9 Safety Checks to Prepare Your Car for a Winter Road Trip
Getting your vehicle ready for holiday travel doesn’t necessarily require the skill of a professional mechanic or demand hours under the hood. In fact, armed with these nine tips you can easily prep your car for a winter journey yourself. But don’t wait until you’re ready to hit the road. Perform these safety checks now so you can make any necessary repairs before the big day.
1. Inspect windshield wipers
When it comes to maintaining your car, there are a number of things you can do to make sure you’re driving safely. One of those things is keeping your windshield wipers in good shape.
If your car’s wipers are damaged, it can reduce visibility and lead to potentially dangerous driving conditions, especially during inclement weather. Make sure your car’s wipers are in good condition and operating as they should. If they are streaking or skipping across the windshield, or the blades are split, dry-rotted, or worn, replace them. Install heavy-duty winter wipers if you live in (or are traveling to) an area that receives a significant amount of snow and ice.
2. Top Of windshield washer fluid
Winter weather is on the way, and you don’t want to be caught unprepared. Top off your windshield washer fluid before heading out on the road this holiday season — and keep an extra gallon stored in your car just in case.
Windshield washer fluid helps your windshield wipers perform at their best during wintery weather. Before you take off to Grandma’s house, fill your vehicle’s windshield washer reservoir with high-quality, “no-freeze” fluid — and keep an extra gallon stored in your car just in case.
3. Test defrosters
If your vehicle’s defrosters aren’t working properly, snow and ice can build up quickly on windows and mirrors and hinder visibility. If your window and mirror defrosters aren’t operating as they should, there are a few easy ways to troubleshoot the problem.
First, check the fuses. The fuse box is located in the engine compartment. Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, it may be near the battery or under a cover on top of the engine.
If you need to replace a fuse, make sure you get one with the same amperage rating as the one that is currently installed in your vehicle.
Next, check for debris blocking airflow into vents near each mirror or window. If there is debris blocking airflow into vents near each mirror or window, clean them out with compressed air or remove any obstructions by hand.
Next, check for other sources of heat inside your vehicles such as seat warmers or heated seats. If these features are turned on, turn them off for about five minutes before trying again to defrost your mirrors or windows.
4. Install floor mats correctly
One of the most important things you can do to ensure your safety on the road is to make sure that your floor mats are installed correctly.
When installed incorrectly, driver floor mats that are too small or too large for your vehicle can interfere with the operation of your brake pedal, accelerator, or clutch. This can cause accidents and injuries.
To help minimize this risk, only use floor mats that are the correct size and fit for your vehicle, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation, and keep mats in place with retention clips.
5. Gauge tire pressure.
Proper tire pressure can increase your vehicle’s fuel efficiency and stability, as well as reduce the risk of a flat or blowout. During cold winter weather, it’s especially important to keep an eye on your tires.
Before you get behind the wheel, check each tire and make sure it is filled to the manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure specified in your owner’s manual. Keep in mind that as the temperature drops so will tire pressure, so check your tires periodically throughout your trip. For the most accurate reading, wait until your car has been parked for at least three hours before checking tire pressure.
6. Check your car’s battery
The winter road trip is upon us, and it’s time to make sure your vehicle is ready to go. The most important thing you can do before embarking on your journey is to check the battery in your car.
A dead battery on a cold day can be a harrowing experience. A dead battery means no heat for your hands or feet, no lights so you can see at night, and no music to keep you company. It also means you’re stuck waiting for someone else to come along with jumper cables or another vehicle that has enough juice to give yours a boost.
To avoid having your trip ruined by a dead battery, make sure yours has been charged adequately before leaving home. If you’re unsure how long it’s been since the last time you did this, check the owner’s manual for instructions on how often they recommend checking the battery level.
7. Stock your vehicle with essentials.
As you prepare for the holiday season, make sure your vehicle is ready for the road. Before you embark on a long road trip this holiday season, put together a car emergency kit. At the minimum, your kit should include an ice scraper, a flashlight, a blanket, jumper cables, flares, abrasive material like sand or kitty litter, and a small shovel. Of course, you’ll also need food, water, and any necessary medications. If you’re traveling with young children, elderly folks, or pets, make sure your kit contains extra blankets and any items specific to their needs.
8. Ensure lights and signals are in working order.
It’s important to check your vehicle before you hit the road for a long trip. Make sure your lights and signals are working properly by walking around your vehicle and checking that the headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, and hazard lights are working properly. You’ll also want to be sure the lights are free of debris and take time to clean them during your trip as built-up snow, ice, and dirt can reduce their effectiveness.
9. Add roadside assistance to your auto insurance policy.
Most auto insurance policies offer roadside assistance plans. If you’re not signed up for roadside assistance, consider adding it to your coverage before your trip. In addition to services like towing, flat-tire repair, and lock-out assistance, some roadside assistance plans also offer travel interruption reimbursement, as well as hotel and car rental discounts.
With everything else on your to-do list, it’s easy to overlook car care. But if you face less-than-optimal weather conditions during your holiday road trip, you’ll feel more secure knowing your vehicle is up to the task.