Topics:Repair and Maintenance Budget Safety Voided Warranty Mileage Car Value Car Trouble Car Resale Money Saver Buying Tips Winter
Guest Post by Mike Grady In 1981, University of Southern California professor Harry Hurt published what is still the only comprehensive study of motorcycle safety ever conducted in the United States. Among the findings in what became known as the “Hurt Report,” approximately 75 percent of all motorcycle accidents are collisions with another vehicle, usually a car or truck. In two-thirds of those accidents, the motorist disregarded the motorcyclist’s right-of-way and caused the accident. The study also found that intersections are the most likely places for motorcycle accidents to occur, and the most common type of accident is a car or truck making a left-hand turn in front of an oncoming motorcycle. Although the data in the Hurt Report is four decades old, there is little reason to believe that riding conditions have improved for motorcyclists. Traffic in most areas is much worse than it was in the late ‘70s, and with cell phones and dashboard infotainment screens, there are more opportunities for drivers to be distracted. There is no question that drivers should be more aware of and look out for motorcycles, but motorcyclists have no control over what the other drivers on the road do. What motorcyclists can do is learn and practice mental and physical riding techniques that will enable them to avoid or react properly to dangerous situations out on the road. Concentrate on the ride It starts with being mentally and physically prepared for the ride. Safe riding requires concentration and awareness, but you can’t completely focus on the ride if you’re thinking about work, bills, or other things going on in life. In fact, this requirement is one of the most appealing aspects of motorcycling for many riders because it forces them to clear their head and become immersed in the ride. Of course, you should wear proper riding gear. A comfortable, quality full face helmet provides the most protection in the event of a crash, plus it can protect your face and eyes from wind, dirt, bugs and debris that can cause unwanted distractions. Along with the helmet, you’ll need gloves, boots and protective riding clothes. Check the weather Always check the weather before you ride. If the forecast is for rain or cold temperatures, you may want to postpone your ride, but if you must travel, be sure to pack an effective rain suit or warm clothing. It’s difficult to concentrate on riding safely when you are miles from home and soaked to the skin. Needless to say, you should always inspect the bike before riding, which includes checking tire pressure, fluid levels, and overall making sure everything is in working order. Pay attention to your surroundings When you’re out on the road, you should be continually scanning what is ahead and checking your mirrors for approaching vehicles. Allow a good distance between yourself and the vehicle ahead of you, so you can spot debris, potholes, and other road irregularities, and have plenty of time to maneuver around them. Look for pedestrians and bicycles that could unexpectedly enter the roadway, for vehicles entering the road from driveways or side streets, and for oncoming traffic that could turn left in front of you. When approaching these possible hazards, it’s a good idea to “cover” your brakes. Place two fingers over the front brake lever and your foot just above the rear brake pedal, so you can quickly apply the brakes, if necessary, with minimal reaction time. efore making a quick, emergency stop, always check your mirrors. If a vehicle is following too closely, the better course of action may be to swerve out of the way of the hazard in front of you to avoid being hit from behind. This is why, in addition to searching for potential hazards, you should also always be looking for possible escape routes. Ride in the safest lane For a motorcycle, a typical traffic lane can be divided into three portions — left, right, and center. The portion you ride in should be dictated by where it’s best for you to see and be seen, and where you have the best chance to avoid hazards. For example, when passing a line of parked cars, riding in the left third of the lane will help you avoid doors opening and drivers entering the roadway. In a right-hand curve, ride in the right third of the lane to avoid oncoming drivers that may clip the turn and cross the center line. On multi-lane highways, riding in the center of the center lane is best for visibility and maneuvering when there are cars on both sides. Use caution, since this is where debris and oil from cars collect. This oil buildup is usually greatest at intersections and should be avoided. When approaching an intersection where you have the green light, slow down, cover the brakes and make sure traffic is stopped on both sides of the opposing street. Look for oncoming cars intending to make a left turn and check your rearview mirrors and look for escape routes in case the driver doesn’t see you and begins to turn, forcing you to brake or swerve. If the traffic light is red, downshift as you come to a complete stop, leaving the clutch lever pulled in and the bike in first gear, with rear brake engaged so drivers behind can see your brake light. Just about all motorcycles have wet clutches, and they aren’t harmed by leaving them disengaged like this. Always stop in the left or right third of the lane and leave plenty of room between yourself and the car stopped in front of you in case you have to quickly get on the gas and escape to the sides because a mirror-check revealed a car approaching rapidly from behind. If I’m the last in a line of stopped traffic, especially when riding at night, I’ll flash my brake lights to try to gain the attention of approaching drivers. Wait a few seconds after a light change When a traffic light changes from red to green, or when advancing into an intersection with four-way stop signs, always wait a few seconds before entering the intersection to make sure vehicles are completely stopped at both sides of the cross street. Sometimes drivers attempting to make the light end up running a red light, and sometimes drivers just aren’t paying attention and run the light or don’t see the stop sign. Either way, you could end up colliding with them if you jackrabbit into the intersection. Continue learning more safety techniques These riding tips just scratch the surface of all there is to know about safe riding skills. There are plenty of resources available to improve your mental and physical riding abilities. For instance, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) has an abundance of online information and operates basic and advanced rider training courses throughout the country. There are also some excellent online rider training videos, including MCrider videos created by Kevin Morris, an MSF instructor, and the Ride Like a Pro videos produced by Jerry Palladino, a long-time police motor officer and trainer. Overall, riding a motorcycle should be fun, and you can be safe while having a good time if you practice the right mental and physical riding techniques. Mike Grady is a motorcycle enthusiast and expert at MOTORCYCLEiD.com.
