Get Ready for Winter

By Insurance.com Posted : 11/08/2006

If you live in an area that gets snow, you may already be dreading this coming winter. Although falling snow can be delightful to watch from inside, outside winter road snow is cause for caution. Insurance.com has some ideas about how to prepare for winter travel, and some good driving tips to keep you safely on the road and out of harm's way.

Preparing Your Car
Before the first snow falls, there are a few things you can do to winterize your car:

  • Check Your Auto Insurance Coverage: Make sure your auto insurance coverage is sufficient. Winter weather increases the risk of auto accidents and other mishaps (e.g. a tree falling on your car), so this is not a good time to have less-than-adequate auto insurance.
  • Winterize Your Car: Take your car to a trusted mechanic for a prewinter checkup. Check tires (see below) for proper inflation and good tread, and make sure you have new wiper blades, a working heater and defroster system, the right level of antifreeze, and safe brakes.
  • Have Winter Car Supplies: Keep an ice scraper, snow shovel, cell phone, flashlight, jumper cables, chains for your tires, blankets, emergency phone numbers, lock deicer, and food and water (in a plastic bottle) in your car.
  • Be Car Mishap Proactive: Keep an extra car key in your pocket, purse, or wallet in case you lock yourself out of your car.
  • Protect Your Car from the Winter Elements: Keep your car in a garage, if possible, to protect it from snow and ice buildup and to reduce the risk of your car not starting on a cold day.
  • Have Back-up: Join an auto club (or renew your membership). If your car breaks down, you can call the auto club and get free emergency roadside services (e.g. a tow or a jump start).

Check Your Tires
Check your tires regularly for tread wear. If you have any doubt about your tires' ability to perform in snowy winter driving conditions, visit your mechanic or tire center. It's also important to maintain the correct tire pressure. You can find the correct pressure for your car in the owner's manual or inside the door edge. Make sure your tires are properly balanced and aligned at regular intervals, too. And if you live in an area where snowy winter roads are inevitable, you may need to invest in tires specifically designed for snow road conditions.

Keep Your Distance
It can take much longer to stop on icy roads than usual. Don't tailgate, and be alert for brake lights on the car in front of you. You should also turn on your headlights so other cars can see you.

If you lose control of your car on an icy road and it begins to skid, don't slam on the brakes. Instead, apply the brakes in a steady, slightly firm manner, and steer in the direction of the skid. For cars that have antilock brakes, you should apply more pressure (steady) to the brakes, but avoid pumping them.

Don't Drive if You're Tired or Distracted
Driving in very snowy or icy weather requires you to be very alert, particularly at night. If you're tired, pull off the road to a safe place and take a break, or better yet, postpone your trip entirely if you can. You should also avoid eating, drinking, talking on the phone, fiddling with the radio, or handing items to children in the back seat: anything where you need to take one or both hands off the steering wheel momentarily.

Other Winter Driving Tips
  • Keep your car windshield and windows clear at all times. Use your wipers and defrosters as needed, and don't hesitate to pull over and clean the windows by hand if you're still having trouble seeing.
  • Plan your driving routes. When there's snow and ice on the ground, take highways and other major roads that are usually plowed frequently and maintained better than back roads.
  • Keep your gas tank full in case of traffic delays or unexpected changes in your route.
  • Drive defensively! It's especially important to slow down and be careful when you're driving in winter conditions.
  • Become familiar with how your vehicle handles in snow and ice by practicing braking in an empty parking lot.
  • If your vehicle becomes disabled, it's usually best to stay with the vehicle until help arrives. If the engine is still running properly, use the heat to stay warm, but stay alert to how much gas is left in the car.
  • When driving on icy and snow roads, try to drive at a steady pace and avoid jerky movements when braking, accelerating, or turning. And avoid passing other cars, especially at night.
  • Use common sense. Allow plenty of time to get where you need to go. And if visibility is really poor or road conditions are particularly treacherous, don't drive at all.

The better prepared you are for winter driving conditions, the safer you'll be on snow and ice covered roads. Be prepared and winterize your car. Insurance.com wishes you safe winter driving.

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