How to prepare for winter driving

Winter can be a challenging time to drive, and it can cause damage to your vehicle. But there are things you can do to navigate the chilly months. Of course, winter prep will vary depending on where you live. But if snow is coming your way, these tips are for you.

Here are 4 ways you can prepare your car (and yourself) now for wintry unknowns.

Car with popped hood

1. Check under the hood

Before the temperature dips too low, inspect a few vital areas under the hood. You can take your car to a trusted mechanic or DIY, if you’re up for it.

At a minimum, check your antifreeze levels—the stuff that keeps the engine from freezing in the winter (also called engine coolant). A local auto parts store can help you select the correct type.

Be sure to have your battery tested. You can do it yourself, but it will require special equipment. And finally, top off your wiper fluid (winter blend to prevent freezing) so you can easily wipe away the winter gunk.

Air compressor filling car tire with winding coil

2. Breakout the winter getup

There’s lots of fancy equipment you could add or swap out for winter. Winter tires are high up on the list, but they can be quite pricey (since you’ll need four of them).

At least check the pressure of your tires since inflation pressure drops with lower temperatures. And make sure the tread of the tires is safe enough for winter. (There’s an easy coin test.)

Switch out beat-up wiper blades for durable winter ones, and keep a quality ice scraper and snow brush in your car at all times. Clear visibility is key for safe driving.

Seeing clearly at night also comes from your headlights. Clean the outside of the headlights and have your mechanic change out any weak bulbs. And if you have the money or energy, consider protecting your car from rust by coating its undercarriage.

Finally, prevent freezing of your doors and locks. Petroleum jelly or cooking spray can do the trick.

Winter emergency kit supplies

3. Assemble a winter car emergency survival kit

Having supplies on hand can be a huge relief if you’re stuck in a winter storm. And you probably already have most of the essentials, so gather them up in a bin and store them in the back of the car.

  • Personal warm gear for everyone traveling: hats, gloves, extra socks, blankets, etc.
  • Flashlight with batteries (and extras) stored separately
  • First aid kit, with any vital medications
  • Set of tools, or at least a multi-tool, and a quality knife
  • Non-perishable snacks and water (here’s how to prevent freezing water)
  • Portable charger for your phone
  • Small shovel
  • Jumper cables
  • Emergency flares or reflectors
  • Sand, carpet, or cardboard in case you get stuck in mud or snow

Dangerous driving with snow-covered windshield

It is dangerous to drive when snow and ice remain on your car. Take the time to clear it all off.

4. Drive safely—the Root way (or not at all)

Avoid driving during winter blizzards and when temperatures are extremely low. But if you have to get out on the road, here are tips for driving in snow.

Clear snow and ice off of the entire windshield, all windows, front and rear lights, and mirrors before driving your car. Do not drive until you can see clearly out of all windows. Don’t be that person driving an igloo.

Shovel a path from your car to the road. It may look easy to drive over snow, but you could get stuck, making it harder to get out.

Give yourself more time and space for everything—stopping, turning, accelerating. And watch out for slippery bridges and overpasses.

Steer into the skid if you slide on a slippery surface. This means steer in the direction that your car is sliding—it will help you gain control.

Always keep the gas tank at least half full.

Use defensive driving. Even if you’re being safe, others may not be.

Finally, never drive while distracted. Here are some pro tips.

Even if you prepare your car for winter and know how to drive in snow, you can still wind up in a rough spot. If you have a car insurance policy with Root, Roadside Assistance is automatically included. But it’s not a bad idea to add on Comprehensive and Collision coverages, since they help to pay if something happens to your car, regardless of fault (like if you skid off into a tree).

Safe driving is important to us at Root. In fact, if you’re a safe driver, you can save up to 52% when your test drive proves it. If you haven’t already, download the Root app to get started. And stay safe out there this winter.

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