Guest Post by Fran Soriano Taking drivers education is one of the requirements for novice drivers applying for a license. This law is primarily meant to reduce incidents of car crashes involving teen drivers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report showing that nine people die every day because of distracted driving. Unfortunately, drivers under 20 years old were responsible for a huge percentage of these accidents. According to a federal research, close to 60 percent of moderate to severe car crashes involved distracted teen drivers. A drivers ed course aims to put an end to this problem by teaching teens safe driving practices. Along with road rules, lessons on risky driving behaviors and their effects on those involved are tackled in the program. But is it effective? Based on a study by the American Automobile Association (AAA), car collision rates went down by 4.3 percent in teen drivers because of drivers ed. Furthermore, the number of tickets they received decreased by 40 percent. Most teenagers now have the option to take a traditional or an online drivers ed course. The traditional program involves classroom delivery, much like classes in school. It has a fixed schedule which can run for two to three weeks. You need to attend each meeting; otherwise, you would be required to retake the course. Meanwhile, an online drivers ed course, as the name suggests, is delivered via the internet as a self-study program. As such, you determine your own schedule. You can study anytime you want and anywhere you are. As long as you complete the required hours, you’ll receive your certification. Many students prefer an online course because of the convenience it offers. Furthermore, it allows them to study at their own pace. This means that they can opt to spend more time on lessons which they find difficult. It is worth noting, however, that people who require more structure or an instructor-directed learning may have a difficult time with the online setup. So, you need to assess if you’d do better in an online or traditional course. If you believe that an internet-based program suits your needs and learning style, then you can begin searching for one. You should not have a hard time with this task since there are numerous providers out there. However, please don’t choose just any course. Pick one that is going to be worth your money and time. This entails thorough research and an understanding of what to look for in a drivers ed online course. Below we list some questions which can help you pick the best internet-based program: Is the course accredited? Find out if the course is recognized by the DMV or your state. An accreditation serves as your guarantee that the program adheres to the Novice Teen Driver Education and Training Administrative Standard (NDETAS). With this program, you can be certain that pertinent topics you need to pass your licensing test are tackled. These include the fundamentals such as the parts of the vehicle and their function, basics of driving and national and local road rules, to name but a few. It is also important that the course covers safe driving practices. It should teach you about defensive driving techniques. Moreover, it should discuss the importance of driving safely all the time. It should impart how accidents emotionally and financially impact those who are involved. Remember, an excellent course should not just equip you with the knowledge needed to pass your written test but also create an awareness in you about the hazards of reckless driving. What is the design of the course? It is not enough that the course covers all essential driving-related topics. The program should also have ways for you to check your progress. Hence, it must include assessment tools. Ideally, quizzes have to be taken after each unit or section. There also needs to be a timed final exam. Why are these necessary? These help you identify what areas you need to work on, if there are any. Furthermore, the tests, particularly the timed one, hone your test-taking skills. It gives you a feel of how it would be like when you take your actual exam. Aside from having quizzes and tests, the online course should have a user-friendly interface. It should be easily navigable, allowing you to locate everything you need without any difficulty. It is also imperative that the site is mobile-friendly. Just like everyone else, you’d be relying on mobile devices to access the internet. The website must load properly whether you use your laptop, tablet or mobile phone. Is the site secure? Many students who take drivers ed online rarely put importance on the site’s security. Please do not make the same mistake if you do not want your sensitive information to get compromised. One simple way to know if a site is secure is to check if it is using HTTPS instead of HTTP. If you are using Google Chrome, an HTTPS site is indicated with a padlock. When a site uses HTTPS, it means that the information entered into the site is encrypted. Does the provider offer customer support? Avoid providers that do not offer customer support. It is easy to think that you wouldn’t need assistance with this type of product. But this way of thinking can be costly later on, especially when the site experiences downtime. Moreover, at some point, you may have a question or an issue which isn’t in the FAQs section. Being able to contact someone who can readily resolve your problem makes things more convenient. Does the provider have a good reputation? There are a lot of drivers ed online providers out there which are not legitimate. Their only intention is to scam people. Make sure the company you are eyeing isn’t one of them. Do a quick search online to find out if others have enrolled in its program. Furthermore, learn what the previous students have to say about the provider and its drivers ed course. You want a company that has a consistently high pass rate. This is an indicator that the provider’s drivers education online program is excellent. Furthermore, the company should be known for rendering first-rate service. As mentioned before, customer support is essential. However, just having a helpline won’t suffice; the support needs to be prompt as well. More than just a requirement, completing a drivers education course is meant to help you pass your written test and make you a safe and responsible driver. Choose a program that is going to enable you to achieve these things. Fran Soriano is a content writer of DMVEdu, a company offering top-notch drivers ed online courses in California, Georgia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.
