Getting Ready for Winter Travel

Weather forecasters are predicting a severe winter for the Northeast. Last year, Boston struggled with a “Snowpocalypse” in late February, and this year’s El Nino weather patterns may leave us with even more snow. As the cold fronts move in after the unusually warm holiday season, here are cold weather vehicle maintenance and driving tips you need to stay safe and prepared for the worst of winter in 2016:

Vehicle Maintenance

  • Take your car in for a tune-up. If it’s been a while since you had your tires rotated, your alignment checked, or other maintenance tasks completed, consider taking your car to the shop. Keep up with your manual’s recommended service schedule to make sure your vehicle is running strong to avoid breakdowns.
  • Use fuel deicer once a month. When the temperatures really drop, ice could buildup in your fuel line. You can also avoid ice buildup by keeping your tank filled. Fill up when you reach half a tank, and you’ll always be ready to go in the event of an emergency.
  • Double check your battery. You don’t want to get caught out in the cold one night because your battery isn’t working. Consider investing in an automatic jump-starter if your battery is older, and stop by an auto shop to have your battery tested occasionally.
  • Keep your tires in good shape. Worn treads lose grip much easier than fresh ones. Tires are expensive, but rotating them regularly and replacing them as needed is worth the investment. Check your tire pressure anytime the seasons change to ensure low pressure isn’t affecting your vehicle’s handling.
  • Create an emergency kit. In below-freezing weather, people have died in broken down vehicles. In the middle of Boston, you can probably find a warm place to go, but if you drive outside of the city or go somewhere unfamiliar, you may need an emergency kit. Keep extra layers, blankets, self-heating packets, food, flashlights, and water in your trunk. If you regularly travel with children, consider including more in your kit.
  • Check the liquids. Use the most concentrated level of antifreeze you can during winter and cold weather rated windshield washer fluid. Keep both maintained throughout the winter season.

Winter Driving Tips

  • Remember to keep your tailpipe clear if you get stranded. If you do end up stranded in winter, hopefully you have close to a full gas tank. You don’t have to worry about keeping your engine cranked up as long as you keep the tailpipe free of snow and debris.
  • Keep your cellphone charged. In the event of a weather emergency, your cellphone will help you stay in touch with family and emergency services if you get stuck.
  • Clear your car off before you drive. Have you ever had a chunk of hardened snow fly at you from the top of someone else’s vehicle? Always take the time to brush your car off completely before heading off in snowy weather.
  • Drive slowly. Your tires will handle differently on snowy/icy roads, and a slick patch can come up in the blink of an eye. Do everything much slower than you normally would. Dispense with normal Boston-driving habits in favor of extreme caution. Leave room between vehicles, and remember to turn, accelerate, and brake gently.
  • Never use cruise control. In summer on a long stretch of road, cruise control is great. In winter, it’s a hazard. You can respond more quickly to any unsafe condition if you’re in complete control of the vehicle.
  • If the weather station says to stay home, don’t go out unless you absolutely must.

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