Cold Weather Safety

winter drivingThe weather outside may be frightful but you still have responsibilities that take you away from home. Whether its short- or long-term doesn’t matter to freezing temperatures when anything can – and sometimes does – happen. Even normal everyday trips to work or dropping your kids off at school can turn dodgy during cold winter days.

You have nothing to fear if you’re prepared. That begins with making sure you’ve winterized your vehicle. We know you know to:

  1. Check all fluids: antifreeze, brake, power steering, oil, and transmission. Cold weather solidifies these fluids, making it more difficult for your vehicle to work efficiently.
  2. Inspect spark plugs, which can fail in the cold weather and prevent the car from starting.
  3. Replace windshield wipers older than a year – depending on how often they’ve been used.

This doesn’t guarantee cold-weather safety when traveling. Here are some common tools to manage or avert a cold-weather emergency.

Tool Time: Jumper Cables

Batteries don’t like the cold. Car batteries are more susceptible to a quick death in winter than in other seasons because of the additional mechanisms they power – like cell phones, lights, and heater, for longer periods.

Carrying quality jumper cables isn’t enough. You and every driver in your home should know how to properly jump start a vehicle. Keep printed instructions in the glove box just in case.

Tool Time: Tire Gauge

Sudden temperature changes can wreak havoc on tire pressure, causing them to deflate and bald. A blowout is a likely result of driving on a bald tire. Routinely checking tire pressure ensures a more efficiently running vehicle for safe driving. For an accurate reading, check tire pressure when the tires are “cold.” Digital tire gauges provide accurate readings but they need batteries. And batteries don’t like the cold.

If you travel rural roads, especially at night, make sure to have a tire repair kit and air pump. Keep instructions in the glove box.

Tool Time: The Basics

Screwdrivers, wrenches, sockets, and pliers are some of the essential tools that can handle just about any car-related problem. (Tip: most battery terminals require a 10 mm wrench).  When in doubt, add electrical and duct tape. You’ll be good to go.

Don’t forget a cell phone charger. Yes, it’s an additional drain on the car battery but having a working cell phone saves lives. Make sure your GPS is on so your phone can be tracked in a worst-case scenario.  If you are truly prepared and have your amateur radio (HAM) license, carry a small HT in the glove box.

Tool Time: Gas

This isn’t so much a tool as a reminder to keep your tank at half-full in the cold weather. Letting it fall below can result in a frozen-fuel line from condensation inside the tank. Despite the downside to ethanol fuel, using it is a viable alternative in winter because it absorbs water.


For more serious car-related winter emergencies, you want a tool that can handle an array of tasks – like a hatchet. You read that right. Check the contest we’re running this month. The prize – you guessed it: a multi-faceted hatchet!

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About Bret Smith

I am a long-time lover of all things outdoors. Whether hunting, shooting, fishing or just hiking and camping, I take every opportunity to enjoy nature and share it with others.

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