Are you planning a winter vacation and driving? If so, is your car in good enough shape to make it through inclement weather? By winterizing your car and bringing along certain items, you’ll lessen your risk of something going wrong. Here are a few winter road tips to help get you going in the right direction.

Service Your Car

Whether you bring it in to a mechanic or do it your service, it’s important to have your car serviced for winter driving. This may include replacing your spark plugs and windshield wipers, changing your oil, inspecting lights, hoses and fan belts, battery and electrical system. You should also check the fluids in your radiator, transmission, power steering, washer and brakes. During winter driving, you may not need to check the coolant for your air conditioner but it’s also something to consider.

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Snow covered road with four wheel drive vehicles
Snow Covered Road (credit: Randy Yagi)

Check Your Tires

Worn tires are the source of numerous auto accidents, particularly when the road is wet. Take a few minutes to inspect the tread wear on your tires by using the “penny test”. The penny test measures tires in 32nds of an inch, with new tires typically having 10/32 or 11/32 inches.

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The Penny Test

Place a penny with Lincoln’s head pointed towards the tires and if his head isn’t visible, the tread is still above 2/32 inches. This is the minimum amount of tread before tires need to be replaced. The penny test should also be performed at different sections of each tire. While getting new tires is an added expense, it makes your car that much safer to drive. Also don’t forget to ensure that your tires are properly inflated.

Bring A Car Safety Kit

All drivers should carry a car safety kit but during in the winter, it’s far more important. Items to carry may vary but a basic kit will typically have a first aid kit, jumper cables, flashlight with spare batteries, poncho, reflective triangle and/or flares. But you’ll need to add a few more items for winter driving, such as a warm blanket, mitten and hats, candle powered heater, ice scraper and if necessary tire chains.

Other items include a tool kit, portable air compressor, snow shovel, hand warmers, sleeping bags and a bag of sand for added traction. Some items should already be in your car. For instance, a tire gauge, jack and lug wrench, compass and foam tire sealant. Lastly, don’t forget to bring a phone charger that plugs into your cigarette socket – while being mindful that your phone battery will wear out more quickly in cold weather.

Bring Extra Food & Water

Nothing could be worse than getting stuck on the road due to engine trouble. Despite having cars serviced, new tires installed and making every necessary precaution, some drivers will experience some sort of car trouble. This makes bringing extra food and water that much more important.

Suggestions For Food

You may already have some ideas of what you’d like to bring, such as sandwiches, crackers, fresh fruit, peanut butter and yogurt. But also consider bringing along non-perishable snacks, like unsalted trail mix, dried fruit, beef jerky and granola bars. You should also bring plenty of water and other drinks. Additionally, if anyone in your party takes medications, it’s advisable to bring along some extra.

Do Not Enter/Wrong Way Sign in Snowy Conditions near Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado
Do Not Enter Sign (credit: Randy Yagi)

Drive Responsibly

Driving responsibly makes sense in any type of road condition but it’s especially important when driving during winter. Driving responsibly can mean many things but some are quite obvious. For instance, slowing down, allowing more space between cars, accelerate and decelerate more slowly and staying alert. This also means to not text or drive distracted, whether it’s changing the radio station or talking on the phone.

One last word of advice: never drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, anytime of the year especially when winter driving!

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About The Author

Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS Local from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS websites, including CBS New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. During his peak years with CBS, Randy had a reported digital audience reach of 489 million and 5.5 million monthly visitors. Additionally, his stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS News, CBS Radio, Engadget and He earned a media fellowship from Stanford University in 2012.

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