6 Expert Tips to Prepare Your Car for a Winter Road Trip

A little chilly weather need not keep you from a fabulous family vacation! Whether you’re escaping the snow or driving into it, follow these six car tips to prepare your car for a winter road trip.

Inspect your tire's tread and inflation before your winter car trip
Inspect your tire’s tread and inflation before your winter car trip (Photo credit: belchonock, Depositphotos.com)

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1. Pack a winter car kit.

Preparing the car for a road trip is key when planning to drive somewhere with snowy or icy roadways. Before embarking on a winter car trip, make sure to pack an emergency kit in your vehicle. Chances are, you won’t need it. But if you do, you will REALLY need it.

Amy Danise, senior editor and insurance expert at EverQuote, advises travelers, “Buy or make your own emergency kit, because sometimes vehicle issues are completely out of a driver’s control.”

According to Lauren Fix with Automotive Aspects, your winter road trip safety list should include:

  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • First aid kit with pocket knife
  • Jumper cables
  • Necessary medications
  • Several blankets
  • Extra clothing: snow boots, hats, scarves, gloves, rain gear and jackets
  • Plastic bags (for sanitation)
  • Rain gear
  • Small shovel
  • Basic tools (pliers, wrench, screwdriver)
  • Booster cables
  • Brightly colored cloth to use as a flag
  • Protein bar and nuts
  • Bottled water
If you'll be using them, you need to know how to install and remove snow chains ~ How to prepare your vehicle for a winter car trip
If you’ll be using them, you need to know how to install and remove snow chains (Photo credit: loriklaszlo, Depositphotos.com)

2. Inspect your tires before your winter car trip.

Nine percent of all automobile crashes are caused by tire failure, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Yikes!

Danise recommends inspecting your tires before hitting the road in inclement weather. She says, “It’s critical that tires are at the right inflation pressure and structurally intact.”

Jon Bloom with Erie Insurance notes that making sure tires are properly inflated not only extends their life, but also makes them safer. He cautions, “Don’t ignore alerts from your vehicle’s tire pressure monitoring system.” You may want to consider replacing or repairing your tires before driving in snow and ice. If you’ve been putting off ponying up for a new set of tires, now is the time to do so.

If you can avoid it, do NOT drive during a blizzard ~ 5 tips to prepare your car for a winter road trip
If you can avoid it, do NOT drive during a blizzard (Photo credit: robsonphoto, Depositphotos.com)

3. Consider purchasing snow tires or installing snow chains.

Check the rules of the roads you’ll be traversing before your winter car trip. Fix says, “Some jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.” Take a peek at this list of tire chain laws by state to see what’s recommended for your journey.

Note that chains should only be used on roads with a layer of snow or ice. If you turn onto a road that has been plowed or salted and is therefore free of these conditions, you will need to pull over and remove the chains before proceeding. It’s best if you practice installation before setting out!

A help sign and brightly covered cloth used as a flag will let other drivers know you are in distress ~ 5 tips to prepare your vehicle for a winter road trip
A help sign and brightly covered cloth used as a flag will let other drivers know you are in distress (Photo credit: bond138, Depositphotos.com)

4. Avoid driving in blizzards.

Always check weather conditions before driving in winter. If a blizzard is headed into your path, the best choice is to avoid driving. Sure, you’re itching to hit the ski slopes or maybe you need to get home in time for that big work presentation, but safety comes first! Take the time stuck in the hotel as an opportunity to snuggle up with your family and watch movies or play some travel games together.

How do you know if it’s safe to drive? According to Conserve Energy Future, “When watching the weather forecast, a ‘Winter Storm Watch’ may be issued in advance which means that there is a possibility of winter storm affecting your area although not definitely on the way. A ‘Winter Storm Warning’ indicates the need to be ready for a blizzard that is on its way or already taking place.”

A little preparation goes a long way when embarking on a winter car trip
A little preparation goes a long way when embarking on a winter car trip (Photo credit: Gorilla, Depositphotos.com)

5. Know what to do if your car gets stuck in a winter storm.

If you do get trapped in a car during a winter storm, it’s important to follow key safety rules. Fix advises all drivers and passengers stay inside the vehicle as much as possible. She says, “Do not leave the car to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards. You may become disoriented and lost in blowing and drifting snow.”

She also recommends displaying a trouble sign, turning on flashing hazard lights, and hanging a brightly colored cloth on the radio antenna.

To avoid hypothermia, Fix suggests doing minor exercises like clapping hands and changing positions. She says you should also huddle up with your travel mates to stay warm. And, she recommends turning on the car’s engine and running the heater for about 10 minutes each hour. However, she says, “Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and open a downwind window slightly for ventilation.”

Trust your local TECHNET autocare technician to prepare your car for your winter road trip
Trust your local TECHNET autocare technician to prepare your car for your winter road trip (Photo credit: TECHNET Nation)

6. Get your car checked at a certified TECHNET automotive repair shop.

Before your winter car trip, make an appointment with a trusted local auto repair shop. A certified TECHNET mechanic can provide for all your vehicle’s needs.

According to Fix, your mechanic should check the following items:

  • Battery
  • Antifreeze/coolant
  • Winter wipers and de-icer windshield washer fluid
  • Ignition system
  • Thermostat
  • Lights
  • Flashing hazard lights
  • Exhaust system
  • Heater
  • Brakes
  • Defroster
  • Oil level

For over 20 years, TECHNET Nation has been a network of locally owned, independent automotive repair shops across North America. Their goal is to deliver the the personalized service you can trust. From a warm greeting that put me at ease, to a follow up phone call to make sure I was satisfied, and even a thank you letter sent in the mail, I was blown away by the level of customer service I received from the local automotive shop that I found through TECHNET. Plus, the pricing was way better than what I would have found at a car dealership.

Getting your car serviced at a local shop supports and strengthens your family’s community. On average, 48 percent of every purchase at local independent businesses is recirculated locally, compared to less than 14 percent of purchases at chain stores. TECHNET Nation is an extensive network of more than 9,200 Member shops across the U.S. and Canada. TECHNET shops provide customers with dependable service and quality parts backed by a Nationwide Warranty, a Road Hazard Tire Protection Plan, and a Roadside Assistance Program. Click here for more information.

Book your TECHNET service today! For additional car care tips, follow TECHNET via Facebook and Twitter.

A solo walk in the snow away from the holiday hubbub
A winter walk in snow (Photo credit: praewa_koreashopping@hotmail.com, Depositphotos.com)

Learn More Winter Travel Tips

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Discover all the fun things to do in Lake Tahoe with kids in winter.

Escape the cold with these winter activities and holiday events in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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6 Tips to Prepare Your Car for a Winter Road Trip

Now that you know how to prepare your car for a winter road trip, tell us where you’ll be driving this season in the comments below!


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  1. Thanks for reminding me to prepare an emergency car kit before we go on a family trip. I’ve never encountered any problems with the family car before but I’ll be driving with my kids this time so I need to be extra safe. Maybe I can take it to an auto shop a day before the trip so mechanics can check the vehicle for any problems that need repair.

  2. Great post, thanks for sharing! Winter car care is the most easiest but can be ignored. Tires are very important and you must install winter tires especially if you live in snow-cladded areas.

  3. Great advice for winter road trips! We are about to take our first long distance winter trip and this was exactly what I was looking for! Thank you!

  4. ITs so important to be prepared for road trips during the winter. Snow and ice can quickly make a routine trip hazardous.