Your Guide for Winter Travel and Safety
December can be a stressful month with the holidays and the official arrival of winter, which means more chances for unsafe road conditions, bad weather and unpredictable holiday travel.
Use this winter driving checklist as your guide to help keep your car running at peak performance throughout the winter season.
December safety checklist for every vehicle
- Evaluate your vehicle's climate control system by activating it and adjusting the settings. Observe its responsiveness. If you're not getting warm air, it could be indicative of a faulty thermostat that might need replacement.
- Examine your battery's status, as cold weather can diminish the capacity of a weak battery, particularly on chilly nights, leading to reduced performance. Get a battery voltage test to ensure it's fully charged and ready for the colder season. Watch for common signs of battery depletion, such as a laborious engine start, sluggish power windows, and dimming headlights.
- Replace any engine belts that are producing squeaks. Pay attention to unusual sounds originating from under the hood. A fractured or loose belt could leave you stranded during the holiday period.
- Check the washer fluid level, as winter road conditions lead to rapid grime accumulation. Top off your vehicle's windshield washer tank and contemplate carrying an additional container of fluid for extended road trips.
- Replace your windshield wipers if they exhibit frayed edges, chattering, squealing, or dragging behavior. Opt for winter blades if you're navigating freezing climates. Consider silicon blades, which outlast and perform better compared to conventional rubber blades.
- Transition to antifreeze wiper fluid if you live in freezing climes. It contains higher antifreeze concentrations to prevent freezing even in sub-zero temperatures. This guarantees clear windshields during harsh winter conditions, making it indispensable for regions experiencing severe winters. Check local regulations since some areas restrict its use.
- Examine your headlights and taillights for hazy or yellowed appearances. Foggy lenses reduce brightness and impede your visibility of winter road hazards. Ensure that headlight beams are correctly aligned, especially if your vehicle has encountered rough road conditions that might misalign the headlight assembly.
- Clean vehicle sensors and back-up cameras to maintain their optimal functionality. Winter road grime can obstruct their ability to detect problems accurately.
- Fix wheel alignment and steering issues arising from encounters with potholes, curbs, or rough surfaces. Incorrect alignment may lead to pulling to one side, posing challenges in steering on icy or wet roads, and it also accelerates tire tread wear.
- Promptly repair windshield chips and cracks, as freezing temperatures can escalate minor damage into extensive cracks overnight, necessitating costly windshield replacements.
- Inspect tire tread depth and inflation levels meticulously. Winter driving is all about good tires, so inspecting tread depth and inflation levels is important.
When it comes to assessing tread depth, a good rule of thumb is to take a penny and hold it with President Lincoln's head facing down, then insert the penny into the tire tread groove. Check how much of Lincoln's head is still visible above the tread.
If you can see the top of Lincoln's head (i.e., his entire head is visible), it's an indication that the tire tread has worn down too much, and it's time to replace the tire. Experts recommend replacing tires when they reach this point to improve traction and safety during your holiday travels.
Don’t leave home without these essential items for your winter and holiday travels. Make sure all drivers in your family are properly outfitted for their winter adventures.
1. Emergency Kit
- Blankets or warm sleeping bags
- Extra warm clothing (hats, gloves, scarves)
- Non-perishable snacks (granola bars, nuts)
- Bottled water
- First aid kit
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Basic tools (screwdriver, pliers, wrench)
- Ice scraper and snow brush
- Hand warmers
2. Communication and Navigation
- Fully charged mobile phone with car charger
- Portable phone charger or power bank
- Traditional road maps to back up your phone GPS navigation system
- Flares for roadside emergencies, yours and someone else’s.
- Reflective triangles
3. Vehicle Maintenance
- Jumper cables
- Spare tire, jack, and lug wrench
- Tire chains (if needed for snowy conditions)
- Tire pressure gauge
- Basic toolkit
- Extra engine oil
- Antifreeze or coolant
- Windshield washer fluid (winter formula)
- Extra wiper blades
- Tow strap
4. Winter Survival Gear
- Cat litter or sand for traction
- Multi-tool or pocket knife
- Duct tape
- Matches or lighter
5. Personal Comfort
- Travel pillows and blankets
- Hand sanitizer
- Tissues or paper towels
- Personal medications
6. Entertainment and Distraction
- Books, magazines, or e-reader
- Travel games or puzzles
- Music or audiobooks
- Charging cables for electronic devices
7. Seasonal Supplies
- Ice melt or salt
- Warm beverages in insulated thermos
- Snacks with a longer shelf life