Tips, tricks, and supplies for the winter
Nick “Chico” Hernandez
After the winter-wonderland-turned-Polar Vortex winter of 2013, no one should be taking any chances. By “taking chances,” I’m talking about being unprepared. Underdressed people are always the coldest, unprepared cars run the worst, and sometimes you just end up shit’s creek. With taking the right steps, you minimize the chance of ending up there.
Yoga/sweat pants, skirts, open toed shoes, track jackets, and tennis shoes are all examples of how to not dress for winter. To prevent heat loss, all areas of the body should be covered, and covered well.
A hat (or a beanie), gloves, boots, jeans, and a winter coat should have a special place for everyone during winter. While you could wear a snow suit, we all know that looking trendy is all the rage. That being said, you can still look trendy and be warm.
If trendy isn’t warm enough for some reason, then the next step is layering up. Another pair of pants under jeans, or an extra t-shirt can make all the difference when outside amongst the icicles.
While all of the above is a must for being warm, having good snow boots will keep you upright better than those Gucci gloves will. Find something with good grip, but will be comfy walking in if you spend a lot of time on your feet. These boots are many and can be found online or in stores for varying prices, choose wisely.
Ugg boots are not suitable for winter conditions because they are not waterproof. The fur will absorb moisture and hold it in, and can make the Uggs smell bad. The same goes for Converse and other cloth, athletic shoes.
Vehicle Care Tips
The first step to driving in the winter is make sure your vehicle is ready for winter. Fluids (oil, antifreeze), battery, brakes, engine, and tires should all be checked by a mechanic. Fluids should be checked often to begin with, but you will want to make a habit of it during winter. I know, it’s cold. Dress appropriately.
Snow tires help out greatly in the winter, but cost more than regular summer tires. On average, a snow tire will run you average of $100 per tire at Discount Tire, not counting labor. Pricey, but peace of mind is rarely cheap.
Rain-X Original windshield treatment works well for most conditions and averages $8.00 at most auto stores, or about $6.00 at Walmart. Rain-X helps your windshield resist moisture, such as sleet, rain, and some snow. Don’t expect it to work when the snow is piling up outside though.
When it comes down to it, we live in Michigan and we have to clear our cars off. Any Michigander worth their Faygo knows that an ice scraper and snow brush is essential for winter. Most ice scraper/snow brush combinations retail for about $12.00.
A car covered in ice is never anyone’s idea of a good time, but it is an inevitability that we all have to deal with. Something that makes the de-icing process easier is De-Icer Spray.
De-Icer Spray helps cut through the ice without harming the paint job or the window itself. De-Icer can be found at auto stores and vary in price from a few dollars to about ten dollars.
Vinegar and water has been previously suggested around the internet, but according to snopes.com, “we’ve found no consensus about how effective the use of vinegar-water mixture to remove or prevent windshield ice might be.” Basically, try it at your own risk.
If nothing else, cool water will help the de-icing process. Don’t use hot water, it can crack your windshield because of the rapid temperate change.
Most people would tell you to let your vehicle run for a few minutes when the temperate drops below freezing, but an article by trustedchoice.com said that letting your vehicle idle for more than a few minutes isn’t a good idea, and that you can damage parts on your vehicle.
Not all vehicles will fall into one category or another (to warm up or not warm up?). The best way that I’ve found is to let your vehicle run until the idle returns to a normal, steady pace. This generally only takes a minute or two.
If your car is covered in snow or ice, then the first thing you’ll want to do is start it up and begin the defrosting process. Don’t turn the vehicle on if the tail pipe or grill is blocked by snow, ice, or something similar.
After the defroster has started, you’ll want to take your ice scraper/snow brush and begin cleaning your vehicle off. Don’t make it a second rate job; driving with snow on your vehicle could mean your life.
Snow sitting on the hood can fly up when speed is increased, and can result in temporary loss of vision. Snow or ice on the headlights or tail lights means the light doesn’t get through, and no one can tell if you’re braking, turning, or (during night time) if you’re even there. Being lazy in the winter only makes you look like an idiot, and puts you close to danger.
Driving In Snow
Most people that live in Michigan are attuned to driving in the snow, but it never hurts to try and pick up some more ideas.
Let me start by saying that driving conditions can change rapidly with the weather, but one thing holds true over everything; don’t drive like you own the road and expect everyone else to move just for you. What I mean by this is: driving way too fast for what the conditions permit, driving recklessly, tailgating, braking suddenly for no reason, and aggressiveness on the road in general.
Drive at a speed that you feel comfortable at. Too often have I almost lost control by going faster than I should have.
When snow has found its way onto the road, that’s when you should be cautious. Drive gently and steer easily. Imagine you have a cup of hot coffee and if you turn too sharp or too suddenly, you’ll spill it on yourself.
