“Make preparations in advance. You never have trouble if you are prepared for it.”
Can you survive out in the cold?
Wintertime is here. And with that comes the most wonderful time of the year ⸺ Christmas, New year, Valentines… ahh festivity is in the air. No wonder many Americans take this opportunity to do winter road trips with their family and friends and enjoy the beauty of snowflakes.
And since you’re here, I bet you’re also planning or at least will be involved in a winter road trip this season, won’t you?
Well, I hate to spoil the party but it’s not all snowy wonderlands. Because if you’re not careful, that white road can get bloody ugly (literally).
Don’t believe me?
Here’s what our friends at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have got to say.
“Each year, 24 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement and 15 percent happen during snowfall or sleet. Over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement annually. Every year, nearly 900 people are killed and nearly 76,000 people are injured in vehicle crashes during snowfall or sleet.”
Now, I don’t know how good your geography is but more than 70% of the nation’s roads are in snowy regions. Almost all Americans are threatened by Jack Frost, therefore.
Got the picture?
During your winter road trip, you’ll be exposed to a multitude of threats⸺ low visibility, avalanches, mechanical failure, not-so-smart humans… I mean the list goes on.
That’s why having proper knowledge and a winter survival kit in your car cannot be overemphasized. And today, that’s what you’ll discover⸺ what to prepare for your winter road trip and how to survive in case of a worst-case scenario breakdown.
So, grab a coffee and let’s get things underway.
Preparation is the key to winter road trip safety
First off, let’s start with this…
You don’t rise to the occasion… you fall to your level of preparation.
Let it sink.
Before you even head out for your winter road trip, it goes without saying that you should be prepared mentally, physically, and attire-wise (flip-flop is for summer, don’t you think?). Other than that, learn how to drive safely in winter conditions (you do know that The Fate of the Furious is just fiction, right?)
1. Stay updated with the news and weather forecast
As they say, “Prevention is better than cure.”
That being said, take advantage of that billion-dollar satellite you’ve been paying with your taxes. Know if a blizzard is imminent. Know if the sunlight is strong enough to cause an avalanche and flooding. Know the roadblocks.
In essence, know what you should know beforehand.
2. Look ahead your itinerary
Hitting the icy road without knowing what lies ahead is a recipe for disaster. Thus, map out the best way you’re gonna get from point A to B.
Any alternative routes in case of congestion or roadblocks? Auto shop locations? Available retreat or camping grounds to spend the night if needed?
Contemplate these (and more) and you won’t be caught with your pants down.
3. Winterize your car
Winter driving can be challenging and dangerous due to many uncontrolled variables⸺ snow volume, slippery road, unforgiving wind, and whatnot. What more when using a car not suited for cold conditions?
a. Check your tires
Whether that’s a limited-edition Ferrari or a worn-out Mitsubishi, only one thing connects the car to the road⸺ tires.
For this, make sure every tire has plenty of treads left. Otherwise, install a new one. Or better yet, install winter tires for they are engineered specifically for winter conditions. They provide better traction, are more cold-resistant, and offer better performance than regular all-season tires on winter terrains.
b. Maintain optimal tire air pressure
Temperature drop can significantly affect your tire’s pressure (measured in PSI or pound per square inch). And with that, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Department of Transportationrecommend checking the pressure of all tires including spare ones regularly.
If you’re unsure what the optimal pressure for your tires is, you can refer to your owner’s manual or tire placard inside the driver’s side doorjamb.
c. Inspect the battery
In cold conditions, it’s harder for engines to start. And when you have a faulty battery out there, Mr. Blizzard is more than happy to give you a freezing hug. So, have your battery checked by experts.
d. Keep your fuel above 50% (or your Tesla’s battery charged)
Fuel is your car’s food and bloodline. And mind you, your car hates fasting.
e. Switch to thinner oil
Cold weather thickens oil, putting more strain on the battery and engine. Thin-oil works better, therefore, for it has lower viscosity making it flow much easier.
f. Add coolant or antifreeze
Extreme temperature is the kryptonite of engines. Coolants help keep the temperature in check both during scorching summer and dead winter.
