The holidays are a time for family, celebration, presents, and travel. Seasonal gatherings can take you across the country or just a few miles from home. Even if your holiday destination is just an hour or two away, the weather can sometimes stand between you and your family. As we all know, snowy, icy, and wet roads are extremely hazardous; and if your car isn’t in tip-top condition, you—and your loved ones—can be in real danger. Here are some tips for winter road safety, and some ways you can be prepared for unexpected circumstances.
Your emergency kit should contain everything from road flares to bottled water. However, some items should take precedent. A fire extinguisher in case of a car fire, jumper cables in case of a dead battery, and a spare tire, tire iron, and car jack should always be readily available. If you plan on a long trip, new tires may be appropriate. Better to invest in a name brand known for quality before your trip than to find out the hard way on the side of the road. Worn tires can develop stress fractures, which lead to leaks and then flats. Before you depart use a penny and quarter to check the wear your tires have sustained. Check your spare as well; if you’ve had it for some years, you might need a replacement. Your emergency kit should also include a first aid bag. Pack bandages for small cuts and scrapes, sterile gauze for larger wounds, antibacterial ointment, and medical tape. Scissors and tweezers are also handy. Some ibuprofen can reduce inflammation, quell headaches, and be used for pain reduction.
A poorly maintained car be a danger. Make sure your car is ready for and capable of a long road trip. Get a general tune-up from your trusted mechanic. Make sure your steering is aligned, your tires (if not new) are rotated, and your break pads are in prime condition. An oil change, and more antifreeze in the radiator are also advised. New wipers might come in handy if yours are worn.
The Canadian Automobile Association is a lifeline if you have trouble on a long trip. If you’re in a bind, just let CAA know where you are and they can dispatch a tow truck, or even a mobile mechanic. In fact, CAA membership has many benefits and it’s well worth the investment. Particularly in winter, its services can save you real time, money, and a whole lot of frustrations, if you have a mishap, your car won’t start, it gets stuck, or it quits while you’re on the go.
Winter requires its own set of car tools. A windshield scraper is an absolute must—just to get out of the driveway most mornings. While a credit card will work in a pinch, its magnetic strip can become ruined if used for this. It’s wise to have at least two scrapers in the car, as sometimes help is needed to clear the windows and get on the road. After all, it is illegal to drive with your windows blocked by snow or ice.
Chains are also handy if you suspect snow on your trip. Before you leave, practice putting your car chains on. While it may feel like a waste of time, you don’t want to struggle with this on a cold night. A flashlight is essential, as well as warm clothes and even blankets or sleeping bags. If your car breaks down, warm clothes and some blankets will make this less of a burden.