For better or worse, Minnesota is famous for its long winters. We are used to temperatures that dip well into the negative and double-digit snowfalls. Driving in a Minnesota winter is a unique challenge. Black ice and snow buildup make even the shortest commute interesting.
While we all must drive through winter, there are some things we can do to make the experience a little safer. By taking a few proactive steps, you can prepare for the worst that winter has to offer.
Make sure your car is well-maintained
Cold weather puts extra stress on your car’s systems. In winter it’s even more important to stay updated on car maintenance. Make sure your vehicle has fresh oil, and its coolant system is full.
If you have an older car, have a mechanic inspect the brake line and water pump. Colder temperatures may freeze a line or create a bulge. These will affect your braking and steering performance.
Inspect your tires
One of the most important aspects of winter driving is traction. If your car has old, bald tires, you’re going to slide more on the road. You can check your tires’ traction by performing the penny test: stick a penny in the tread of a tire, with Abraham Lincoln’s face towards you but upside down. If you can see the president’s entire face, it’s time for a new tire.
Inspect all four tires for bulges or cracks. Cold weather will make rubber brittle and slick, making any cracks or bulges more susceptible to blowouts. New all-weather or winter (snow) tires can make the difference between sliding in a ditch and getting home.
Be prepared to get stuck
Even if you take every precaution, chances are you may end up stuck or stranded sometime in the winter. Snow, ice and sleet can make even the most mundane road a driving hazard.
While we may end up stuck at some point, the key is to be prepared for this eventuality. Keep a winter box in your car, and stock it with helpful items like:
- Granola bars or trail mix
- First-aid kit
- Matches (not a lighter, as it may freeze)
These can be life-saving should you need to wait any length of time in your car. Keeping a charged, older cell phone in the glove box can also be useful. You don’t need to have it activated, it can still make emergency calls.
Driving with confidence this winter
By preparing ahead of time, you can save yourself headaches or dangerous situations this winter. No one wants to be stuck on the side of the road, changing a tire in freezing temperatures.