According to The Automotive Training Center (ATC), in the winter, the recommended ratio is usually 60% antifreeze to 40% water.
g. Install winter wipers and keep washer fluid full
Winter wipers prevent ice from collecting on the blades. Furthermore, opt for washer fluid that won’t freeze.
h. Get your car serviced for winter conditions
If mechanical maintenance isn’t your forte, or it all just seems too much, then let experts give you a hand. They can do an overall check-up and help prepare your car for your winter road trip.
What goes in your winter road trip survival kit
As the survivalist maxim goes, “Better prepared than sorry.”
You see, it’s better to have the survival essentials and not need them, rather than need them and not have them. Because when you’re stuck in the middle of whiteout, what you have in your car may be all you’ll ever have to survive. In which case, you better hope it’s a complete survival kit to keep you and your family alive.
1. Car repair and maintenance tools
Hand tools (wrenches, screwdrivers, etc.), jumper cables, windshield cleaner, mechanic gloves, multi-tool, duct tape/electrical tape, and what have you.
Wanna know something interesting?
A study done by The Zebra showed that ice scraper is claimed by 35% of all respondents to be the most important tool to keep in a winter car kit.
The point? Don’t skimp nor underestimate the importance of every tool⸺ they just might be your ticket to survival.
2. Means to clear the path and get out of dodge
Don’t be like most people who become a sitting duck when their car breaks down or are stuck in thick snow. The more they wait helpless, the more vulnerable they are to vehicle crimes and frostbite.
3. Escape and signaling tools
4. First aid kit (customized to your personal needs and skills)
5. Means to stay warm
6. Food and water
Never discard the possibility of having to take refuge in your car for a day or more.
How to survive when your car breaks down amidst your winter road trip
Machines fail. Roads can get congested. Mountains can put on a big avalanche show. In case you don’t already know, these are more probable than you think.
If, God forbids, you’re trapped in a snowstorm, here are some key points to remember:
1. Stay calm and gather your thoughts
Panicking only impairs your judgment. It will cause you to make rushed and irrational decisions⸺ decisions that could cost lives.
2. Call for help
Duh. Unless you wanna test the limit of the human spirit… sure!
3. Stay with your car
Never venture out into the unknown. Because 1) your car is bigger than you and can be seen by rescuers more easily, therefore, and 2) your car is your best bet in terms of shelter against the elements.
4. Keep your car visible
Turn on your hazard lights. Place road flares or glow sticks nearby to alert other motorists and rescuers.
5. Stay dry and avoid sweating a lot
Don’t overexert yourself. Your sweat can freeze and if it stays on your skin, hypothermia will set in. And if that happens, your death timer starts.
6. Stay warm and hydrated
After calling for help and keeping your car visible, focus on not freezing to death.
- Use some of your extra clothing and dress in layers.
- Do some stretching and light exercise.
- Light a candle or your portable stove inside your car.
- While your portable stove is burning, melt snow for additional water supply.
- If it’s not snowing or windy outside, make a fire. Not only will it keep you warm, but its smoke will also signal other people.
- Alcohol WON’T warm your body (alcohol and delusion are couples, didn’t you know?). If anything, it only dehydrates you and impairs your perception. In a survival ordeal… you booze, you lose!
No winter too cold for cold-blooded thieves
So, you’ve worked hard putting together a winter car survival kit. Surely, you don’t want it, along with your guns and valuables, to disappear like a snowflake in the rain, do you?
The car’s door can be shimmed. The windows can be smashed. I mean, you’re not riding a battle tank, are you?
That top-of-the-line portable safe you bought from Safe and Vault Store, though? Well, unless it’s an alien thief with technology from another galaxy, I can’t think of any method they can use to forcibly open your portable vehicle safe.
And that’s not all. If you’re traveling with kids, you’ll be thankful you’ve got a secure safe that prevents negligent handling and accidental discharge of your gun/s.
Winter road trip… here we come!
You know what’s more terrifying than White Walker? It’s Mr. Black Ice. The former might haunt you, but the latter can kill you… literally and even instantly.
But if you’re prepared, it doesn’t really make a difference. Because may that be someone coming to get you and your valuables, or nature being nature… you’re ready to survive and come out on top.
Winter road trips are as dangerous as they are rewarding. And with family and friends, such adventure is fun, liberating, and full of memories. Wanna keep it that way? Then put the above into practice and you’ll reach that snowy wonderland in no time!
And by the way… make a bigger snowman this time, will ya?
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