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10 tips to prepare your vehicle for winter driving in Utah

November 19, 2021

The temps are dropping, winter is coming, and the roads aren’t getting any less slick. Preparing your vehicle for Utah Winters is a critical step to ensuring the safety of you and your family this holiday season–not something you want to overlook. Below are 8 tips to eliminate car troubles and keep you and your family safe this holiday season.


1. Be Prepared


The boy scout motto applies to vehicle owners as much as it does teenage boys. Prepare for the worst of conditions. You never know whether the next storm will leave you stranded on a side road miles from help. Stay on main roads where you can get help if needed, but still plan to prepare for the worst. Make yourself a winter supply box. Here are some items you might consider packing:


  • Flashlight
  • Road flares(or something similar to a hazard light)
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Gloves
  • A change of clothes
  • Radio
  • An extra cell phone
  • Winter boots with good traction
  • Ice scraper
  • Carb loaded snacks(cliff bars, trail mix, etc.)


2. Check your Vehicle’s battery health


Freezing temperatures can severely limit your vehicle's battery capacity and performance. Park it in a garage to minimize wear rather than outside in the cold. The last thing you want is a battery that always dies on you. Get it checked by a mechanic before the holidays to ensure that it will last. In fact, if you're test driving a vehicle, Zapmoto will deliver it to a local shop for a free mechanic diagnosis. Learn more here.


3. Make sure your lights actually work


This sounds like a no-brainer, but it's surprising how many people drive through snow or fog with less than adequate lighting. While most newer vehicles are equipped with a set of bright LED's, those of older models are weaker and tend to burn out faster. Make sure that the lights are bright enough by testing them out the next time it rains. If you feel uncomfortable, look into replacing them for a brighter pair. Check them for any cracks or discoloration as this will diffract and decrease the overall brightness of your headlights and taillights.

4. Replenish those liquids


Not changing the oil, wiper fluid, or antifreeze is like running a race without water--your car will give before the finish line. Instead of normal motor oil, try winter grade motor oil. It's more aggressive and made to lubricate at low temperatures.


Change your wiper fluid, or it will freeze. Everyone knows the feeling...you spray some wiper fluid on your way to work and it creates a nice sheet of ice over the windshield. Change it to mitigate this problem.


Check your coolant and antifreeze levels. You can google "how to check coolant and antifreeze levels" or head to a service center near you. It's fairly cheap to do and most auto supply stores carry antifreeze.


5. Tires


Cold winter temperatures make for greater fluctuations in tire pressure. You don't want to drive on airless tires. Check your tire pressure each time you hit the road. Most local gas stations have free air compressors you can use if you're running low.


Ever heard of the penny trick? Stick a penny in your tire tread with Old Abe's head facing inwards. If you can still see his head, your tread is too thin and you should probably look into a new set of tires. A few of our favorites are the Bridgestone Blizzak W590's, the Michelin X Ice X13's, and the Cooper Evolution Winter Edition. Check out discount tire for a more comprehensive list of award winning winter tires.


6. Check your heating and defrosting units


Unless you drive a car without a heater, you should make sure everything is in working order if you don't want to freeze to death on the way to work.


A faulty defroster is not only annoying, it can be dangerous. No one wants a thick piece of ice on their windshield obstructing the view of the road. Schedule a Zapmoto test drive and let a local mechanic check your heating and defrosting units today.


7. Belts and hoses


Cold weather puts a lot of wear and tear on your vehicle; below freezing temperatures can cause your belts and hoses to crack. Get them checked to avoid thousands of dollars in engine damage and avoid stranding yourself on the side of the road.

8. Good alignment

Rule of thumb: When the wheel is straight the car should go straight. Good alignment is important, but especially in winter weather. A pull in the wrong direction can send you spinning on ice into a slippery situation you don't want to be in. You can test your alignment with a local mechanic, or you can test it yourself. To check it yourself, go outside on a clear day when road conditions are good. Find an empty parking lot. Drive like normal. Take your hands off the and slam on the brakes. Did the car jerk to the right or the left? If so your car has faulty alignment. Buying a car? Don’t worry about it. We’ll vett the health of any vehicle at a local mechanic for you for free.  

9. 4x4/Chains

UDOT works hard to plow and maintain Utah’s canyon roads, but when snow falls fast you need all the traction you can get. While winter tires are a good first step, 4x4/chains are recommended by most transportation professionals. In extreme conditions, leave heavy objects like wood, sandbags or other supplies to increase traction(especially if you’re driving a truck). If you frequent mountain roads, consider adding a small avalanche shovel to your emergency supply pack, in case you need to dig yourself out of a sketchy situation.

10 tips to prepare your vehicle for winter driving

10. Leave early and slow down

Obeying the speed limit has always been considered a must when it comes to safe driving. While during drier summer months many drivers get carried away on the gas, winter driving conditions warrant extra commitment to slow down and exercise caution. Experts recommend leaving early to buffer for unexpected but likely less than ideal road conditions. Drive below the speed limit, and give yourself plenty of time to go where you need to go.

Conclusion:

Winter driving in utah can be intimidating for first-timers, but more than manageable with proper preparation and planning. Not sure where to begin? Send us your name, current vehicle make/model, and any questions and concerns you have about driving in Utah here and we’ll get you on the right track!