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How can I protect my car during severe winter weather?

Serious winter storms are set to make travel difficult for millions in central areas of the United States, but how can you make those essential journeys safer?

How can I protect my car during severe winter weather?
Scott EisenAFP

Central parts of the United States have been warned to brace for winter storms sweeping across roughly 2,000 miles of the country from Tuesday evening. Experts have advised that plummeting temperatures and heavy snow could lead to hazardous conditions on the road from New Mexico and Texas up to Illinois and Michigan.

Several states implemented emergency plans ahead of the storms arrival to safeguard residents but there is concern that local resources could be overwhelmed.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois has called on 130 National Guard members to help with the emergency response as the state prepares for up to 20 inches of snow, threatening to make a substantial proportion of the road network unusable.

“At home, make sure that your household has the essentials: food, water, medicine,” Gov. Pritzker advised. “Do not travel or drive if you can avoid doing so.”

However some Americans may have to make car journeys in the coming days, so how best can you prepare your car for travel in winter weather? Car insurance providers GEICO have outlined some of the key things to do before heading out into the snow…

Check for vehicle recalls

It may seem unlikely but it is worth checking to see if your car has been the subject of a manufacturer recall before taking to the snowy roads. You can do so easily and quickly using the NHTSA’s Recalls Look-Up Tool and entering your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to see if it has been recalled in the last 15 years.

Get a car service

Now is the perfect time for a seasonal check-up to ensure that any pieces of routine maintenance are up to date. This can include searching for leaks and worn hoses, and should include a test of your car’s battery health to ensure that you don’t get stranded.

Check the tires

Perhaps the most crucial, and common, piece of preparation to do before winter driving is to check the state of your vehicle’s tires. You should check both the tire pressure and the overall wear on the tire, remembering to give your spare tire a once-over too. Check the manufacturer’s recommendation on tire pressure, tread definition and lifespan.

Consider getting new windshield wipers

Wipers that are capable of brushing aside a few spots of rain may seem pretty inadequate when faced with snow and ice in the next few weeks. If your wipers appear worn then you should consider replacing them with heavy-duty winter wipers.

Check engine fluids

Your windshield washer fluid should have a de-icer included to prevent any moisture on the glass from icing up. It’s also worth keeping extra in your vehicle as drivers can get through a lot of the product in extreme conditions.

Test signals and lights before heading out

Winter storms bring a dangerous combination of slippy conditions on the road and poor visibility so you should make sure that all signals and lights are working well. This includes brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and headlights.

Make sure heating systems are functioning

As obvious as it may sound, you should check that your car’s internal heating system and window defroster should be working well before heading out into a winter storm. Not only will it make the journey more comfortable but ensuring you are at a safe temperature will help keep your focus on the road.

Bring a car safety kit

No matter how much preparation you do there is always an element of risk when driving during extreme weather so you should prepare for the worst. Keeping a car safety kit in your car at all times will give you that extra peace of mind and could be invaluable if things go wrong. GEICO have issued a comprehensive list of Winter Driving Safety Kit Essentials which includes an ice scraper, blanket, first-aid kit and even a flare.


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