No driver likes to have his or her vehicle break down away from home. In winter, when the temperatures dip below freezing, this becomes not only inconvenient, but can even been life threatening. Winter also adds the potential of getting stuck in a snow bank, even if your vehicle is in good operating order. That's why it's particularly important to keep these tips in mind when driving during the cold weather season.
1. Stow an emergency kit. Only a little more than half of all drivers have an emergency kit in their vehicles. This one action can make waiting for the tow truck more comfortable and, in extreme circumstances, can even save your life. A good emergency kit should have flares or warning signs to keep other vehicles away from your broken-down car, a warm blanket or two, a flashlight, snacks and a solar or manual cell phone battery charger.
2. Make sure you have a spare tire. Spare tires used to be standard equipment on all vehicles. However, newer vehicles are including tire inflation devices instead of even a doughnut-style spare tire. While this helps hold down the cost of a new car, it can cause you to be stranded if you're not able to re-inflate your tire on-site. Better to purchase a new rim and tire and keep it in your trunk, in case you have a blow-out.
3. Guard against getting locked out when stranded. Newer keyless entry devices make it easier to get locked out of your vehicle. When stranded in the winter, this can be a serious problem. Make sure that the entry device stays with someone in the car and not with a person who goes to get help.
4. Run the engine sparingly to keep warm. If you are stranded on the roadway during the winter, keep warm by running the engine for a little bit each half hour with the window open slightly (to avoid a build-up of dangerous carbon monoxide gas.) When you are out setting up the hazard cones or signs, check to see that your exhaust pipe is clear of snow.
Getting stranded by the side of the road in the winter doesn't have to be a life-threatening situation. Be prepared by stowing an emergency kit and a spare tire and be smart by avoiding lock-outs, exercising to keep awake and running your engine sparingly to stay warm. Be sure to keep a towing service's number on hand.