consumer Affairs’ Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) offers the following tips to keep you, your passengers, and your vehicle safe for driving this winter.

 WINTERIZE YOUR VEHICLE

Below are procedures you may already follow for proper vehicle maintenance, but driving during inclement conditions such as snow and ice really ups the ante.

  • Start with your owner’s manual

Be sure your vehicle is up-to-date on its recommended maintenance, including changing the engine oil and filter, and adding antifreeze, coolant, brake, automatic transmission, windshield wiper and steering fluids if needed.  Be sure to use the correct engine oil because engine oil thickens below a specific temperature.

  • Carry tire chains

Practice placing the chains on your tires before venturing out.  It’s better to get the hang of it before you need to use them.

  • Check the battery

Corrosion, cracks, and dirt can affect battery cables and hinder performance.

  • Be sure your brake system is in good shape

Have a licensed adjuster check pads and linings. Visit the BAR website at www.bar.ca.gov to find a licensed brake station.

  •  Inspect the lights

The inspection should include turn signals, brake, fog, and high beams. Cleaning your car’s lenses can maximize visibility.

  • Check hoses and belts

Look for any cracks, soft spots, or bulges that could be a potential problem and find a qualified technician for any repairs.  Visit the BAR website (www.bar.ca.gov) to find a licensed auto repair technician.

  • Test your vehicle’s heater and defrost systems

Make sure they are working properly.

  • Change wiper blades

Unless you recently purchased a pair, it is best to err on the side of caution and purchase new, quality, windshield wiper blades.

  • Inspect tires

Balding or underinflated tires reduce your vehicle’s handling and traction and can be a safety hazard.  Check the air pressure in your tires regularly, including the spare.

 

KEEP IN MIND

Road trips during the winter months, although beautiful, can be dangerous.  Below are additional precautions and items you might consider bringing while traveling in winter.

  • Share your plans

Let family members or friends know your dates of travel and proposed travel route.

  • Carry a road atlas

GPS reception can become compromised in remote areas or during storms.

  •  Bring extra windshield washer fluid

During a snowy or messy day of driving, you may use your windshield wipers and the washer fluid more than usual.

  • Fill’er up!

Your vehicle may become your life source should you become stranded during a winter road trip.  The more fuel you have, the longer the vehicle can idle to heat the interior of the car in an emergency.

  • Pack on the pounds

Keep sand bags or two 20-pound bags of kitty litter in the trunk to help add weight to improve rear wheel traction.  Sand and liter can also be spread on the ground in front of or behind wheels to provide traction if you get stuck in the snow.

BE PREPARED FOR THE UNEXPECTED

Pack a winter safety kit with the following essentials.

  • Jumper cables
  • NOAA Weather radio with re-chargeable battery and crank power option and phone/tablet charger through USB connection and flashlight
  • Extra batteries for smartphone
  • Basic first-aid supplies
  • Bottled water and non-perishable snacks
  • Fleece blankets
  • Extra clothing
  • Road safety flares
  • Windshield ice-scraper and brush
  • Tool kit
  • Cellphone and car charger

The Bureau of Automotive Repair has created a brochure with the above tips and more (http://www.bar.ca.gov/pdf/BARWinterTips.pdf) to help you get your vehicle winter road trip ready.

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