The holidays are upon us. It’s the time of year when many people take to the road to visit loved ones, whether they’re across town or across the country. But with cold weather comes unpredictable road conditions, unexpected pit stops, and unplanned maintenance to your vehicle. Not to mention the avalanche of drivers rushing to get home for the holidays!
Before you jump in the car and head out for your holiday road trip—freeze! Check out this list first to learn how to winterize your vehicle, what to pack for the journey, and how to handle inclement weather.
How to Prepare for a Winter Road Trip
You’ve chosen the perfect winter road trip destination, busted out the heavy coats and snow boots, and planned your itinerary. You’re all set, right? Almost! The last thing you want is a weather-related accident or breakdown on your way to your winter road trip destination. To help prevent unexpected issues, here are a few vital prep steps for your car:
Check your car’s fluid levels
Your vehicle may need a different type of oil in winter than it does in summer. Even if you’re not quite due for a routine oil service, it’s a good idea to take your car in for an oil change and ensure you have the right type of motor oil for winter weather. When you bring your car to Tires Plus for an oil change, we can top off your other fluids (like windshield wiper fluid or brake fluid), as well.
Have your battery tested
A dead car battery can be miserable in the middle of winter, and in some cases, it can quickly spell danger for you and your family. Unless you frequently check your battery’s charge, you may not realize your battery is nearly zapped until it’s too late.
Switch to winter tires
All-season tires might cut it if your entire winter road trip takes place in a reasonably mild climate with no snow. If there’s any chance you’ll need to drive in wet, freezing, icy, or snowy conditions, winter tires are a must-have. Shop winter tires online or head to Tires Plus if you need help choosing the right winter tires for your car. Don’t forget to inspect your spare tire, too!
Be Prepared for Extra Traffic
Have a plan in place to avoid traffic and congested road conditions. Roads are significantly busier during the holiday season, and choosing low-traffic travel dates and times can help you stay safe on the road from Thanksgiving all the way through New Year’s Eve.
Driving in Snow for the First Time
Whether you’re a lifelong snow bunny or you’re driving in snow for the first time, check out our best tips for driving safely in the snow. Leave plenty of extra time to get to your destination, and keep a bag of sand or cat litter in your trunk in case you skid off the road and need help gaining traction on a slippery surface.
Stay calm if you hit a particularly rough patch of weather. If you don’t feel comfortable driving, stop at a safe place (preferably a place where you can stay indoors, like a gas station or restaurant), and wait until the worst of the storm passes. Call a loved one to let them know where you’re stopped (like grandma—she’ll be worried when you don’t show up for dinner!).
What to Take on a Winter Road Trip
It’s always a good idea to keep emergency supplies in your car, but it’s especially crucial for winter road trips. Not sure how to stock your car? Here’s what to take on a winter road trip so you’ll be prepared in an emergency.
A portable power bank for your phone
Between GPS, music streaming, and all those road trip pics, your phone’s battery might not last the whole trip. And you certainly don’t want to get stranded in a winter storm with a dead phone! Keep a portable power bank handy to recharge your phone battery. That way, you won’t have to rely on your car to charge your phone if you need to call for help.
Pro tip: Tires Plus offers 24/7 roadside assistance to get you over the river and through the woods in no time.
A roadway emergency kit
No matter what time of year it is, carry jumper cables (and battery booster supplies if you have them!), a flashlight, hazard triangles or flares, and a basic first aid kit. For winter drives, you’ll want to have a windshield ice scraper. Additionally, you can speed up your scraping time with a DIY windshield defroster spray! It’s also a good idea to have a small shovel in your car in case your tires get stuck, or to keep snow from piling up and blocking your tailpipe if your car idles for an extended period in heavy snowfall.
Blankets and extra winter clothing
Winter road conditions can change in the blink of an eye, leaving you and your family stranded. Make sure everyone can keep warm! Pack blankets, gloves, hats, and other warm items for yourself and all your passengers. To keep your hands warm while you work under the hood, stash a few portable hand warmer packets in your car, too.
Snacks and water
Know what makes a winter road emergency even worse? “Hangry” passengers. Keep plenty of bottled water and trail mix on hand, just in case you’re trapped for longer than an hour or two.
Make Sure Your Car is Road Trip Ready
Bring your car in for a Courtesy Check before you hit the road. We can spot and address potential issues with your vehicle—and we promise not to judge the festive reindeer antlers or blinking lights you’ve used to decorate it! Make an appointment online or head to your nearest Tires Plus location today.