How to Prepare Your Car for a Winter Road Trip

Whether you’re traveling for the holidays or just taking a journey to enjoy the wider winter world, you need to take care when you’re driving in the winter. From maintenance issues to the ice and snow, being prepared for your journey can be significantly different in winter than during the summer. Though winter travel can be dangerous, there are plenty of steps you can take to prevent disaster and be prepared for what may come.

Plan for the Weather

The most basic and fundamental principle of planning a winter trip is to account for the weather. Yes, there can be plenty of room for spontaneity but during winter in particular, you want to make sure that you’re prepared for what the season will bring. Make sure you check the weather so you can dress appropriately. Bring plenty of cold weather clothing and items such as hand and foot warmers. If you notice some severe storms or other bad weather forecasted, you also might have the opportunity to adjust your plans and not get caught in the worst of the weather. In general, planning ahead for the weather can help you stay safe.

A mechanic cleans off a dip stick after checking a car's oil level

Checking for Maintenance

Before any road trip, you should take the time to make sure your car is in good working order. If you’ve been noticing problems or maintenance indicators have come on, you should take your car to be inspected by a mechanic. With basic maintenance out of the way, you can start working on some winterization options for your vehicle. With the cold, ice, and snow that comes with the season, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If something like your brakes aren’t working as well as they used to, you could be in trouble if you don’t get them checked out before you get on the road.

Fluid Levels

An easy step you can take to prepare your car for winter travel is to check your fluid levels. Most engines have dipsticks you can use to check the current levels. The most important fluids to check are antifreeze and oil. If either of these are low, you should get them refilled before you depart so you don’t run into any engine heating problems while you’re away from home. Checking your wiper fluid, though less important, might also come in handy because snow can leave a lot of dirt on your windshield. The wiper fluid will help you clean that off and improve your visibility.

Tire Maintenance

Winter often brings with it slippery road conditions. Making sure your tires are in good shape is essential. If your treads are low, you should consider getting new tires before driving for long stretches in the winter. Make sure your tire pressure is also at proper levels because the cold temperatures will cause a decrease in the pressure. For dealing with slick conditions, you can add tire chains to your car to improve grip. The downside is that some states outlaw chains entirely and some only permit them for certain portions of the year. Be sure to check the tire chain laws in your state and the states you’ll be traveling through before you put them on.

A gloved hand uses a small scraper to remove ice from a car windshield

Tools to Bring

Driving in the winter has its fair share of risks. Bringing tools with you to help fix some of your problems can be a huge help. An essential tool in the winter is an ice scraper. When your windshield is covered in ice or frost, you’ll be glad you have a tool to improve your visibility. To help you in the worst case scenario of a crash, you should have an emergency kit in your car. Items like first aid kits, tourniquets, snow shovels, and jumper cables can help you get out of the worst predicaments and even save your life in the midst of harsh weather conditions. It’s always better to be over prepared than under prepared when it comes to winter driving and winter road trips.

Schedule Your Diagnosis With Kennedy Transmission

If you’re a Minnesota resident planning a road trip this winter, come see us at Kennedy Transmission, Brake, and Auto Service. As Minnesota residents who are no strangers to the winter, we can help you get your vehicle in the best condition to keep you safe and comfortable for your winter road trip. Check out our automotive services and find a Kennedy Transmission shop near you to schedule your automotive diagnostic service.

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