Winter Driving Safety Tips, Part 2: Safety Checklist

Michael James

Driving in inclement weather should be done while practicing winter driving safety tips.

Planning and continuing preventative and ongoing maintenance are integral components of following the best winter driving safety tips. It’s the best solution for keeping your car or truck safe in severe rain.

Driving in inclement weather should be done while practicing winter driving safety tips.
Driving in inclement weather should be done while practicing winter driving safety tips.

It’s the best solution for keeping your car or truck safe in heavy rain, snow and icy condition, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Here’s part 2 of a four-part series on winter driving safety tips:


When the temperature drops, so does battery power. For gasoline and diesel engines, it takes more battery power to start your vehicle in cold weather. For electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, the driving range is reduced when the battery is cold, and battery systems work better after they warm up. Make sure your battery is up to the challenges of winter.

• Have your mechanic check your battery for sufficient voltage, amperage and reserve capacity.

• Have the charging system and belts inspected.

• Replace the battery or make necessary system repairs, including simple things like tightening the battery cable connections.

• Keep gasoline in a hybrid-electric vehicle, to support the gasoline engine.


See and be seen. Make sure all the lights on your vehicle are in working order. Check your headlights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers, and interior lights. Towing a trailer? Also be sure to check your trailer brake lights and turn signals. Trailer light connection failure is a common problem and a serious safety hazard.

Cooling System 

• Make sure the cooling system is in proper working order.

• Make sure you have enough coolant in your vehicle and the coolant meets the manufacturer’s 
specifications. See your vehicle owner’s manual for specific recommendations on coolant.

• Thoroughly check the cooling system for leaks or have your mechanic do it for you.

• Have the coolant tested fo the proper mix, properpH (acidity) and strength of the built-in corrosion inhibitors. Over time, the rust inhibitors in antifreeze break down and become ineffective.

• Drain and replace the coolant in your vehicle as recommended by the manufacturer, to remove dirt and rust particles that can clog the cooling system and cause it to fail.

Windshield Washer Reservoir 

You can go through a lot of windshield wiper fluid quickly in a single snowstorm, so be prepared for whatever might come your way.

• Completely fill your vehicle’s reservoir before the first snow hits.

• Use high-quality “winter” fluid with de-icer and keep extra in your vehicle.

Windshield Wipers and Defrosters 

Safe winter driving depends on achieving and maintaining the best visibility possible.

• Make sure your windshield wipers work; replace worn blades.

• Consider installing heavy-duty winter wipers if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow and ice.

• Check to see that your front and rear window defrosters work properly.

Floor Mats

Improperly installed floor mats in your vehicle may interfere with the operation of the accelerator or brake pedal, increasing the risk of a crash.

• Remove old floor mats before installing new mats; never stack mats.

• Use mats the correct size and fit for your vehicle.

• Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for mat installation.

Use available retention clips to secure the mat and prevent it from sliding forward.

• Every time the mats are removed, verify that the driver’s mat is reinstalled correctly. 

•If you plan to use snow tires, have them installed in the fall so you are prepared before it snows. Check out for tire ratings before buying new ones and look for winter tires with the snowflake symbol.

• Regardless of the season, inspect your tires at least once a month and before long road trips. It only takes about five minutes. If you find yourself driving under less-than-optimal road conditions this winter, you’ll be glad you took the time. Don’t forget to check your spare tire!

• As the outside temperature drops so does tire inflation pressure. Make sure each tire is filled to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure. It’s listed in your owner’s manual and on a placard located on the driver’s side door frame. The correct pressure is not the number listed on the tire. Be sure to check tires when they are cold, which means the car hasn’t been driven for at least three hours.

• Look closely at your tread and replace tires that have uneven wear or insufficient tread. Tread should be at least 2/32 of an inch or greater on all tires.

• Check the age of each tire. Some vehicle manufacturers recommend that tires be replaced every six years regardless of use. But check your owner’s manual.
• For more information on tire safety, visit NHTSA’s Tire Wise page at

Stock Your Vehicle

Carry items in your vehicle to handle common winter driving-related tasks, such as cleaning off your windshield, as well as any supplies you might need in an emergency. Keep the following in your vehicle:

• Snow shovel, broom and ice scraper.

• Abrasive material such as sand or kitty litter, in case your vehicle gets stuck in the snow.

• Jumper cables, flashlight, and warning devices such as flares and emergency markers.

• Blankets for protection from the cold.

• A cell phone with charger, water, food, and any necessary medicine (for longer trips or when driving in lightly populated areas).

Plan Your Travel and Route

Keep yourself and others safe by planning ahead before you venture out into bad weather.

• Check the weather, road conditions, and traffic.

• Don’t rush! Allow plenty of time to get to your destination safely. Plan to leave early, if necessary.

• Familiarize yourself with directions and maps before you go, even if you use a GPS system, and let others know your route and anticipated arrival time.

Article Last Updated: December 27, 2016.

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