Pre-trip Checklist for Winter Driving
There’s a lot of winter left–and a lot of winter driving to go with it. A trip to the mountains or other parts of the country can be a hazardous proposition, especially for drivers who don’t habitually drive in icy, snowy winter conditions. If your drivers will be road-tripping into the teeth of Old Man Winter, equip them with this checklist so they’ll be properly prepared.
Batteries behave differently in cold weather. Gasoline engines are harder to start, and electric cars will have reduced range. Get the best performance from your batteries in cold weather by:
Having a mechanic check the battery to make sure it is charging fully;
Making sure that the battery cable connections are corrosion-free and tight;
Letting electric cars warm up; and
Keeping fresh gasoline in electric vehicles to support battery performance.
In a winter storm, visibility is critical. To ensure visibility when the ice is falling thickly, drivers should check before departure that:
Windshield wipers are in good condition (replace if necessary);
Both front and rear defrosters work properly;
The windshield washer reservoir is filled with “no-freeze” fluid; and
All lights (headlights, taillights, running lights, signals) are working.
On treacherous roads, good tires and brakes are lifesavers. Make sure tires and brakes are in winter-weather condition:
Tires should have a minimum of 3/32 of an inch of tread;
Tires should be properly balanced and aligned;
Tires should be properly inflated (the proper pressure is found on a label on the driver’s door or doorjamb); and
For extreme winter driving, you may need snow tires or chains.
Having the proper fluids, and ensuring that they are all fresh and topped-off, will prevent engine damage and keep cars running properly. In addition to windshield wiper fluid (discussed above) drivers should make sure that:
The vehicle is up to date on its oil changes;
Transmission, brake, and power steering fluids are filled to proper levels;
Coolant (also called anti-freeze) is the proper type for the vehicle (different vehicles use different coolants, and the wrong coolant can damage the engine); and
Coolant is the proper type for the expected weather (in cold climates, use at least a 50/50 mix of coolant and water to prevent coolant from freezing and damaging the engine).