Any day now, the temperature will dip below freezing. Then the snow will come, and icy roads and bridges. Frosted windshields. White-knuckle commutes. Spin-outs and collisions.
Preparing your car for winter may keep you from being stuck in a ditch or injured in an accident. Take action now to prepare your vehicle for winter driving – any day now.
4 winter readiness tips for safe winter driving
The Wirecutter, a tech division of the New York Times, offers winter readiness tips and recommended consumer products for getting your car, van, pickup or SUV ready for the season.
* Inflate your tires – Driving with underinflated tires can cause a hazardous loss of traction and performance in slippery conditions. You lose about 1 psi (pound per square inch) of tire pressure for each 10-degree drop in temperature. The average December temp in New Haven is in the 30s — your tires probably lost several pounds just since September when we were in the 70s.
What is the proper pressure? It can vary with the type of vehicle and tire. Check your car’s owner manual (if you still have the factory tires). Some cars list the recommended tire pressure on a sticker in the driver’s doorjamb, on the trunk lid or in the fuel door. The maximum psi listed on the sidewall of the tire typically is not be the ideal pressure.
* Top off your windshield fluid – When the highway crews start salting the roads, you will go through plenty of wiper fluid. Fill it to the top the next time you stop for gas. Make sure you use washer fluid that contains an anti-freeze agent – straight water can freeze up.
* Brush up on brushes and scrapers – Don’t get caught on that first frosty day or first snowfall with last year’s snowbrush. Ice scrapers get dull or chipped and brush bristles get matted. If you have a van or SUV, invest in a telescoping (extendable) brush that will reach across the roof and windshield.
Clear all your windows rather scraping a tiny “see-hole” in the windshield and driving off! And don’t forget to brush the snow and ice from your headlights, taillights, side mirrors and rear window.
* Put a winter kit in your car – At a minimum, make sure you have a trusty flashlight in the glove compartment with fresh batteries. Wirecutter recommends a headlamp that keeps your hands free. You should also have a sleeping bag in case you get stranded in your car. One wrong turn or sliding off a secluded driveway can leave you farther from “civilization” than you realize.
Other suggested items for your winter survival kit: a shovel, jumper cables and a portable jump starter, emergency flares or beacon, fire extinguisher, extra hats and mittens, first aid kit, energy bars, a gallon jug of water, duct tape, aerosol “fix-a-flat” and a small bag of kitty litter to spread under your wheels for traction if you get stuck.