Winter driving in the northern climes can be challenging to say the least. I live on the coast in Maine and a difference of a few miles can make a lot of difference in the types of precipitation and driving conditions encountered.At my last place of employment it was nothing for it to be snowing hard and three miles down the road it would be mixed precipitation or all rain. as long as I stayed near the coast it wouldn’t be bad driving at all but as I would head away from the coast it would be all snow again. Keep in mind this was all within the space of 17 miles so you never knew what you were going to encounter.
A few years ago there was another storm that dumped 6 inches of snow on the center of town that’s right on the coast. I live 6 miles inland and we got maybe an inch of snow. The point is you never know in the winter what you are going to encounter for weather and a few easy precaution will make your trip easier and safer for all involved.
Winter Vehicle Maintenance and Trip Preparation
- Follow a maintenance schedule for your vehicle and do necessary repairs in a timely fashion, we all know people who ignore the check engine light until their vehicle stops running completely. Check your oil, coolant, brake fluid and power steering fluid levels based on the schedule you set up for your vehicle. These items should be checked year round. Replace your windshield wipers should be replaced in the fall of the year.
- Check your tires for wear and replace them as needed. Rotating your tires is a good idea as well as this ensures more even wear and will prolong the life of your tires. Periodically check your tire pressure as running your tires either under or over inflated will cause them to wear faster. If you use chains check them in the fall to make sure they are ready for use. If you use studded snow tires in the winter make sure you check local laws regarding the months of the year you can legally use them.
- I am also a firm believer in keeping your gas tank full. I try to never go below a half tank of fuel. Driving during a storm may require a route change due to an accident or a detour. If you have to evacuate because or a hurricane or other disaster gas stations may have no gas or be unable to pump gas due to a power outage. Being stranded with half a tank or better of fuel is better than being at a quarter of a tank or lower.
- Always check weather conditions along your route and at your destination. Remember it could be raining where you are but they’re getting a foot of snow at your destination. Between cell phones, internet access and news there is no reason to be surprised by weather or road conditions on your trip.
- Cell phones are a great tool for staying on top of conditions during your trip providing the battery is charged. I always take a car charger with me and have recently added an emergency batter charger as well in case the car battery dies.
- Pack a winter vehicle emergency kit and check it periodically to make sure the contents are up to date. Vehicle kits will be the subject of Mondays post and will include a checklist of items I have found helpful over the years.
Remember with proper planning and forethought you can travel safely through a wide variety of weather conditions.