Winter weather is unpredictable in Kentucky. One minute it’s sunny and warm, the next it could be snowing, sleeting, raining or covering your windshield with a coating of ice.
Here are some things you need to do and keep in mind as you get yourself and your vehicle ready for winter weather driving:
Prepare your vehicle
Have a mechanic check all of the important systems in your vehicle, including:
- Ignition and spark plugs
- Hoses and fan belts
- Air, fuel, emissions filters and PCV valves
- Distributor and fuel injectors
- Heat and defroster system
- Tires and air pressure
- Cooling systems and anti-freeze levels
- Windshield wipers and washer fluids
- Floor mats – make sure they don’t interfere with accelerator or brake pedals
Don’t leave home without the following items in a vehicle emergency kit
- Kitty litter or sand for traction if you get stuck
- Jumper cables or battery jump kit
- Tow line and tire chains
- Tool kit
- First aid kit (one or two day supply of critical medications)
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Reflective triangles and flares
- Windshield cleaner
- Ice scraper and snow brush
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Scissors and string or cord (Paracord is best)
- Non-perishable high energy food like nuts, dried fruit, granola or energy bars.
- One gallon of drinking water in plastic. Several smaller bottles are ok.
- Clothing – Blankets, mittens, socks, hats, sleeping bag
- Tire pressure gauge
- Spare cell phone charger (An extra cell phone is a good addition as well)
Anytime, but especially during the winter, it’s important to plan your trip. If you’re headed out of town, let a friend or family member know where you’re going and check in with them when yoiu get there.
Practice cold weather driving when there’s snow on the ground. Practice driving in snow or on ice in an empty parking lot so you can know how your car turns, stops and starts.
In general, reduce your speed during snow, sleet, icy or rainy conditions during cold weather. It’s important to remember that bridges and overpasses will ice over and get slick before roadways.
When traveling, be sure to fully familiarize yourself with any rental car. Know where lights, brakes, defroster and other controls are before you hit the road.
IF you begin to skid and lose control of your vehicle, stay calm and take your foot off the gas. Steer in the direction of the skid. Do not slam on the brakes as that will make the skid worse. Once you regain control, slow down and continue on your way.
Always drive on the top half of your gas tank. Once your gas tank reaches half-full, fill it up again. The weight of the full tank of gasoline will help give the vehicle better traction.
If you drive an a hybrid or electric car, review the cold weather procedures for it. Some electric cars have a heating pack for the batteries that you can plug in at night. If the vehicle has a pre-heat option to warm the car interior, set it to warm up the car before you unplug it.
NEVER warm up your vehicle by starting the engine in a closed garage.
NEVER start your car and leave it unattended while it warms up. Car thieves watch for cars in driveways and wait for the opportunity to steal them.
NEVER leave a child unattended in or around your vehicle, especially when getting ready to leave.
NEVER use hot water to defrost a windshield. Hot water can crack and break a windshield.
ALWAYS wear your seat belt. Don’t text or call when driving, especially during severe weather.
If you park your car outdoors, bang on fenders and the hood before you start your vehicle. Animals – especially cats – will find warmth in the engine compartment of a parked car.
If you get stranded on the road due to mechanical failure or just being stuck in snow, remember:
- Stay with the car. Do not venture out on your own.
- Put bright markers or flags on your car antenna or windows.
- Keep interior dome light on.
- Do NOT run the car for long periods of time to stay warm. You should be able to stay warm by running the engine for 5 mins every hour. Make sure the exhaust pipe is uncovered when running your car’s engine. Otherwise you’re susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning from fumes getting into the passenger compartment.
- If there is more than one person in the vehicle, take turns sleeping. Someone should be awake to alert rescuers.
- Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
- If you’re stranded in a remote area and are near a field or open area, stomp out the words “SOS” or “HELP” in the snow.