Prepare Your Vehicle for Winter Travel and Storms

winter-travelWinter is here again. Whether heading to work or traveling for the holidays, the roads are a dangerous place in snowy, icy, or rainy weather. If you are travelling this winter, are far safer on the roadways if you are prepared.

Winterizing your Vehicle

At the Park City Fire District, we know the best way to avoid a winter driving disaster is to have a safety plan in place. The first step is to ensure your vehicle is roadworthy. Schedule a vehicle checkup with a qualified mechanic to check all systems, and perform the following tasks:

  • Replace an older battery – even if it still works
  • Replace windshield wiper blades
  • Check all fluid levels
  • Ensure your car, SUV, van, or truck has winter antifreeze
  • Brake check
  • Put on snow tires
  • Check vehicle for exhaust leaks
  • Ensure heater and defrost system are functioning perfectly
  • Replace lights, including hazards if needed

Emergency Kit for Winter Travel

It is important to have a full in-car safety kit. If you are traveling, many areas require chains, so have them ready. If you are new to snow driving, practice putting them on your vehicle – before you leave. Ensure you have jumper cables, a first-aid kit, flares, and a portable battery pack cellphone charger. Your safety kit should include a bag of sand or cat litter, an ice scraper and small shovel, flashlights, and lots of extra batteries.

Staying Warm

Having enough food and staying warm are both critical in a winter vehicle breakdown. Emergency blankets or down sleeping bags (rated for the coldest weather) could save your life. Food items such as protein bars and other non-perishables and plenty of bottles of water can be a lifesaver if you are stranded in heavy snow. Purchase chemical hand warmers – your car’s heater may not work in a total breakdown, so plan accordingly.

Traveling in Winter

It is not recommended that anyone drive in a heavy snowstorm, but these can occur unexpectedly and come on strong. Always check the weather prior to leaving on a longer road trip and plan your route to avoid areas expecting heavy weather when possible.

Keep your vehicle topped up with gas and refill it frequently. If you become stranded or are forced to wait out a blizzard, a full gas tank can allow you to keep the heater running for longer. If you are on the side of the road and stuck, it is imperative that you clear away any snow around the exhaust pipe thoroughly. If the exhaust is unable to flow out of the system it will back up and enter your vehicle, creating the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Use the heater sparingly and keep a window slightly open so fresh air can circulate.

If you become stranded while traveling, make your vehicle as visible as possible. Keep one interior light on while the vehicle is running. Emergency flashers can be used when vehicles are approaching, but use a lot of battery. Place flares if you feel your vehicle is at risk of being hit. Establish communication with emergency services by calling 911 and plan for a longer wait, as there are typically lots of distress calls during a winter storm. Limit cellphone use for emergency calls only, and use texting rather than talk when you can. Stay with your vehicle and do not venture out to seek help or shelter.

The Park City Fire District wants you to travel safe.