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winter driving

Behind the Wheel

22 Things to Have in Your Winter Safety Kit

February 1, 2015
In December I talked about what to do if you get stranded out in the snow in your car this winter. Though I briefly touched on some emergency items that are essential to have with you in your car, I didn’t have the time to go into complete detail. Since there are so many other items that would be ideal to have on hand, I’ve dedicated this post to an extensive list of how to build a complete winter safety kit. Of course you may not be able to stock up on every single item, but refer back to my original post to see the bare minimum. This post is all about being completely prepared for anything and everything Mother Nature could throw at you! Just having all these items isn’t going to do you too much good. What you really need is some tips on how to put these items to use when you’re in a pinch. Read on for my ideas:
  1. a shovel. If you get stuck in a snow bank, a shovel might just be the only way out!
  2. work gloves. Again, being stuck in the snow going mean you have some cold, cold digging ahead of you. Or even if you simply need to change a tire or refill your oil…work gloves are a welcome tool!
  3. two quarts of oil. Sometimes all your car needs is a little lube to keep things running smoothly. If you car breaks down, always check your oil levels and refill as needed!
  4. jumper cables. Perhaps the easiest way to get out of a broken-down car situation is to jump the battery with jumper cables. You’ll be lucky if that’s all it takes to get you going, so don’t be without them!
  5. windshield scraper and small broom. Nothing is worse than the moment you realize you left your windshield scraper in the house or another car…don’t let it happen to you. 🙂
  6. flashlight with extra batteries. If you need to conserve gas and battery, you may be stuck in the dark night. Hence, the flashlight.
  7. battery powered radio. A radio or walkie-talkie could be your ticket to help getting out of the mess you’re in.
  8. extra stock of antifreeze. If your car is low on antifreeze, it’s always good to have some extra stock on hand to cool the engine.
  9. water. This is another key item to cool your engine down and get your car to safety.
  10. snack food including energy bars. If you end up stuck for longer than you could’ve imagined, you sure be grateful to have some snacks on hand. It could save your life!
  11. raisins and mini candy bars. These high-sugar items can keep your body going even if you haven’t had much else to eat in days.
  12. matches and small candles. These items will come in handy for light and for warmth!
  13. extra hats, socks and mittens. We’re talking about a snow safety kit, so of course we’re going to include essential warm-weather clothes.
  14. First aid kit with pocket knife. If you’re stuck in the snow because of a car accident, you’ll sure be glad to have a first aid kit.
  15. Necessary medications. When stranded for hours or days, the need for medication may come up – even if it’s just to cure a headache!
  16. blankets or sleeping bag. These essentials will keep you from getting frostbite or hypothermia in the night.
  17. tow chain or rope. If another car passes by, they just might be able to pull your car back onto the road with the help of a tow chain.
  18. road salt, sand, or cat litter. These are key elements from providing traction for your car wheels to assist in getting out of that snow bank!
  19. brake fluid. When the brakes go out, you’ll want to give them some love with an extra supply of brake fluid.
  20. emergency flares and reflectors. Flares can keep you out of harms way if other cars are on the road, and draw attention to bring you to safety!
  21. fluorescent distress flag and whistle. These items can also help bring attention to your car and get the necessary help.
  22. Cell phone adapter to plug into lighter. Being able to call someone and charge your battery could be essential communication for getting rescued. Of course, these days, I probably don’t need to tell you this one. 😉
Auto News

