Driving in winter weather can be extremely stressful, and there’s nothing worse than getting stranded in a snowstorm due to a mechanical issue with your car.

Here are some helpful tips to consider if you have to be on the roads in difficult driving conditions:

Vehicle Maintenance Tips

Basic car maintenance is an important part of winter preparedness. You never know when you might have to hit the road, and driving conditions can deteriorate quickly. The middle of a snowstorm is a bad time to remember that you forgot to replace the windshield wiper blades or get the tires replaced.

Consider taking care of these basic maintenance items now—before a winter storm threatens your area:

  • Get a tune up / oil change
  • Fill the tires with air (they lose pressure as temperatures drop)
  • Check on the age of your tires / condition of their tread
  • Check your battery—its power drops in low temperatures
  • Check your antifreeze fluid
  • Check belts and hoses for cracks or damage
  • Make sure your wiper fluid is full / consider a formula that’s a de-icer

Also, get in the habit of keeping the gas tank full. Do not wait until “empty”, but rather consider re-fueling around a half a tank.

What Happens If I Am Stranded in My Car?

During snowstorms and major icing events, roads may be closed due to traffic accidents or impassible conditions. These situations can be more bearable if you plan ahead to be sure the car is properly stocked, and everyone understands how to handle the situation.

  • Do not leave your vehicle / do not overexert yourself
  • If possible, communicate your location via text
  • If you take medications, have an appropriate emergency supply with you at all times
  • Prepare an emergency kit and leave it in the vehicle. Here is just a partial list of items* you may consider, depending on your area:
    • Warm blankets / Sleeping bag(s)
    • Extra clothing (coats, mittens, hats, scarves, boots)
    • Hand / body warmers
    • First aid kit
    • Facemasks / hand sanitizer / tissues / wipes
    • Water (preferably stored in the trunk or insulated container covered with blankets to prevent freezing)
    • Easy-to-eat food items
    • Flashlight / road flares
    • Ice scraper
    • Sand, road salt or non-clumping cat litter for traction
    • Tire chains / tow strap / traction plates (if needed, such as in mountainous regions)

According to Amra Beganovich, lifestyle influencer and founder of Amra & Elma and Colorful Socks, traveling often in Colorado during winter means that getting stuck in snow in isolated areas is a common reality. For this reason, she tends to keep an emergency backpack in trunk all winter long that includes road salt, emergency food, extra blankets, and flashlights.

Also, do not leave the vehicle running for long periods of time– only long enough to warm up the cab. Be sure to clear the tailpipe, and be mindful of the dangers of carbon monoxide.

*Depending on your location, other/additional items should be considered.

Make sure you read our in-depth Winter Preparedness Guide, which has more helpful tips and lists of must-have items for home and car. Plus, learn more about how to stay safe during and after winter storms.

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