6 Tips for Getting Your Vehicle Ready for a Winter Road Trip

There is one glaring fact in the Gleason household. I (Brandy) don’t know anything about vehicles; Matt is the guru around here. As a writer who travels a lot and can come across some crazy weather, we decided to get our vehicle winter-ready with Ricart Automotive this year. We have some road trips planned to sunny Florida, our neighboring state of Indiana, and all around Ohio, this winter.  So, having our GMC Yukon looked over with a fine-tooth comb fit the road trip agenda. (I understood the assignment!)

Winter weather can be unpredictable, and in Ohio, wintery weather can take you by surprise. There is a meme that says if you don’t like Ohio’s weather, just wait an hour, and it will change. We’ve been caught by surprise before while out exploring; the Gleason travel motto is. “it is better safe than sorry.”

Full Disclosure: To help offset the costs of running Gleason Family Adventure, you’ll find affiliate links throughout the site. If you choose to purchase through one of these links, there’s no additional cost to you, but I’ll earn a small commission. You can read the entire legal disclosure on the full disclosure page. We want to thank Ricart Automotive for being a sponsor of Ohio Road Trips.

Check your tires

When heading out on a road trip, checking your vehicle’s tires is essential. I recently took a short road trip to Lake Hope State Park, and I got into some pretty hilly terrain.  It was as if the car gremlin decided to pop up and say, HEY! Let me throw you a low-tire signal. Once I got to a place I could stop, I checked the tire pressure, and they were low. I had to take a 30-minute drive out of the state park into Nelsonville, Ohio, where I had to find a gas station with a working air pressure pump. The real kicker was that it was pouring down the rain by the time I got to town.

I got my tires up to pressure and headed back to Lake Hope State Park to my cabin. I was tired, a tad grumpy, and soaking wet, but the tires were ready for the next day’s exploration.

Moral of the story: be proactive and check your tires before a road trip.

Test Your Car Battery

It is never a good thing to be out on an adventure and have your battery kick the bucket. Check it every so often to make sure it is in good working order. Car batteries have a limited life. Don’t wait for yours to fail and leave you stranded. You can check the condition of the battery, starter, and entire charging system with a computerized battery tester. Besides testing voltage, a computerized battery tester checks for internal resistance and conductance, giving you a good idea of the battery’s overall condition. Plus, the tester also checks the condition of your starter and alternator.

Pro-tip: (From Matt) Clean off your battery terminals for optimal connection.

Check Your Coolant (and if you’re clueless like me, another name for it is antifreeze)

Engine coolant does more than protect your engine from freezing and cracking. Until I started researching this blog piece, I had no idea that the coolant protected the engine! Did you know that coolant also contains anti-corrosive additives and water-pump lubricants to keep your entire cooling system in perfect condition?

Test the level of your coolant’s freeze protection using an inexpensive tester. Suck in some coolant from the coolant reservoir and read the results on the scale printed on the tester. Or you can be like me and have someone knowledgeable do it for you!

Pro-tip: Check this at least once a year, and if you don’t know how or want to learn, find a local dealer who can check your vehicle over. If you are in central Ohio, we use Ricart Automotive.

Switch to Winter Wiper Blades

Every day wiper blades can get packed with snow, causing the blade to streak or miss large swaths of your windshield during a snow event. Winter wiper blades eliminate that problem. A rubber boot encloses the entire blade, preventing ice and snow from sticking or packing.  They make for much better visibility and safer winter driving. Remove your old wiper blades, then snap on the winter wiper blades and see clearly all winter on your winter road trips.  Matt and I like to use the Rain-X brand wipers.

Pro-tip: Get the best you can afford because good wipers can be a real-life saver!

Assemble a Winter-Ready First Aid Kit and Safety Equipment

One year for Christmas, I purchased an Emergency Roadside Kit for all our kids. While they have never had to use it, as a mom, it gives me a sense of relief to know they have everything they need in the event of an emergency.

These kits contain:

  • first Aid Kit
  • reflective Safety Vest
  • reflective warning triangle
  • strong tow rope
  • Two gloves with gripping palms
  • a safety hammer
  • seat belt cutter,
  • a LED flashlight
  • adhesive tape
  • a raincoat
  • a tire pressure gauge
  • a screwdriver, jumper cables
  • emergency blanket.

Click here to order: Emergency Kit.

Check or Change Your Oil Before a Long Road Trip

You might think I am totally clueless about cars, and you would not be wrong but there is one thing I do know how to do. I can check my own oil. I actually do this often because I know it is important for my engine. Oil lubricates the engine and keeps everything humming the way it is supposed to hum.

An oil change is one of the most inexpensive things you can do to keep your car running at peak performance. I had a child who shall remain unnamed blow an engine because it had run out of oil. A simple oil change every three months or 6,000 miles with an average cost of $40.00-$60.00 would have been better than the $2,500.00 it cost to replace the engine. It was an expensive life lesson.

Again, I don’t change my oil; I take it and have it done for me at Ricart Automotive. However, I know that if you are handy and have the time, you can do it yourself. The choice is yours on how to get the oil changed; just do it on schedule.

As I began writing this I realized that there are a lot of tips about road trip safety that I need to reacquaint myself with and make a habit of doing. The main takeaway I hope you get from the 6 tips is that you need to make sure your vehicle is winter-ready for your road trips and if you are unsure how to do it you find a knowledgeable dealership to help you.

Safe and Happy Road Trips!

Matt and Brandy

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