AUSTIN (KXAN) — Severe winter weather doesn’t often strike Texas, but when it does, drivers should be prepared.
AAA Texas is reminding drivers to make sure their vehicles are ready to hit icy or snowy streets if they need to travel in winter weather conditions.
Preventive maintenance is essential for safe driving and greatly decreases the chances of being stranded in the cold, AAA said.
If you do break down in the cold, you should have a winter emergency kit. Approximately 40% of American drivers told AAA they do not carry one currently.
Here’s what you should keep in the kit, according to AAA:
- Traction aids (sand, salt, non-clumping cat litter or traction mats)
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Jumper cables or jump pack
- Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench, duct tape, plastic zip ties)
- Tarp, raincoat and gloves to help stay clean/dry if you must get out of the vehicle
- Rags, paper towels or pre-moistened wipes
- Warning devices (flares, reflective triangles or LED beacons)
- First-aid kit (check expiration date)
- Drinking water
- Snacks/food for your passengers and any pets
- Ice scraper
- Snow brush
- Winter windshield washer solvent
- Warm gloves, clothes, hats and blankets for all passengers in your car
- Car charger for mobile phone
In addition to an emergency kit, AAA says drivers should do the following to protect their vehicle from damage that can occur in winter:
Wash and wax your vehicle to prevent rust damage. Throughout the winter, frequently wash your vehicle, paying particular attention to the undercarriage. This will loosen, dissolve and neutralize de-icing solutions. Always use a high-quality car wash solution, not a household dish detergent that will strip the wax from your vehicle.
Check your windshield wipers and washers. Wiper blades should completely clear rain or snow from your windshield with each swipe. Replace blades that leave streaks or miss spots. For the winter months, purchase one-piece beam-type or rubber-clad winter blades to fight snow and ice buildup. In cold climates, be sure to fill the windshield washer reservoir with a cleaning solution that will not freeze when the temperatures drop.
Inspect tires to ensure drivability on winter roads. Make sure tires have adequate tread depth – at least 4/32” – as worn tires can affect a driver’s ability to stop in slick conditions. An easy way to check for wear is by inserting an upside down quarter into your tread groove. If the top of Washington’s head is exposed, the tread depth is less than 4/32″ and it’s time to replace your tires. Also, check that your car has a spare tire and keep it properly inflated in case you need it.
Make sure your battery and charging system are up to par. A fully charged battery in good condition is required to start an engine in cold weather. Have your battery and charging system checked for optimum performance – particularly if your battery is more than three years old. Also, clean any corrosion from battery posts and cable connections; wipe away dirt and oil deposits on the case and make sure all hardware is secure.
Additional Winter Driving Safety Tips from AAA Texas:
- Use your seatbelt every time you get in the vehicle.
- Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage. In fact, modern vehicles do not require idle time prior to driving.
- Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
- Never leave your vehicle unattended with the engine running.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
More information on driving in winter conditions can be found online.