7 Cars for Winter Driving

January 29, 2015
Unless you live in forever-sunny San Diego or Miami, winter weather calls for some changes in the way you drive. From four-wheel drive to new windshield wipers, you can exponentially increase your safety and performance on the road by switching out some features on your car. But even better than winterizing your car is getting a brand new one, right?! Of course it isn’t in the cards for everyone, but it’s always fun to think about. In the case that you are in the market for a new car this winter, here are my favorite cars for winter driving: 8S4 1. Toyota Sienna AWD: Though some people might scoff at the idea of a minivan making my list, the Toyota Sienna is a serious contender for winter performance. I wanted to add vehicles for a variety of lifestyles, and the Sienna is by far the best family-friendly van for snow driving. It’s the only minivan to have an all-wheel drive option and higher ground clearance to handle icy roads. 6W42. Toyota Highlander: Whether you’re plowing through a snowdrift or simply passing over muddy terrain, you will never have to worry about getting stuck in the Toyota Highlander. This SUV is small enough to remain convenient and compact, while large enough to allow for comfortable seating. EAP 4. Nissan RougeYou’ll feel far more confident in the Nissan Rouge than any small sedan. Like the Highlander, it’s a compact SUV with the option of all-wheel drive. The steering is secure and solid, while the high-quality interior, comfortable seating and all-around view monitor make it a great everyday vehicle. GBE 5. Chevy Suburban: This is one of the best cars for a a big family or otherwise large group of passengers. Because it has a wider frame, electronic stability  and 4-wheel anti-lock brakes, you’ll know that you and your whole crew are safe and sound when the icy roads come along. (But of course you still want to make sure you drive carefully!)K23 6. Nissan Pathfinder: This beauty is one of the Kelley Blue Book selected vehicles for 10 top Cars and SUVS for Snow driving. I particularly like the Pathfinder because it gets better gas mileage than many SUVs out there, clocking in at about 21 miles per gallon on the highway!PU5 7. Hyundai Tucson: Named a “Top Safety Pick” in 2013, the Tucson is an excellent choice for winter driving if you have a love of Hyundai! The higher ground clearance allows better manuevering, and the Tucson also has great stability, assist control and brake control for going up and down hills. You can’t go wrong!
Behind the Wheel

Are Snow Tires Worth It?

January 13, 2015
Sure, we just passed the official start of fall, but winter will be here before we know it! For that reason, I wanted to start talking about ways to get your car ready for the winter season. Because, unless you live in eternally-sunny spots of California or Florida, harsh winter weather can be really tough on your car! It can also endanger your safety, unless you know how to prevent problems. First up, I want to talk about snow tires! Some people opt for all-weather tires because they can be used all year long. But snow tires have special benefits that all-weather tires just don’t offer. So I’m here to talk about the pros and cons of snow tires, helping you determine if they’re worth it for you! BENEFITS OF SNOW TIRES
  • Amazing grip on the road. If you live in an area with heavy snow and ice, snow tires are undoubtedly far superior to all-weather tires, which are mainly made for rainy weather or very light snow. Snow tires are able to get a strong grip on icey roads because of their special rubber make up and deeper treads.
  • Better braking. Rather than skidding over the surface, snow tires will always dig into snow and ice to help brake as quickly and smoothly as possible. This is a vital feature when you’re on rough roads!
  • Endure cold weather. Even if you’re roads are always cleared quickly or you have a fairly snow-free winter, snow tires are beneficial to have in cold weather. As the temperatures drop, normal tires lose flexibility and grip, whereas snow tires are meant to endure cold temperatures. Experts recommend putting on snow tires when the temperatures drop into the 40 degree zone.
  • No hydroplaning. Snow tires are meant to push water away from the car. Their special design makes water move through the tire rather than fight against it. So when you find yourself in a rain storm or crossing melting snow, you’ll be much safer with snow tires.
  • Access to more areas. Some places like ski areas or mountain towns require snow tires on for driving by law. Hence, you’ll have access to more places if you have snow tires on your car, and will often be able to skip the chain requirement if you have good enough tires.
  • Comparable pricing. Thanks to advancing technology, snow tires now cost about the same amount as all-weather tires. So there’s no harm done to your wallet!
  • Not meant for year-round use. One of the most obvious downsides to getting winter tires is the fact that you have to buy a new set of tires and go to the trouble of switching them onto your car. It certainly requires some effort, but it’s usually worth it in the end!
  • Wear down faster. The materials used to make winter tires are prone to wearing down faster than normal tires. Because of the softer rubber, you shouldn’t drive with winter tires in warm weather, or they will lose their effectiveness.
  • Wear down roads. If everyone used winter tires year-round, our local roads would be in bad shape a whole lot faster. Winter tires have a larger tread and sometimes even have studs that can damage the road over time.
  • Tougher to handle. Though winter tires are amazing for intense snowy conditions and extreme cold, winter tires are tougher to handle in relatively calm conditions
Now that you’ve gotten the low-down on winter tires, do you think they’re worth it for your situation? Because of the added comfort of knowing I’d be less prone to accidents, I’d definitely get snow tires in an area that has harsh winters. I think the inconvenience of switching out tires pales in comparison to the benefits! Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments!
Behind the Wheel

