1. Know what your car can do.

Be mindful of the types of driving you’ll be doing and the aspects of your car that are important to safe driving in the snow. Do you know whether your car is front-, rear-, or all-wheel drive? Other things to check your Owner’s Manual for include traction control, stability control, and antilock brakes. You should also know what kind of tires are on your car.

2. Be prepared to clear your windows.

Windshields are the first thing most people think of, and it is essential that nothing keeps you from having a clear view out the front. Make sure that you have working windshield wipers that don’t leave streaks of low-visibility across your windshield. Also make sure your washer fluid is full. You can go through a lot of this on a particularly snowy day – more than half a gallon in some cases.

In Pennsylvania, the law requires ALL snow and ice be cleared from the vehicle. To this end, make sure that your rear defroster is in working condition, that you’ve scraped ice and snow from the roof, hood, and trunk of your car, and that your license plate, rear lights, and headlights are all clear. Passenger compartment windows need to be clear of snow, ice, and fog. If you can’t see clearly, you can’t drive safely!

3. Check your tire pressure.

Tire pressure is an important factor in vehicle handling. When things get slippery, it’s especially important to know that you can steer your vehicle. Tire pressure drops along with the temperature, so if you haven’t checked in a while, verify that your tire pressure is in the safe zone.

4. Check your battery and important engine systems, too.

There are few worse feelings than getting in your car on a cold day and being unable to start it. It could keep you from work or other important appointments. Worse, if your car stalls in traffic and you are unable to restart it, it puts you in a dangerous position. Getting your battery tested can help ensure that you never end up in that position. When you are having your battery checked, it’s a good idea to have the rest of your charging system looked at too.

5. Have emergency supplies handy.

No matter how diligent you are about getting your car ready for winter driving, there may come a time where you get stuck. Keeping supplies in your trunk can make it easier. A snow shovel and ice scraper are a must – you are probably using the ice scraper in the mornings to clear off your car. Also include a small bag of sand for traction and extra windshield washer fluid. Keeping a blanket on hand can keep you warm if your car dies and you are without heat. Old winter clothes can help with the warmth too. You may want to throw in some snacks, especially if you often travel with children. Another important part of your emergency kit is a charged cell phone. Being able to call for help will make all the difference in the world if you’re stranded.

6. Remember to drive defensively.

Even when the roads seem clean, black ice can creep up. Snow, sleet, and freezing rain make the roads hazardous. If you absolutely have to drive in these conditions, remember that you must drive defensively. Turn, brake, and accelerate gently and slowly, keeping a good awareness of surrounding vehicles, pedestrians, and other hazards.

Keeping all these tips in mind, you can better avoid car accidents or breakdowns. Being prepared for driving in snow, sleet, ice, and freezing rain means staying safe on the roads this winter.

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