Winter Road Trip Car Checklist

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Getting your vehicle ready for a winter road trip is important. Packing some emergency items and having your car serviced before the drive will help keep you and your family safe. This road trip car checklist includes winter road trip tips as well as many important things to check in the car before a long drive any time of year.

Smiling girl standing by snow-covered car.

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Get Your Tires Ready 

Your tires are likely the most important thing to consider for your winter road trip. Every car check before a road trip should include a thorough inspection of the tires. 

If your travels will lead you through snowy, icy regions, make sure that you have prepared your tires with snow chains or at least packed them in your vehicle. If you will be travelling through areas with snow and lightly plowed roads, chains will be enough. If you will be travelling through especially icy roads, you may want to swap out your current tires with winter tires made for these environments.

You will also want to be very careful about monitoring your tire pressure. This is especially true if you will be traveling through regions with different climates. Every 10 degrees of temperature change will cause the pressure in your tires to rise or drop. Make sure you know exactly what the optimal pressure is for your tires and monitor them at frequent intervals.  

Additionally, understanding the different types of winter tires can help you choose the right option for these varying conditions. The right tire selection is critical for maintaining safety and performance in cold weather.

Man rolling a tire.

Check Fluid Levels Before Traveling

Low temperatures on a winter road trip can be hard on the fluids in the car. Water freezes and oil does not function quite as well as it does in normal temperatures. 

Before you set out on your road trip, make sure you have checked that all the fluids in your vehicle are at the proper levels. This should be done before any trip, but it is especially important before you make a winter road trip. In addition to the fact that car trouble is always more dangerous in the winter, full fluid tanks prevent the containers from freezing over and causing serious problems.  

Be sure to check:

  • braking fluid
  • power steering fluid
  • antifreeze
  • engine oil
  • water in the radiator
  • window washer fluid

Don’t underestimate the importance of windshield wiper fluid! This fluid tends to be exhausted very quickly in cold weather, so keep extra in your trunk. You can also purchase special windshield wiper fluid for use in extremely low temperatures. 

Research Your Route For Roads Prone to Snow 

The next thing on your road trip checklist is researching your route. If you will be traveling through hills and mountainous regions, the views will surely be spectacular, but you can also expect to find roads that are closed or restricted to very low driving speeds. 

Your favorite GPS navigation app can keep you informed of such things, but will not inform you of the sudden occurrence of snow storms and whiteouts. 

Keep the website and phone number for the local traffic authority on hand and stay informed by listening to updates from the local news at regular intervals.

If you will be traversing any especially troublesome routes, you may want to plan an alternative route just in case. 

Car driving on snowy road.

Car Essentials For Winter: Shovel and Sandbag 

If you have ever tried to clear the snow from your driveway, you know this can be an especially difficult task. Now, imagine trying to do this with your bare hands on the side of the road.

Without a doubt, it would be much easier if you were to bring along a handy snow shovel and a bag of sand (kitty litter also works great!) that will allow you to add some traction to the ground and pull your car from a snowbank.

The alternative will be waiting for the next snow plow to pass by and this could be a considerable wait. Be sure you keep your hazard lights on to alert passing cars and snow plows to your presence.   

Be Familiar With Winter Driving Techniques 

Another important item on your winter car checklist is knowing how to drive in wintry conditions.  Take time to brush up on those winter driving techniques that can be applied in snowy and icy conditions.

For example, leave plenty of extra room between your car and the car in front of you. If you have applied the brake and feel the pedal pulsate beneath your feet, this is the anti-lock braking mechanism kicking in.

Don’t let your foot off, keep the pressure solid until you come to a full stop. If you find yourself driving through a whiteout, slow your speed to a crawl and keep your headlights on.  

Pack an Emergency Kit

Any road trip checklist for the car must include an emergency and first aid kit. No one wants to think about having an accident in the snow, but it’s always better to be prepared.

Even a small, seemingly innocuous accident in the dead of winter can be a very serious problem if you are not prepared. Temperatures can suddenly drop to below zero and without sufficient preparation, freezing to death becomes a very likely possibility.

Prepare for the worst with a survival bag containing the following items: 

  • Emergency Blankets 
  • Food 
  • Plenty of Water 
  • Extra Antifreeze 
  • Jumper cables 
  • First aid kit 
  • Flares 
  • Ice scraper 
  • Shovel  
  • Bag of sand 
  • Portable battery to recharge your smartphone
Closeup of car wheel stuck in snow.

Service Your Vehicle Before You Travel 

Travelling in the dead of winter will put considerable strain on your vehicle, and preparing your car for winter is very important.

Two components of the car that see considerable strain in colder temperatures are the battery and the cooling system. You will want to make sure that these are working in tip-top condition before setting out. Other systems that can suddenly give out include the spark plugs, cables, belts and hoses.

If you don’t want to use your own car or need to hire, choose a good company like Warrington Car Hire. They will surely have a car that’s passed this winter road trip car checklist!

Angela Milnes is a Qualified Early Years Teacher who has specialised in Preschool and Kindergarten teaching. She has a wealth of experience teaching young children and is passionate about kids crafts and having fun as a family. Angela has also taught cooking skills and loves to share both family recipes and easy crafts here on The Inspiration Edit. Follow her on Pinterest!

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