The weather’s getting cold in Utah, and that can be bad news for drivers. Consider these statistics from the Federal Highway Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation:

  • Nearly a quarter of weather-related vehicle accidents take place on snowy, slushy or icy roads
  • More than 1,300 people in the United States are killed in winter weather-related accidents each year, and nearly 117,000 are injured.
Guide for Winter Tire Safety and Auto Maintenance

(Pixabay / Skitterphoto)

Winter brings driving challenges like salted streets, icy roads, freezing temperatures, and heavy snow. These conditions can obstruct visibility, increase your stopping time, reduce your tire traction, and affect the inner workings of your car.

For most of us, driving is inevitable. We can’t avoid it, but we can take steps to make sure our care is well-maintained, which can, in turn, prevent winter accidents. To help you prepare now to stay safe on winter roads, we’ve listed eight simple car care tips that can go a long way toward protecting you and your car all winter long.

  1. Check all of your lights. Make sure all of your lights are functioning correctly and replace as needed before the winter begins. If your headlights are foggy or have dulled with time, consider replacing them or having us restore them.
  2. Check your battery. Batteries tend to fail when they are pushed to extremes. Our advice is to have your battery tested before winter starts to make sure it’s still in good working order. If it isn’t, buy a new battery as soon as possible so you’ll never have to worry about being stranded or left in a cold parking lot with a car that won’t start.
  3. Flush and fill the coolant. This is the product that keeps the engine from freezing in cold temperatures. Make sure your car is never low on coolant. Make sure there are not any leaks either. Come by our stores to get topped off if you need it.
  4. Top off both gasoline and washer fluid. Always try to keep both of these liquids full during the winter. Having a full tank of gas can be helpful to allow your engine to run longer and keep you warm if you get stuck. Having a full windshield-washer reservoir is way important as messy road debris can stick to your windshield and need cleaning.
  5. Invest in winter tires. All-wheel drive is definitely nice when you are accelerating, but it doesn’t help much when you are braking and turning. Winter tires are a must when the temperature regularly drops below 45°F. Even though it is not snowing during the winter, the roads are still cold and can be icy. Having snow tires can make any driver more confident in driving in the winter.
  6. Always stay on top of tire pressure. This is because tire pressure can drop along with the air temperature, losing up to one pound per square inch with every 10-degree drop in air temperature. Driving around with low tire pressure could mean premature tire wear, too. If you don’t know the optimal tire pressure for your vehicle, check the car manufacturers’ specifications, which are usually found on a sticker in the door jamb or in your owner’s manual.
  7. Test your defroster and heater. As the temperatures drop, make sure your car’s window defroster and the climate control systems are functioning properly. The climate control system will keep you warm in the winter and your windows from fogging up, while the defroster will keep your windows from icing up.
  8. Pack a survival kit. Grab a blanket, water, snacks, first-aid kit, a knife, a flashlight, jumper cables, and a cell phone charger that works in your cigarette lighter. You never know what can happen out there, and you’ll want to be prepared just in case you get stranded somewhere. It’s not a bad idea to have a shovel and some sand on hand as well in case you get stuck.

Much of this can be accomplished with a quick tune-up at a local auto repair shop—and maybe a few minutes at home to gather the contents of your survival kit. After that, it’s just a matter of keeping an eye on your fluids to make sure that they are staying at acceptable levels and keeping your tires at the right pressure.

Pay attention to the weather forecast before you venture out, especially if you are going to be driving long distances for the holidays. If it sounds too risky, don’t chance it. You can’t control winter weather or the drivers that you share the road with, but you can ensure that your car is maintained to run as safely as possible, and that can help you avoid needless accidents and stay safe on Utah’s roads this winter.