All Season Driving

Preparing your vehicle for all season travel and knowing how to react if stranded or lost on the road are the keys to safe driving, but, unexpected things happen and can include such things as being hit, sliding off the road on an icy patch or wet road, or a vehicle breakdown – yours or someone else’s. When these things happen, having a few appropriate tools and supplies can make a huge, potentially life-saving, difference.

Basic Safety List

Have a mechanic check the following items on your car, truck, and various recreational vehicles if you are not able to do so yourself.

  • Antifreeze level in radiator
  • Battery fully charged & holding charge
  • Heater & Defroster fully functioning
  • Seat Belts in good condition
  • Brakes checked & maintained
  • Ignition System in good working order
  • Thermostat working
  • Lights checked and all working (including headlights bright enough to see clearly)
  • Tires (including spare) fully inflated
  • Tire tread in good condition and appropriate for the season
  • Exhaust system – no leaks
  • Lubrication
  • Wheel Bearings
  • Fan & Timing Belts (when was the last time they were checked?)
  • Oil Level (when was it last changed?)
  • Windshield wipers in good condition
  • Windshield washer fluid full with solution appropriate for expected temperatures

In addition to checking the above listed systems checks, a good vehicle safety kit should include at least the following items:

  • Extra Windshield Washer fluid
  • Extra Antifreeze & water for radiator
  • Brake fluid
  • Power steering fluid
  • Transmission fluid
  • Oil
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Portable Flashing Hazard Lights/Flares
  • Maps (not GPS but paper maps of your expected travel area, GPS is good, but not always available/reliable)
  • Duct tape
  • Rope
  • Bright flashlight/headlamp (with batteries stored separately to avoid corrosion)
  • Non-perishable food (2-3 days worth)
  • Extra water for drinking (2-3 days worth)
  • Sturdy shoes/boots that you could safely & comfortably hike several miles in
  • Blanket – preferably wool NOT cotton
  • Basic Tool Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Work gloves (leather)
  • Rain coat or large garbage bag for emergency rain/wind protection

If you have young children/infants, consider adding some diapers, formula, bottles, wipes (shoot, I carry wipes for ME), tissues, plastic bags for waste/garbage…

During winter weather, the following items should be added to your vehicle safety kit, as a minimum:

  • Heavy coat for each person (not a fashion statement, a good warm, long, heavy wool coat)
  • Hats for each person (ideally w/face & neck protection)
  • Warm gloves/mittens (not thin, stretchy ones)
  • Extra pairs of thick socks for each person
  • Extra blankets or sleeping bags
  • Extra food (granola, nuts, jerky, chips, candy – fat & calories = warmth)

Consider adding some chemical hand/foot warmers, an alcohol stove & an unopened bottle of alcohol (not propane or butane)…

In winter weather, the cold can combine with fashionable/cute clothing to be deadly. Too many people, both men and women, go from their warm house to their heated garage to work/church/shopping with no thought for how they would survive multiple hours in the cold. Don’t let false fashion pride kill you and/or those you love!

A few additional items you might want to consider adding to your winter car emergency kit might include:

Traction assistance

  • A bag of sand (some people suggest kitty litter but, it becomes slippery when wet so is less likely to help you get unstuck from snow or ice, additionally, it’s usually more expensive than the same weight of sand)
  • Solid, long-handled shovel (folding shovels take less space but are significantly more prone to breaking when trying to free a vehicle stuck in snow, as I can attest from personal experience)
  • Digging bar or crow bar
  • Tire chains
  • Tow rope or strap
  • Winch

Cooking/heat

  • Waterproof/windproof matches
  • Ferrocerium rod or flint & steel or TESTED magnesium rod (some of them don’t work – even when shavings are exposed to flame)
  • Alpine mug or similar
  • Tarp or heavy plastic in case of broken windows
  • Packets of instant soup/oatmeal/hot cocoa
  • Battery operated CO (carbon monoxide) detector with batteries (stored separately)

Clothing

  • Neck gaiter
  • Thermal underwear
  • Long pants (an extra pair in case you get wet, or 2 if you frequently wear a skirt)
  • Snow pants
  • Warm boots that you could comfortably hike through snow/slush for at least a mile (try them out ladies because most women’s boots will not keep your feet warm and dry under these conditions, to say nothing of comfort or safety

 

Even though I have suggested shoes and boots that you could comfortably hike at least a mile in, please realize that most of the time, you will be safer staying with your vehicle than leaving it, especially if you are near a road that is normally travelled and plowed. An exception or two might be if you go over an embankment, or, if you have been travelling back roads that get little use.

Another consideration is that, if you are well prepared with appropriate clothing and supplies, you will be in a better position to potentially render vital assistance to someone else.

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