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Guide to Winter Car Preparation for Seniors

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If you are one of the millions of Americans who drives, you should know how to prepare your car for the upcoming winter weather. Whether you use your car daily or only occasionally, winter conditions can seriously affect your car’s machinery as well as your ability to drive safely.

Here are some essential tips to ensure an extra safe drive this winter.

FYI: As we age, driving can sometimes become difficult. If you fear a loved one should no longer drive, read our guide, 4 Signs It’s Time for Your Loved One to Quit Driving, to learn more.

Preparing Your Car for the Winter

You should be keeping up with your car’s regular maintenance, such as oil and filter changes. As temperatures drop, the plastic in your car will freeze and squeeze, so keep an eye on tire pressures and keep your gas tank full to avoid gas line freeze.

Also, give it a drive to test the battery and cooling system. Make sure your wipers are clean, and use fluid rated for freezing temperatures. If you use all-season tires, check the tread, and replace them if they’ve worn lower than 2/32 of an inch.

Finally, consider compiling an emergency car kit. Should you break down on the road or get in an accident, these tools can help you stay safe:

Driving in Extreme Winter Conditions

If you must drive in a snowstorm, before you hit the road, let your engine warm up a bit, and make sure your windshield and side mirrors are clean.

Never leave your vehicle running in your garage — even with the door open — as this can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. If you have external cameras and radar sensors, keep their lenses clean and unobstructed. If you cannot avoid driving in bad weather, be sure to share your travel plans and route with someone who can find help if necessary.

Did You Know? many insurance plans offer roadside assistance as part of your policy. To learn more, read our guides to the best car insurance for seniors and affordable car insurance for seniors.

Avoiding Crashes

Driving is never completely safe, especially on the highway, and inclement weather makes it even more perilous.

Keep your hands on the wheel, avoid using cruise control, and increase your following distance to lower chances of skidding. Should you start to skid, steer in the direction of the skid while accelerating and decelerating slowly until you regain control.

If possible, try not to stop while going uphill, even when behind others. Pull over in extreme conditions like whiteouts as soon as you can safely; never drive snow-blind!

If You Get Stuck

Not even preparation can’t save us from mechanical failure or an accident. Should you find yourself stuck in extreme weather conditions, it is first essential to stay calm and stay in your car unless you know you are near safety. Visual impairment puts you at risk of being hit by other drivers should you wander outside.

Put your hazard signals on (or drop a road flare should you have one), and try to conserve your gas while running the engine for 10 minutes every hour to keep the car warm. When you run the engine, be sure to crack a window for ventilation, and check your tail pipe periodically for blockage to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

To stay warm inside your car, clapping your hands and tapping your toes will keep your circulation flowing and prevent frostbite. But don’t work up a sweat, as dehydration is even more dangerous than hunger in the cold! Make sure you have plenty of water, and avoid excess stress on your body, like shoveling snow or attempting to push your car. The last thing you’d want is a heart attack in a blizzard.

Bottom Line

The absolute best way to avoid the danger of driving in winter is to stay warm and safe at home. But if you must travel in inclement weather, the best way to stay safe is to be prepared. Drive carefully and, if you must drive in dangerous conditions, make sure you have a full emergency kit onboard and that someone knows you’re out there.

While the danger will never be eliminated completely, taking preparations can and will keep you out of harm’s way.