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February 2016
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Car Care: What to Carry for Winter Driving
Be prepared out there

There may not be cold and snow everywhere, but winter weather and driving conditions can be unpredictable. That makes it important to be prepared, so an unexpected situation doesnít turn into big trouble.

Even without freezing temperatures and lots of precipitation, packing a vehicular survival kit is a good idea. You donít need to spend a lot or pack a giant toolbox, either. There are a few simple items you can fit in any car, but before you get started, one of the best investments you can make is in roadside service. Many automakers offer some roadside assistance as part of their standard new car coverage; roadside assistance is also covered under some automobile insurance policies, and some credit card companies offer it, as well. In any case, having a worry-free tow available at the end of a phone call is a piece of preparedness that doesnít take up any extra room in your car, but offers huge peace of mind.

There are a few essential pieces of safety gear you can add to your vehicle to help you take charge of your safety on the road.

Jumper cables

Low temperatures can be hard on batteries. Lights are on more often, and heating system blower fans, seat heaters, and rear-window defrosters all place increased demand on the electrical system in your vehicle. If your car wonít start for lack of battery power, having a set of good jumper cables that will reliably transfer power can help you get back on the road quickly. Make sure you familiarize yourself with how to use the cables properly. A mistake can make your situation worse, but theyíre relatively simple to use.

Ice Scraper/Snowbrush

Itís not safe to be driving a rolling snowbank. You canít see out, and the stuff flying off your vehicle can put other motorists in danger, too. Having a snowbrush and an ice scraper will make it easy to clean off your vehicle top to bottom. Getting most of the snow and ice off the windows will help your defrosters work quickly and maintain your visibility.

Full tank of fuel and a fuel container

Try to keep your fuel tank topped off. Thereís no magic to it, but itís a just-in-case measure. Having a full tank of fuel means that even if you canít make it down the road, you can run the engine, make some heat, and charge up your devices. If you should happen to need fuel (and you donít have roadside assistance), an approved one- or two-gallon fuel container comes in very handy.

Flashlight and extra batteries

Or better yet, more than one flashlight. LED flashlights are cheap, bright, and consume batteries slowly. There are even some with emergency features like flashers.

Warm stuff

Pack extra hats, gloves and a blanket Ė even an extra jacket and pair of waterproof boots, if you have space. If you get caught in a freak storm or conditions change after youíve already departed, having backup items in the car offers protection in case you need it. Materials like wool will even insulate when wet, an important consideration when preparing for the unexpected. Air-activated hand warmers and matches can also be handy and donít take up much space.

Windshield washer fluid

Driving is dangerous when you canít see. Salty spray from other vehicles will dry on your windshield and turn it into a streaky, caked-up mess. Washer fluid easily blasts this away, but you can use a lot of it over the course of even a modest commute. Keeping an extra gallon on hand will keep you making safe progress.

Other items

Depending on the space you have available and the conditions youíre facing, you can consider adding some extra items. Tire chains for very icy environments, road flares for visibility, and some sand for extra traction are all worth considering, as are extra water, snacks and an emergency radio.

Most of the time, even in winter, driving trips are uneventful. Packing some extra items is worth the effort to ensure youíll be prepared no matter what you encounter. You also should stop by the dealership to make sure your vehicle can handle whatever winter throws your way.

This article is presented by Perkins Motors in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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