Time to Prepare for Winter Driving

Use these tips to make sure you and your car are ready before the temperatures drop!

This week marks the first day of winter! Many states have already seen their first snowfall and soon New England will turn into a winter playground—skiers will race down mountains, ice skaters will spin on ice, children will sled down hills and throw snowballs at friends. And drivers will have to deal with snow and icy road conditions.

New Englanders may be hearty, but winter driving conditions can challenge anyone. Before the snow starts piling up, it’s time to get your car winter ready. Preparing now can help save you the frustration of a broken-down car in below-freezing temperatures and the feeling of helplessness in an emergency.

Now is the time for a tune up

We often push off regular maintenance on our vehicles. But getting a tune up  now before the bad weather comes can help prevent break downs when we are dealing with snowy, cold weather on top of our car not working.

Either you or your mechanic should check the following:

  • Battery. You need a fully charged battery to help start your engine—cold temperatures can reduce battery power. If you have an electric or hybrid car, your battery needs to warm up before you drive, and be aware that your driving range may be reduced.
  • Coolant. You need a winter coolant in your system that is designed to keep the coolant from freezing and potentially damaging your engine. Also, a mechanic will check for leaks and worn hoses.  Your mechanic may recommend flushing your coolant; over time the coolant breaks down and becomes less effective. Flushing the coolant will also help remove dirt and rust particles that could clog the system and cause failure.
  • Fill the windshield washer reservoir. It’s easy to use up windshield washer fluid, which keeps your window(s) clear when the snow falls. Fill the reservoir now and periodically check that it is full throughout winter. Make sure to use a no-freeze formula.
  • Enhance your visibility. In a snowstorm, visibility is key. To provide optimum visibility, you can replace worn window washing blades with heavy-duty winter blades. Try your defrosters—both front and back—to see if they work properly. Also, check all lights on the car to make sure they are all working and nothing is blocking them, so other cars can see you.
  • Inspect your tires. Do you know how old your tires are? Most car manufacturers recommend changing tires every six years. Tread should be at least 1/16 of an inch on all tires. Otherwise, you may need to replace them. At least once a month, or before an extended road trip, check your tire pressure. As temperatures drop, so does your pressure. A properly inflated tire can keep you safer in bad road conditions.

Brush up on your winter driving skills

Slow down! Controlling a car on slick roads may require more stopping time. Leave more distance between you and the vehicle in front of you and don’t accelerate or stop too fast. Familiarize yourself with your car’s features; it’s worth the time because different features can affect how you drive your car.

  • Anti-lock brakes. If you hit an icy patch, anti-lock brakes will help you stop your car. If you have them, just press your foot firmly on the pedal and hold it in place. If you don’t, gently pump your pedal until you come to a stop.
  • Traction control. If your car has automatic-traction control, it may help when the car begins to slip on a wet road—you may feel your pedals vibrate and/or a warning light may appear. This feature usually takes control of your car to keep you from skidding. If you don’t have it, review what to do if your car starts to skid:
  1. Release the brake pedal.
  2. Turn the steering wheel in the same direction as the skid and ease off the accelerator pedal.
  • All-wheel drive. If you have all-wheel drive, you will be able to accelerate better and maintain traction on slippery roads. Some all-wheel drive cars will allow you to switch between front- and rear-wheel drive automatically when you need all wheels.
  • Winter tires. Consider changing to winter tires if you live a snowy area. Winter tires remain soft at cold temperatures, giving them better traction on ice and snow.

Safety first

Following safety guidelines should be done all year, but can be particularly important in the winter.

  • Always buckle up
  • Don’t drink and drive
  • Never text or use your phone
  • Pay attention to drivers around you — they can alert you to road hazards and give you extra time to respond
  • Follow a safe distance behind snow plows; they may not see you and the salt could ruin your car
  • Never leave snow or ice on your car, clean it off properly before you leave your parking spot

Create an emergency kit

No matter how much we prepare, emergencies happen. Stock your vehicles with these essentials just in case you need them, or you see someone else in need.

  • Blankets
  • Flashlights
  • Cell phone charger
  • Jumper cables
  • Flares
  • Ice pick or small snow shovel
  • Cat litter (to spread around a tire if you get stuck in snow)
  • Reflective safety vest

Another good idea is not to let your gas tank dip below the halfway mark. Not only will you prevent yourself from running out of gas, but you will protect your car from damage.

In case of emergency

If you do find yourself in an emergency, take precautions as you wait for help.

  • Pull off the road
  • Use your hazard lights and flares to alert other drivers of your presence
  • Don’t run your car with all the windows up to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Call for help or display a distress signal by raising your hood or tying a white ribbon around your antenna

When bad weather strikes

It’s inevitable—more snow and arctic blasts of cold will be on the way soon. With campuses located in Albany, NY, Amityville, NY, Bohemia, NY, Branford, CT, Jersey City, NJ, Hamilton, NJ, Parsippany, NJ, Southington, CT, Springfield, MA, and Windsor, CT , it’s likely all our students will be impacted by at least one snowstorm this year. When a snowstorm hits, check our Facebook or Twitter pages for school closing information.

We hope these tips will help you get ready before bad weather strikes. And just remember, if it’s bad out—just stay home! Have a happy and safe winter!

This post is part of the Branford Hall weekly blog where we provide lifestyle tips to help support our students. If you are interested in our career training programs, please explore our options, request information, schedule a tour at one of our 10 campuses, or call a career advisor at  800-959-7599.