Staying Safe On Roadways This Winter

The onset of falling temperatures and inclement weather makes it an ideal time to prepare your vehicle for the winter driving season, especially before you take off on any road trips you may have planned.

shutterstock_62063233Any routine maintenance you have been putting off should be addressed this time of year, and a winter-specific safety kit can provide peace of mind before you hit the road.

DCA’s California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) has a useful checklist to help motorists get prepared.

  • Start with your owner’s manual: Be sure your vehicle is up to date on its recommended maintenance schedule, including changing the engine oil and filter, and fluids such as antifreeze and coolant, brake, automatic transmission, windshield wiper, and steering.
  • Carry chains: Driving in the foothills and mountains can be treacherous if a storm system brings snow.
  • Check the battery: Corrosion, cracks, and dirt can affect battery cables and hinder performance.
  • Be sure your brake system is in good shape: Have a licensed adjuster check pads and linings. Visit the BAR website ( to find a licensed brake station.
  • Inspect the lights: This includes turn signals, brake and fog lights, and high beams. Cleaning your car’s lenses can maximize visibility.
  • Check hoses and belts: Look for any cracks, soft spots, or bulges that could be a potential problem, and find a qualified technician for any repairs.
  • Test your vehicle’s heater and defroster, and change out your wiper blades if they are cracked or worn. Don’t replace your wiper fluid with water.
  • Inspect tires: Balding tires reduce traction and can be a safety hazard. Having plenty of tread on your tires could be the difference between driving safely on snow and ice or in the rain or sliding all over the road. Check the air pressure in your tires regularly, including the the spare.

Assembling a winter safety kit can be invaluable, particularly in an emergency. Before leaving on long-distance trips, be sure your kit contains battery jumper cables; a flashlight and extra batteries; basic first-aid supplies; an extra blanket and warm clothes; a tool kit (screwdriver, pliers, adjustable wrench); bottled water and nonperishable food; road safety flares; and a windshield ice scraper.

You should watch weather reports closely, especially before road trips, and be prepared to delay a trip when particularly rough weather is expected.

Road and highway conditions can be checked by calling the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) at (800) 427-7623 or visiting their website at

If you plan to be driving in a remote area, use a detailed map rather than relying solely on GPS navigation, which can be unreliable in some areas and may get you lost instead of leading you to your intended destination.

And finally, be sure to have a cellphone and car charger in case you encounter any problems and need to call for help.

With these tips, you are on your way to being winter road trip ready!

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