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It’s autumn here in Portland, Oregon. Everyone is enjoying the changing leaves and cooler weather. Winter in the Pacific Northwest can be dreary, but it can also be an adventure! Plenty of family-friendly winter destinations are just a few hours away from the city. However, before heading off on an adventure, ensure the family vehicle is ready for the drive. Safety is a priority. So, if the car needs any auto maintenance in Portland, make sure to contact a reputable mechanic before embarking on a snowy journey.

How to Prepare for Winter Road Trips

Whether the family is traveling for the holidays or they’re going to Timberline Lodge for a weekend full of skiing, it’s critical to ensure the car is ready for the adventure. Here are some tips on how to prepare for a winter road trip.

Check the Weather Forecast

The driver should know what to expect on any road trip, and this is especially true for winter road trips. Make sure to check the weather forecast before the trip and adjust the driving schedule accordingly. Keep in mind that there’s less daylight in the winter and that winter driving is often more tiring than driving in favorable conditions. Rest when tired, and pull over if needed. The mountains will still be there when the family arrives!

Check the Windshield Wipers

No one wants to be caught out in a winter storm with worn or malfunctioning windshield wipers. Before leaving, make sure that the windshield wipers operate normally. If they leave streaks or seem to be skipping across the windshield, replace them. Also, it’s a good idea to install heavy-duty winter windshield wipers for the season anyway.

Top Off the Windshield Washer Fluid

While it may not be at the forefront of everyone’s minds, windshield washer fluid is crucial for winter driving. Make sure to top off the existing fluid. If the weather forecast predicted freezing temperatures, purchase an anti-frost windshield washer fluid to ensure visibility in inclement weather. Maybe toss an extra bottle in the trunk, just in case.

Check the Car’s Defrosters

Ensure that the vehicle’s defrosters work correctly. If they don’t, snow builds up quickly on windows and mirrors. Again, visibility is critical for winter road trips. If it seems the defrosters are broken, take the car into an auto repair shop to address the issue.

Check the Floor Mats

No matter what time of year, be sure to install the car’s floor mats correctly. Floor mats may interfere with the vehicle’s brakes, clutch, or accelerator. Floor mats should fit the car properly; follow the manufacturer guidelines in the car’s owner manual.

Also, it’s good practice to make sure all of the snow is off of the driver’s boots before driving. Melting snow can cause boots to slip on the brake or accelerator.

Check the Tires

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Again, tire checks are a good idea, no matter what time of the year. However, winter driving conditions are often much more dangerous than other times of the year. Properly inflated tires help prevent flat tires and blowouts. They also help the car’s fuel efficiency and stability. Before embarking on a winter road trip, check each tire and make sure they’re inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. Look through the owner’s manual or on the driver’s side door for this information. Cold weather causes the low air pressure in tires, so check tire pressure multiple times throughout the trip.

In addition to monitoring tire pressure, look at the tread of the tires. If the tread is not at least 1/16th inch deep, replace the tire. Low-tread tires are dangerous in winter weather conditions. They increase the risk of hydroplaning. Consider purchasing winter tires for the season, as they improve vehicle braking and traction in snowy or icy conditions.

Buy Some Sand or Kitty Litter

If snow is expected during the family winter road trip, make sure to put a few bags of sand and kitty litter in the trunk. That way, if the car gets stuck in a slippery spot, it’ll be easier to get out. Pour that kitty litter or sand under the vehicle’s power wheels to improve traction.

Prepare an Emergency Car Kit

Make sure that the vehicle has an emergency kit. Many auto part stores carry kits that include booster cables, air compressors, first aid kits, and a flashlight. However, make sure to include items specifically for winter survival. These items may consist of water, food, flares, and more. It’s also a good idea to make sure a working ice scraper and a pair of high-quality tire chains are in the vehicle.

Take the Vehicle for a Winter Tune-Up

The average holiday road trip is 275 miles. It’s critical to ensure the family’s safety by taking the car into an auto repair shop in Portland for a winter tune-up. Instead of topping off the windshield washer fluid alone, have a trained professional do it! Additionally, trained technicians can identify issues with the vehicle’s heater, brakes, lights, oil, and exhaust system. Also, make sure there’s anti-freeze in the radiator. Tell the mechanic that the family is going on a road trip so that they know to check the condition of the car’s tires and windshield wipers as well.

Tips for the Drive

  • While driving in snowy or icy conditions, make sure to fill up on gas often. These stops will increase travel time, but it’s smart to keep the car fueled in case of an emergency. That way, the car’s heater will be able to run longer.
  • Make sure to always clear the ice and snow off of the car completely.
  • Slow down when driving, even if other vehicles stick to dry-weather speed limits.
  • Stay in the lane. It can be challenging to identify lane markers in bad weather. So, it’s safer to stay in the same lane instead of attempting to pass a car ahead in winter weather.
  • Know how to stop. If the vehicle has traction control brakes, push hard on the brake pedal and leave it until the car stops. If the vehicle does not have traction control brakes, the driver has to pump the brakes to keep the vehicle from spinning out of control.

How Can We Help?

Here at Steve’s Imports, we have decades of combined experience when it comes to automotive restoration, maintenance, and repair. If the family is planning a winter road trip, make sure to call for a winter tune-up appointment! Our customers’ safety is our top priority. Happy trails!