Don't Panic: Here's What To Do If You Get Stranded In Your Car This Winter!

December 23, 2014
Have you ever thought about what would happen if your car got stuck in a snow storm? Would you have any idea what to do? Unfortunately, in many parts of the country this situation is not that uncommon. Despite winter storm watches, modern technology and advances in the automotive industry, your car is not invincible to ol’ Mother Nature. You need to be armed with the knowledge of what to do if it were to happen to you, and I’m here to make that happen! We’ve still got a bit of time before the dead of winter is upon us, so let’s head into the season ready for whatever might happen during our holiday travels! Here are my tips for what to do if your car gets stuck in a winter storm: 1. Avoid getting yourself in the situation in the first place! As I said before, sometimes getting stuck in a winter storm while on the road is unavoidable. But more often than not, the cars stuck in a storm could’ve avoided the situation if they really wanted to. If there’s a heavy snowfall or blizzard going down before you even leave the house, DO NOT get on the road in those conditions. It doesn’t matter how far you plan on traveling or how tough you think your car is — in reality, you just shouldn’t be risking it. Even if you have to cancel plans, miss a day of work, etc…avoid the road at all costs. 2. Have emergency gear on hand. Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s talk about what to do when all else fails and you actually do get stuck. I recommend having a handful of items in your car all winter long, just to be on the safe side. These items could save your life!
  • one or two wool blankets
  • flashlight and batteries
  • first aid kit
  • non-perishable food to last 72 hours
  • bottled water
  • extra set of clothes
  • matches and candles
  • sack of sand (to provide traction for tires)
  • towing rope
3. Get your car ready for winter. This could be a long post on its own, but there’s a lot you can do to make sure your car is in the best shape possible for driving in snow. It might save you from getting stuck in the first place! Here’s a great list to serve as your guide. 4. Stay with your car. Unless you are absolutely certain of where you have gotten stuck and how close a gas station or help might be found, don’t leave your car! You might think you’re in a bad situation, but nothing could be worse than leaving the car to get help, and getting lost in the blizzard without any shelter at all. 5. Attract attention. Since it’s not a good idea to leave your car behind, you’ll need to try to get people to come to you. And in a sea of white snow, that can be a hard task. So make sure to do everything possible to attract attention to your car. Light flares, tie bright fabric to your antennae, flash your brights (if they are visible), and anything else you can think of. 6. Keep a window cracked. Even though you surely want to be blocking out the winter cold, you’ll need to keep at least one window slightly open so that your car doesn’t completely seal up in the freezing temperatures. You want people to be able to rescue you when they come! 7. Don’t run the engine or heater. This is another one that might seem counter-intuitive, but running the car will waste precious gas, and running the heater can use up oxygen in the car and create carbon monoxide if the exhaust pipe is not cleared. It’s best to try to get heat from blankets, candles and clothing. If you follow all of these steps, there’s a good chance you’ll be just fine in a winter storm. Most people who find themselves stranded are usually rescued or able to get out on their own within 24 hours. So be sure to remember these steps and be prepared!