Winter is Coming; Be Prepared

The Phoenix sculpture outside the library covered in snow. Photo Credit: Travis Boulanger.

It is essential to know the proper steps in getting your car ready for winter weather with winter around the corner. Winter can be challenging to drive in, and knowing what to do if your car gets stuck is critical. According to the Wisconsin Department of Motor-Vehicles, “50,000 cars, on average, are in accidents in winter.”

“Good winter tires. It is important to have decent tires on the vehicle for winter. Without decent winter tires, there may be less traction.” Josh Schuelke, a student studying mechanics at North Eastern Technical College, explains winter tires are made with different compounds to withstand the cold weather. “Winter tires can stay soft and flexible in the winter weather.” He explained, when looking for a pair of winter tires, look for tires with many blocks in them to give the tire more sharp edges. “The sharp edges bite the snow and ice better and gives better performance for winter driving.” Ensuring that the vehicles’ oil has been changed and all the fluids are topped off is also crucial for more extended travel.

Winter trunk gear. Photo Credit: Wynnafred Bonde.

One thing that is needed is making sure an ice scraper and snow brush is in the vehicle. The ice scraper and snow brush are used for scraping snow and ice off the windshield and other places with a window, such as the right passenger side and the left driver’s side. It is also important to scrape off the rearview window. Ashley Steinmetz, a University of Wisconsin – Green Bay (UWGB) student who commutes to work in Green Bay, always “makes sure to have two ice scrapers in each car,” as well as “an extra pair of gloves, a blanket, a small shovel, and jumper cables.” Ashley also explained that her family does travel for the holidays, though she usually is not the driver, and likes to make sure that they are stocked up on snacks and drinks for the road as all the family vehicles are equipped with the same things as above.

Snow brush and Power Pack. Photo Credit Wynnafred Bonde.

Another important concept to consider is having weight in the vehicle’s back if it is a bigger vehicle like an SUV or Truck. Having weight in the back of the vehicle can limit the amount of fishtailing when the road is slippery. To know whether to add weight to the car, it is essential to know what type of drive the car has, front-drive, rear-drive, or four-wheel drive. This will help determine if and where the weight would be needed in the car to prevent fishtailing and sliding.
What happens if you still get stuck even if you have the right tires?

5 40 pound bags of wood pellets equaling to 200 pounds of weight to avoid fishtailing. Photo Credit Travis Boulanger.

In this case, it is important to have blankets and snow pants and boots. The reason for the snow pants and boots are for getting out of the car so you can try and get unstuck. That is where kitty litter comes in. Clumping kitty litter is used when the vehicle gets stuck. The litter must be clumping to create traction behind the wheels. Place kitty litter behind the wheels with no traction making sure that there is enough layered that if some kicks out, there is still some for traction. In place of litter, it is also possible to use the car’s floor mats or cardboard pieces that are layered atop one another. These work better when stuck on flat surfaces, though and if in a ditch on an interstate, the best thing is to call someone to tow the car out of the ditch.

Winter boots. Photo Credit Wynnafred Bonde.

What happens if the car is stuck in the ditch for a long time?

If the car is trapped in the ditch, it is important to make sure the car can stay running for the heat factor for a few hours. This is why it is always safer to make sure that vehicles have more than half a tank of gas in winter, and the following provisions are tucked away in the vehicle somewhere. Blankets or warmer outer layers, boots if they are not being worn, snacks and drinks in the case of being trapped in the vehicle waiting for help for a long time, and a phone with a full charge or some way of charging it such as a portable battery. Avoid charging the phone through the car as this can drain the car battery, so only do this when no other options are available.

Supply of snacks for the road. Photo Credit Wynnafred Bonde.

The most important thing to remember when traveling is to take the extra time needed to travel and not to rush somewhere, because when people rush on the road, it leads to accidents and carelessness—besides, having checkpoints to keep in contact with people where the final destination is never a bad idea. Make sure to stop and not text on the road.

Written By: Grace Merkt, Travis Boulanger, and Wynna Bonde

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