Road Trip Up North: How Not to Freeze To Death

By Madelaine

As the holidays loom closer and it becomes that time of year to visit family and friends, driving up north can become necessary. Packing the car full, plucking up the courage, you start driving, and of course it starts to snow.

Driving in a blizzard can be terrifying as you hit the endless expanse of the northern prairies or the winding hills of the mountains. For the unfamiliar or faint of heart, guidance might be needed. Thankfully, I’ve had to deal with winter road trips more often than I would have liked. From my mind to yours here are some winter tips.

Driving Tips

Be very skeptical of the roads. Even when it’s sunny out, black ice can still be lurking after a cold night. It can be just as dangerous as a full on blizzard. Always watch your speed and stay calm.

If you ever feel your tires slipping and you start to fishtail on the ice, turn into the slide to straighten out. Never brake, for this can worsen the slide.

I find if I’m stuck in a blizzard and I find visibility to be very low, that finding a big truck and following them in the slow lane is the best option. The large semi can pick the proper speed and they usually have more experience driving than I in bad weather. The red of their back lights can be a better guide for the lines of the road. Just make sure to keep a good distance between you and them for any sudden stops.

Make sure at night not to use your brights, for they can be blinding in the snow. Also if the weather is bad or slippery, don’t use cruise control. Not having full control of your brakes can slow your reaction time if anything happens and if you go into a slide, you’ll have to pump your brakes to slow your set speed which can worsen your control.

Make sure you never stop along the road if the visibility is terrible. This is a good way to get run into. Always keep going until you can pull into parking lot.

If you keep a steady and slow speed, you’ll be fine driving in the snow. Just do what makes you feel comfortable.

Pack Wisely

Planning is always the key to safety. Even if you’re only driving five hours away, make sure to pack some snacks. Even if it’s just granola or some fruit, if you ever get stuck in the snow, or if you’re driving slower than you would be on a sunny day and get to your destination later, you’ll be grateful you have some food on you. The same goes for water.

Packing the correct clothing as well will help. It can feel really hot in the car as you drive, especially on a sunny day. Don’t let that fool you though, it can still be negative thirty out, but feel like seventy in the car.

Dress in layers. Make sure you have a sweater you can take off. Pack boots, gloves, hat, and jacket in the car. If you get stuck and need to shovel out your car, this will make sure you can do so.

Sunglasses will be a must. Even if it’s cloudy out, the glare off the snow can be blinding. Always make sure to have sunglasses on you to help.

Snow Patrol

Always make sure you can get out of the snow. If you ever hit ice or you stop for the night and it snows a couple of inches, you’ll need to make sure you can get out. A snow shovel, and ice scraper will get you out of most snow and ice related binds.

If you know you’ll be parking on the street or some place that won’t be well plowed at night, it can also be handy to have kitty litter for traction if your car wheels get stuck. If you ever find your wheels aren’t getting traction and you don’t have kitty litter or rock on you, then you can take your car floor mats and place them underneath your wheels after shoveling out around them. This will give your tires traction to get out of snow drifts or an Icey patch.

Engine Safety

It’s always good to keep your gas tank in the winter above, half a tank. Even if you’re driving long distance and you think you can get to your destination the rest of the way with the tank you have, still stop for gas. It’s better to be safe than sorry. At the very least, make sure your tank is full before you stop for the night. Condensation can build and then freeze in the gas tank, it’s best to fill up before you go to bed, than to fill up a car that won’t start in the morning.

If your engine is cold in the morning it may not start up right away. If that happens, hold the key in the ignition for up to 10 seconds.  Make sure if you hear the clicking noises after three times of turning it, not to continually try and turn it because you can end up flooding your engine. Sometimes the gas pedal can be tight when it’s cold. To clear up some tension in the pedal, you can rev the engine a couple of times, to make it warm up a bit, but make sure not too over do it for you can hurt the engine by doing it too much.

If your engine ever dies completely you can jump the engine. Always keep jumper cable in your trunk, to jump your car. Batteries can die faster in the cold.

Extra Tips

·         If it’s really cold out and you need to fill up your car, you won’t blow up if you leave your car running and run back to its warmth until it’s done fueling.

·         Always start your car before shoveling around it to warm up the inside, so when you’re done and cold you can escape into the inside and drive away.

·         Before starting your car, make sure snow isn’t blocking your exhaust pipe.

·         Always start your car and let it sit for a couple of minutes before driving it when it’s really cold out to allow the gears to warm up.

No matter what winter weather you’re facing, just remember to keep a steady speed, and to keep calm. Consistent driving can get you to your destination faster than being hasty and unprepared.

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