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Simple Tips on Winter Weather Driving

January 06, 2017 | Sharon Davis

Family Life

Let it snow, let it snow, let it sn-

We've finished singing about the white stuff for another year, and since we drive cars, not sleighs, here are some basics to help keep you safe as you travel.

A tune up if your car hasn't had one in a while, especially if you've noticed rough idling or difficulty starting.  Already existing problems are exacerbated by the cold.  And have the mechanic check the car's battery strength if it's not already a on the tune up list. 

Windshield wipers, a small, inexpensive part of the car, but we don't get anywhere if they are not functioning properly. Replace worn ones, and there are even wipers made for dealing with ice and snow that are heavy-gauge, have a protective rubber shell, or incorporate Teflon. And don't forget to check the level of your windshield wiper fluid.

Skating across ice can be fun, but not when you're in your car with bald tires. Check for wear, and check the tire pressure, too. The pressure tends to drop in cold weather. And don't forget the spare.  It doesn't hurt to actually know how to change the tire yourself, too.  A lot of dealerships offer instruction.  Even if you have membership in an auto club that sends out someone to help when you need them, in bad weather, you might have quite a wait.  

Snow looks so pretty, but it takes on an aura of menace when you need to get somewhere. Do you have the basic equipment like snow brush, scraper? I have them in my car, and a second set by the door so I don't have to dig through the snow on the car to get to them. One of the best snow investments I've made is a snow removal tool with a wide, foam blade and telescoping handle that removes heavy snow much more easily than a brush. Google something like, "car snow removal telescoping handle" and you'll find all sorts of examples. They have more pushing power than brushes and the telescoping handle makes it easy to quickly clear the roof of my car.

Just to be on the extra safe side, box up an emergency kit.  If you're caught with a car that won't function and it may be a while before you get help, you'll be glad you packed a blanket or sleeping bag, extra gloves and boots, too, along with bottles water and snacks with a shelf life. A first aid kit is good to have for emergencies, along with flares, a snow shovel (you can find folding ones), extra windshield washer fluid, jumper cables, and something I actually used this year already:  Kitty litter. It's pretty good at providing traction when car wheels are spinning in the snow or ice.  Just the regular clay kind.  

If you know there are pets allowed to roam outdoors in your neighborhood, a quick thud to the hood of your car is a good practice in cold weather to chase off a cat that may have sought the warmth of your car engine. 

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