Mother Nature is going to throw wicked winter weather at Southern Maryland this season, and the difference between being safe or being stranded can come down to how prepared you are.
Want to be ready for whatever happens on the road? Follow these tips.
Prepare your vehicle
Prepare your vehicle to ensure you’ll make it over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house.
Check the antifreeze level, and top it off if needed. If you’re not sure how to check the levels, refer to the manual that came with your vehicle.
But the level of antifreeze isn’t the only thing you should check. The mixture needs to be checked, too. Auto supply stores sell inexpensive commercial texting kits, and Thoughtco.com offers a handy walk-through of the testing process.
Next, take a look at the tires. Check the pressure, and if necessary, add air. Then, check the tread, using the “penny,” as suggested by justtires.com. Insert a penny into the tread “with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you,” they say. “If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, your tread depth is less than 2/32 inch, and it’s time to replace your tires.”
If the weather is particularly bad, you may want to buy winter tired before you hit the road. “In places where snow and ice prevail for several months a year, the average driver will exceed all-weather tires’ grip limits multiple times a day,” according to Mack Demere at Edmunds.com.
The experts at DMV.org say that mechanics recommend a thinner motor oil for cars driven in areas with sub-freezing temperatures, so talk to your mechanic before you have an oil change to find out what he or she recommends.
Then, fill the windshield wiper fluid reservoir with a freeze-resistant fluid.
Finally, check the breaks, battery, and heating/defrosting system.
Create an emergency kit for the car
Into your emergency kit, pack:
- Blankets for each occupant
- Ice scraper and/or liquid deice
- Bottled water
- Non-perishable food
- LED flashlights
- Extra clothes (especially shoes or boots and socks)
- First-aid kit
- Basic tools
- Jumper cables (at least 16 feet in length, according to itstactical.com)
- Matches or lighters
- Sand (to pour under the tires, if needed)
- Extra phone charger
- Battery-powered radio and extra, fresh batteries
- Tow chain or rope
- Fluorescent distress flag
If you get stuck
Should you stay put or go for help? Disasters happen when people make the wrong decision when they’re stuck on the road during a snow storm.
Stay put if:
- You can’t see a safe location nearby
- You broke down on a road where rescue is unlikely
- You’re not dressed for the weather
- You don’t have a way to call for help
Pull of the highway, turn on the car’s hazard lights, and stay inside the vehicle. Run the engine and heater once an hour for 10 minutes to stay warm. When you do this, “open a downwind window slightly for ventilation and periodically clear snow from the exhaust pipe. This will protect you from possible carbon monoxide poisoning,” suggests the Department of Homeland Security.
If you don’t have a blanket, use whatever you can find in the car for insulation, such as seat covers, road maps, and floor mats. Light exercise will also help you maintain body heat.
On the other hand, if you are dressed for the weather (several layers of warm clothing with moisture repellant outerwear, mittens, hat and a scarf to cover your mouth), the conditions outside are relatively safe, and there is a nearby source of help, leave the vehicle to seek assistance.
- Drive only if it is absolutely necessary during heavy snowstorms.
- Always let someone know where you are going, which route you’ll be taking, and your estimated time of arrival. Then, stick to the route without taking shortcuts.
- Monitor local weather conditions.
Taking simple steps before your road trip keeps you from being at the mercy of severe winter weather.
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