Driving on snowy winter highways can be rather dangerous at times (just look at what’s happening on Highway 402 in SW Ontario right now). If you’re making a trip to see family over the holidays, or going to and from university, or just doing general highway driving, here are a few helpful tips on surviving the winter roads.
Always keep your gas tank at least half full. Yes, it’s cold, and you may not want to stop and get out and refuel more often than you think you need to, but the last thing you want is to get stuck out in the middle of nowhere because you ran out of fuel. Also, speeds on the highway completely slow down when there’s poor visibility and slippery conditions due to snow…you could use more fuel than normal or take much longer to get to the next gas station than usual.
2. Washer fluid
Always keep an extra jug in the trunk, and make sure you’ve got lots topped up before heading out for a long drive.
3. Emergency Kit
These are really helpful, and in general, a great thing to have all year round. Mine has some tools, a flare, booster cables, orange plastic alert cones, first aid, and more. You can build your own or buy a pre-made one from places like Canadian Tire, Home Depot, Home Hardware, etc. They also make cute pink ones for you uber-girls.
4. Stay Warm
Keep an extra fleece blanket on hand in the winter.
5. Food and Water
It’s always good to have a little non-perishable food and bottled water handy. Just some granola bars, individual fruit cups and applesauce, and some mini bags of chips are good. Definitely have a couple small bottles of water as well.
6. Ice Scraper
Make sure you have a good quality scraper/brush on hand, especially for starting up again after getting stuck or stopping for a while.
7. Phone charger
Most phones have car chargers available for purchase – definitely pick up one of these, because the last thing you want is for your phone to die when you’re out in the boondocks.
8. Snow tires!!!
I know they’re expensive, but if you plan on doing a lot of driving this winter, they are insanely worth it (and don’t scrimp – get the good quality ones, like Blizzak). They also last about 2 to 5 seasons if you’re good to them (ie. don’t put them on too early/leave them on too late). If you have a rear-wheel drive and plan on driving, snow tires are a must (trust me…personal experience). If you have a front wheel drive, they’re still a really good idea. Even if you have a four-wheel drive car, don’t forget that the rubber on all-season tires becomes frozen and inefficient when temperatures get below -15C (or thereabouts), so you’re not doing yourself too many favours by opting out of snow tires. I’m really serious about this one. If you’ve never had snow tires on your car, you will be amaaazed at the difference they make. Save up and invest, especially if you live in a typically snowy area or drive a lot.
Most of this stuff recommended here can be easily stored in even the smallest of cars, and will make a huge difference if you ever become prey to the wild winters that lurk throughout most of North America.
Good luck, and happy snowing!