As a walking everywhere Manhattanite I didn’t drive a car for the better part of thirteen years. When we ventured east, lord knows, my husband had to drive. Just like he has to hold the remote. So I enjoyed looking out the window. Like a dog. Woof.
Cut to last January. We moved out to Long Island and suddenly I was a homeowner with two kids and a SUV. I had to drive to school drop off and pick up every day. As a shrimp who hadn’t driven in what felt like 100 years, I decided to test drive every SUV on the market because I just couldn’t find the right fit. I was like the Goldilocks of test drivers for a solid two weeks. I finally decided a 2014 Subaru Forrester was juuuust right.
My first car! Now if only I could get the bluetooth to understand “call home”.
Now, on this gross, gross rainy Nor’easter day I sit and cringe about the upcoming winter. As indicated by the squirrels in my backyard – literally storing nuts for the winter (thanks for the holes, shmucks) – the next few months are going to be brutal.
With that said, since my blog is all about fun and safety and helping my fellow humans make the world a better place, I wanted to share some smart winter driving tips from the experts over at Kelley Blue Book.
Our car – which we parked on the street in Mahattan – after a bad snowstorm in January 2005.
- Make certain your car’s electrical system is prepared for cold, wet weather.
Cold diminishes the effectiveness of a car’s battery, so if your battery was on the edge in the fall, get it checked ASAP. Check the charging system (the alternator) too while you’re there to be safe. You don’t want to get stuck with a car that won’t start. Even worse, you don’t want to get stranded in between errands when you are late to pick-up your child and your phone battery died 10 minutes ago because you left your charger on your kitchen counter, again (not that that ever happens…).
- Make sure your car has proper antifreeze/coolant in the cooling system.
Antifreeze is a no-brainer when the temperature dips below freezing. What is less intuitive is that your car can still overheat even when it is freezing outside. Say what? When you are at the mechanic, ask him to check your antifreeze/coolant levels, as well as the belts and hoses.
- Check out your tires.
Make sure your all-season tires have good tread depth and are at the proper inflation pressures. If you live in the Snow Belt, you may want to upgrade to dedicated winter tires. Yes, it is an investment, but well worth it for the increased safety and peace of mind you gain.
- Visibility is often compromised in winter weather, so be certain your windshield wipers and windshield washers are working properly.
Know how you keep saying “I need new wiper blades”? Go on Amazon now and order them. Now. You will have them in 2 days. At your front door. There is even a little drop-down to get you to the correct ones for your vehicle. If your wipers have been soaking up the sun all summer, they are probably compromised, so treat your car to a new set (that means both front and rear). Check your washer fluid levels too.
- Prepare your winter driving skills.
In the winter you will often drive over surfaces covered in snow, ice and freezing rain. Learn how to handle your car in these situations by practicing in an empty parking lot. It is totally cool to have someone hold up a sign that says “Do Not Try at Home” while you whip around doing fishtails.
- Don’t drive on “E.”
I am sooo guilty of this. Bad weather can come quickly, and it might leave you marooned. In such an instance the last thing you want to do is run out of gas, because that can turn your car’s warm cabin into a deep freeze. You don’t have to top off every day, but don’t run the car near empty either. I pass a Hess station several times a day. I’m obsessed with the price of gas. It went down NINE cents yesterday within a few hours! NINE CENTS! By the way, their truck looks really cool this year. Like something from Knight Rider.
- Plan for a worst-case scenario.
Despite one’s best efforts, you might find yourself stranded. That’s when prior preparation can help you. Having warm clothing, gloves, an operating flashlight, and water or liquids in the car can aid your survival and rescue in inclement weather. This may or may not also include a few emergency Peppermint Patties. If you live in an area that gets heavy snow, chains can aid traction considerably and kitty litter can help you extricate your car if it gets stuck (meow). Throw in a good book, and you can profitably pass the time. Yes, this counts as “me” time. No, don’t call your spouse and say you are stranded just to be left alone for an hour. Actually— if you have the Peppermint Patties….
Like the Subaru commercial, right? (I just cried watching it again)
In the market for a new car? Let me share two great lists the experts over at Kelley Blue Book have hand-picked for the upcoming winter weather as well as other driving challenges: 10 Best All-Wheel Drive Cars & SUVs under $25,000 (including the #1 winner – ahem, my beloved Subaru Forrester!) and the overall 10 Best Cars for Winter.
Sadly, none of these come with an in-car app that routes you to the nearest drive thru Dunkin Donuts. Nor do they come with a competent robot to walk your child into the building so you don’t have to get out of the car. Maybe in the 2016 models…
Hope this helps. Stay warm. Stay safe. Looking forward to writing a “Summer Driving Tips” in a few months. Sneak peak—open sunroof, sip iced tea, go to beach. Now, doesn’t that sound better?
R’s impression of the final scene in The Breakfast Club.