Aw crud, it’s winter again. That means if you live in an area that requires you to drive everywhere, you’re going to have a hellish nine months. Luckily, there’s a few simple things you can do to make sure you’re going to get where you need to go.
Get a Block Heater
People that live in colder climates like Canada or Alaska are all too aware of the existence of block heaters. In many of those places, cars will come straight from the dealership with a block heater already installed. Basically, a block heater is set up to warm the engine block on a car or truck. It runs off of standard A/C power, and puts off just enough heat to warm the fluids and battery in the car. Cars with engine blocks will usually have the male end of a three prong cord sticking out from under the hood of the car. An extension cord can be run from the house to the car, heating it through the night so the car is easier to start in the morning. Engine blocks reduce emissions, and generally make life a whole lot easier if you often have trouble starting you car in the morning.
Studded tires are a pretty standard if not necessary purchase in some places. In others, they’re outlawed completely. While they give piece of mind on icy roads, they have the unfortunate side effect of destroying the roads rather quickly. However, tire manufacturers produce various styles of winter tires that often work as good as studs. Since these tires don’t have little metal spikes driven into them, they’re not illegal, and can make a huge difference in how your car handles in the winter. They do have the disadvantage of lowering the gas mileage of your car, so you’ll want to have summer tires as well to switch when the season changes.
You should always have your own set of jumper cables on hand, and learn how to hook them up properly. If some samaritan stops to help you out, but doesn’t have a set their own set of jumper cables, then they may as well have not stopped at all.
At some point you’re going to end up wedged in a snowbank or under a couple feet of snow that fell while you were in the office. Do yourself a favor and keep a shovel in the trunk. A snow shovel is best, but it doesn’t really matter in the long run. Any shovel is better then none when you’re stuck.
Keep a bag of cat sand in the car to sprinkle in front of your tires. Sometimes you’ll dig and dig and dig, only to find that you’re slightly high-centered on some packed snow. Throw in a little ice, and your tires will just spin in place. In rear-wheel-drive vehicles, the cat sand has the added advantage of extra weight, giving you vehicle more traction on the ice.
Much like jumper cables, you can’t count on your samaritan to have one. Most guys you see driving a huge truck or Hummer are just dying to find someone that needs their powerful rig to pull them out of a tough spot. Don’t disappoint them by not having the proper equipment.
There you have it, these items should be able to get you out of the most common winter snafus. Keep in mind that these are not necessarily safety items, these are just intended to get you to where you’re going with the least amount of hassle.