Winter Car Safety for Dummies

Not that you’re a dummy…but, I may have been one a year ago.  Being a winter weather driving newbie, I’m no expert, but I thought it important to share the knowledge I learned after living surviving my first snowy winter in Ohio.  The first snow of Dayton already fell (luckily, I missed the first one because I was visiting California!) so, this post is quite timely.

Tip #1:  Keep your gas tank at least half full all the time.

This concept was very foreign to me being a winter weather newbie.  In California, I used to see how empty I could get my tank each time and knew, pretty much exactly, how many miles I had until empty once my gas light turned on.  In a snowy weather environment, that kind of “risky” behavior is just not ok.  😉  You never know what could happen while driving in the snow or how long it may take someone to find you if your car gets stuck in a ditch.  So, to be safe, make sure you have enough gas to keep the engine running (and the heat blowing) until an emergency vehicle can reach you.  (By the way, 59 degrees is the temperature inside my insulated garage…it was actually in the 20s today…brrr!)

Tip #2:  Have an emergency kit in your vehicle.

Last year, I bought one of those $40 emergency kits that you can get at Target.  It comes in this nice and compact carrying case.

When opened up all the way it looks like this.

It has a small shovel (disassembled) and a full size blanket on one side.  On the other side is a set of jumper cables, a rope…

a cheapy flashlight (**quick tip** it’s a good idea to keep the batteries outside of a flashlight you don’t use often so they don’t corrode.  You want it to actually work when you need it to!), hand warmers, a glow stick, and an emergency blanket.

Along with your kit, it’s a good idea to have some extra warm blankets in case your engine stops working and therefore your heater stops functioning.  And be sure to keep some snacks and water in your car (I get cranky when I’m hungry!) such as crackers, energy bars, and chocolate. 😉  I am on the lookout for some flares like you see police officers use to direct traffic.  I haven’t found a place where I can buy them, but you want to make it easy for people to find you in the snow!

This flashlight is something that I got for Christmas from my parents (we give practical gifts every now and then) years before I moved to Ohio, but it has served me well.  It’s a flashlight that gets battery power from shaking it.  Shake it up for about a minute and it works!  I definitely recommend.

Tip #3:  Account for “Snow Time”

Considering that I’m always kinda on my own schedule when it comes to “promptness” {ahem} this whole “snow time” thing didn’t go over too well for me.  I mean, it was hard for me to get places in a timely manner without having to add an extra 20 minutes because I’d be driving in the snow!  But, I assure you, it takes longer to get from point A to point B when there is snow and making sure you have enough time is key, so you don’t try to rush it and end up skidding out…kinda like this…

Major bummer…sometimes there’s just nothing you can do.

Tip #4:  What to do in case of a spin out

If you do find yourself in a spin out, you’ll want to turn your wheel in the direction where you want your car to go.  Seems simple enough, but when you are actually spinning out, sometimes the simple things escape you.  Basically, keep turning your wheel so the nose of your car is going as straight as possible.  I once did a driving school where they created a controlled situation where the car spun out (I’m pretty sure it was just dish soap, a ton of water, and bald tires).  I definitely spun out a few times, but eventually got the hang of it.  If you start to swerve left, turn the steering wheel to the right, if you over correct, turn the wheel back the other way…always trying to keep the nose of your car going straight.

Tip #5:  Keep an ice scraper and brush in your car (cabin and trunk)

This one may seem obvious, but last year as the weather started to slightly warm up, so that it was warm enough to rain during the day and then freeze at night, I found myself in a predicament.  I got out of one of my classes at about 9pm and found that my car had been completely frozen over.  It was entombed in ice, as it were.

It looked like this car…


I took that photo during the ice storm last February.  (You can check out more photos from the ice storm in my Icy Wonderland post of yore.)

So, anyway, my car entombed in ice made it pretty difficult to get inside of it (man, oh man, did I wish I had a remote start for my engine that night!).  Luckily I was able to get the car door open eventually (I think it was my amazing super human strength personally), but had I only had my ice scraper in the trunk (which was nearly impossible to get open), I would have been in a bit more trouble.  So, long story long, I keep one scraper/brush (the one pictured above) inside the cabin of my car and a nifty glove/scraper (another gift from my parents) in the trunk.

So there’s 5 quick tips for winter car safety.  Also, remember to drive slowly and keep a safe driving distance between yourself and the car in front of you!  Anyone else have any quick tips that can help keep driving in the snow a little safer?


** Now, remember these are just tips that have worked for me…I am by no means a car or driving expert! **

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