Driving in a winter...wonderland?

By Eva M January 3, 2018

This week finds North America reeling from record-breaking cold temperatures, but for many, we still need to get from place to place. Whether you’re driving for a transit operation or heading down the street to the grocery store, it’s crucial to be prepared for cold temperatures and inclement conditions. If you have to be on the road, following a few basic principles should help with peace of mind as you venture out this winter!*

Don't get stranded--get on your way!

Be spare-aware

First and foremost, know how to change a tire! It’s not rocket science, and can get you back in action in less than 10 minutes. Also, most mechanics recommend keeping a full-size spare, which is safer on the road and easier on your car’s drive train than a smaller temporary “donut.” At the beginning of winter, before long trips, and at least once a week in general, check the spare’s pressure, and inflate it if it’s low (ending up with a flat spare at a crucial moment, like our employees Katie and James did, is no fun!) Adam Fox also shared a cautionary tale:

"I went to Winterplace one spring break with a buddy, and we got a flat tire. The spare he had was an inch wider than the other three tires and had much more aggressive tread. So the whole trip it snowed non-stop, and we were driving around with one tire pulling the car to the left. Long story short, make sure your spare matches your tires! His was on the back and more for decoration."


E is your enemy

Always keep your gas tank at least half-full--enough said!



Mind the maintenance

Especially in winter, follow your vehicle’s manufacturer recommendations for intervals between oil and fluid changes, and be sure your mechanic does a comprehensive inspection of fluids, lights, tires (cold weather decreases tire pressure), belts, and other components. If you have a vehicle with glow plugs or an engine block heater, be sure your mechanic checks those, as well. And always pay attention to your dashboard lights! Learn from Eva's mistake:

"I moved to the mid-Atlantic coast after college, when I drove a diesel Volkswagen. I knew that the glow plug harness was on the fritz, but figured I'd get around to it at some point. Then a cold front came in, and I couldn't start my car for a week in the single-digit temperatures, and had to nag my co-workers for rides to the office."



Don't forget the roof!

Scrape, scrape, scrape!

ALWAYS remove snow, and ice from your vehicle before driving; build in a few minutes for defrosting to make clearing the windows easier. Not only do you need visibility from all windows, but what might seem like a harmless chunk of snow becomes a dangerous projectile at highway speeds. (Also, leaving snow on your car might be illegal where you live.)


Stock an emergency kit

Stick a crate in the trunk, and stock it with a flashlight and extra batteries, snow chains, a blanket or quilt, winter hats/socks/mittens, Mylar heat blankets, water, nonperishable snacks (like granola bars, jerky, and raisins), flares, a small shovel/broom, a small bag of cat litter, a battery-powered radio, first aid kit, snow boots, and any necessary medications. Our friends in wintry Wisconsin have put together a fairly comprehensive guide.


Should you stay or should you go?

If you do find yourself either in an accident on an icy highway, or stranded in a remote area, STAY IN YOUR CAR. Call 911 and follow instructions. If you can’t call 911, or are otherwise unable to contact anyone, tips from this useful guide might help you.


We hope these reminders come in handy if you’ve got winter travel ahead of you. Stay safe out there!

*This is not an exhaustive guide. Always use common sense, and if in doubt—stay in!