You also need to acquaint yourself with your vehicle. Learn what advantages and disadvantages it carries. Some brake better than others, where a few can gain acceleration better. As suggested by cartalk.com, “it’s not a bad idea to do a little driving in an empty parking lot on a snowy day just so you know what to expect from your car when you drive on snowy roads.” While trying this, stay vigilant. Learning how to steer, recover from spin outs, brake efficiently, and the speed that you feel comfortable at is essential for winter driving, but not if you slide sideways into a parking block.
If you find yourself sliding in any way, do not slam on the brakes or the gas; it will only make the situation worse. Let off either pedal and gently push the brakes and steer your vehicle where it needs to go. Sometimes you will not be able to recover from a slide, but driving alert will help reduce that chance.
Avoid steep hills and slopes as best as you can. These, when iced over or covered in snow, can be unsafe and risky. If driving up a hill is necessary, then you will want a lot of momentum behind the vehicle while traveling up the terrain. Expect hazards just above the slope and be on guard.
Braking can be different with vehicles and how you should brake depends on if you have an Anti-Locking Braking System (ABS). If this is equipped on your vehicle, then you should always brake easy and slowly went needed. Pumping the brakes work better for vehicles without ABS versus ones that run ABS, and are good for stopping in tall snow.
Keeping your gas tank at above a quarter of a tank is essential for this time of year. Running your car with low gas can overheat your fuel pump and cause costly repair issues. The best solution to this is to make sure that your tank is at least half full at all times.
Remember that having All-Wheel Drive, 4X4, or anything else does not disqualify you from sliding or losing control. Drive carefully and don’t rush it. Leave early if you need to be somewhere at a certain time.
Making a Winter Bag
A winter bag is simply a bag made for winter preparedness. It’s something you make, toss in your truck or backseat and hope you don’t have to use it. We as a race did not make it this far without some preparation and if you find yourself stranded in the winter, then you may not make it far at all.
At the tippy top of the list resides hand warmers, blankets, flashlights, flares, and small bottles of water. Should the worst happen and your vehicle is stuck, these will all assist you in getting help.
A flashlight and flares are crucial for signaling help. Smaller bottles of water are better than a large jug because they will take less time to de-thaw. The human body needs water more than anything else, and being stuck in snow is no joke. Always have water.
Next on the list is back–up winter gear, rope, non-perishable food, matches, a lighter, candles, and jumper cables.
The back-up winter gear is purely for layering purposes and old clothes work just as well as new ones. Have all articles of clothing backed up; underwear, socks, pants, shirts, a coat, and boots.
Rope and jumper cables can prove essential to getting your car up and running on the road again, should you come across a good Samaritan willing to help out a human in need.
Non-perishable foods range from canned food, to beef jerky, to dried fruit. In this instance of building a winter bag, dried fruit would be the number one choice. When frozen, many dried fruits will have an “indefinite” expiration date. According to eatbydate.com, Raisins, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, and dried mangos are among the many fruits that reach “indefinite” expiration date on the chart.
Matches, lighters, and candles are best combined with a blanket or extra winter clothes. Burning a candle or two inside a car will not only make the car smell good, but provide a good source of heat in a small area. Shoot for the bigger ones that last longer for contentious heat.
Two other items worth having are a shovel and a few bags of salt. Both can be useful whether you face trouble in a snow bank, or just in the driveway.
What size of shovel you need will depend on the size of the vehicle.
A child’s snow shovel can work well for small cars because of the compact size. Most blades on a kids shovel are still wide enough to help when you need it. Bags of salt also double as weight for SUVs and trucks.
Keeping a back-up of fluids (namely oil and anti-freeze) is a smart thing to do during winter. Fluids can get used up quicker in the winter than in the summer.
A lot of things got listed off, so I compiled a price of all supplies for a basic winter bag, as well as where to find them:
8 pack of 8 oz. Ice Mountain bottled water – $2.99 at Meijer
Generic hand warmers – $4.99 at Meijer
LED pocket flashlight – $10.00-$15.00 at Meijer
Road Flare – $6.29 at Auto Zone
10 foot Jumper Cables – $11.99 at Auto Zone
100 pack of strike anywhere matches – $2.99 at Meijer
4 pack of Bic lighters – $5.99 Meijer
Dried assorted fruits – $2.27 at Walmart
Jack Links beef jerky – $4.99 at Meijer
Yankee candle – $9.99 at Meijer
12 inch (blade width) Kids shovel – $4.46 at Walmart
18 inch adult shovel – $9.96 at Walmart
Salt – $4.99 at Meijer
Try to bundle most of these things into one bag so that you have access to them all at the same time. Convenience helps when you’re stuck and need to dig into the supplies. Even if someone only purchases a few of these things, it can still tip the scales in your favor during a wintery situation. Be smart, drive safe, dress warm, and plan accordingly.
“Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air… But only for one second without hope.” –Hal Lindsey