For most drivers, snow in the weather forecast conjures a sense of dread. Roads grow slippery and snow piles turn even the quietest neighborhood streets into bumpy terrains. Many people would rather stay indoors than venture out on snow-covered roads. But snow isn’t the only winter weather that can cause damage to your vehicle. The cold air alone can silently wreck your vehicle’s most important components. Once temperatures drop below freezing, your car becomes susceptible to all kinds of issues, from dead batteries to flat tires. Here are some of the most common ways cold weather can damage your vehicle. 1. Dead battery A dead battery is one of the most common vehicle issues driver's experience when cold weather hits. Thousands of cars around the country end up needing a tow to their nearest repair shop because cold weather killed their battery. Cold weather puts extra pressure on your car’s battery, forcing your vehicle to work hard to start. Cold weather can also drain voltage relatively quickly, especially if your car isn’t in use or if your battery is old. If you find yourself not using your car during the cold winter months, it’s a good idea to go out and start it up once in a while to test out the battery before you’re left stranded. Experts also recommend replacing your car battery every three years. Batteries more than three years old are more susceptible to drainage. If you have a garage on your property, think about storing your car in the warmth for the winter. It won’t only protect your vehicle from the elements, but it will also keep your vehicle in between the 30–90°F happy spot it likes best. 2. Thick fluids Your car carries a lot of fluid, from oil and antifreeze to transmission fluid and windshield cleaner. These fluids won’t necessarily freeze when the temperature dips, but they will thicken up like cold maple syrup. Transmission fluid will thicken at around 35°F. If you can’t get your transmission fluid running quickly, your car won’t function properly. To keep your vehicle’s fluids running, warm your car up for about 15 minutes before hitting the road. Also, make sure your fluids are topped off. It’s hard for thick fluids to be forced up if they’re low. 3. Low tire pressure Cold weather can decrease your tire pressure by as much as one pound per square inch for every 10 degrees the temperature drops. Driving with such low pressure will lead to increased wear and tear on your tire, as well as cause dangerous blowouts when you’re on the road. When you’re driving along icy roads, the last thing you want is to lose control of your vehicle. Think about investing in winter tires, which are more durable and less susceptible to pressure loss brought on by cold weather. They’ll also help you navigate snowy and icy roads. 4. Salt corrosion Salt works wonders when it comes to keeping the roads safe for driving, even during the most blustery of winter storms. However, it can wreak havoc on your vehicle’s appearance and functionality. Road salt can stick to the metal of your car and can corrode it over time. The underbelly of your car is especially susceptible to this. Corrosion can occur to your breaks, your wheel wells, your exhaust, and your muffler. Any number of your vehicle components can malfunction and lead to costly damage. Often, salt damage isn’t covered by insurance or an extended vehicle warranty. Wash your car about once a month during the winter. Use rust-proofing spray or sealant to protect your car’s undercarriage. If you can, keep your car in a garage throughout the winter. Maintain your vehicle all year long One of the easiest ways to ensure your vehicle is safe for winter weather driving is to keep it maintained throughout the year. Sometimes even the smallest issues can be made worse by cold weather. If you’re experiencing issues with your battery, your engine, your tires, or other car components, consider getting your car checked by a certified mechanic before the winter months. If you have invested in an extended vehicle warranty, your contract with the provider will require you to perform vehicle maintenance on schedule. Letting required maintenance lapse can result in claim denial, so be sure to check your owner’s manual and perform maintenance on schedule! Thinking about investing in an extended vehicle warranty? Vehicle protection plans can help cover the cost of unexpected mechanical (and electrical) breakdown. Many providers offer free quotes, so you can start planning now. Winter weather will never be fun for car owners. But you can take steps to make it less daunting — and less dangerous — by keeping your vehicle up to par all year long.
Stay safe this winter It’s about that time of year again when white stuff starts falling from the sky. It’s beautiful, it’s cold, and it means that your morning commute to work is going to be a little bit trickier. Driving in the winter can be a stressful and daunting task even for the most experienced drivers. Almost 70 percent of the U.S. population lives in snowy regions and has to travel in dangerous road and weather conditions. How can you keep you and your loved ones safe? Here at Best Company, we reached out to car experts for their top tips and tricks to staying safe while driving during the winter. Learn to use your breaks in the snow and ice Replace the fluid and check tire air pressure Invest in winter tires Put together an emergency kit Slow down Vehicle Maintenance 1. Learn to properly use your brakes in the snow and ice Unanimously, the car experts responded that learning how to properly use your brakes in the snow and ice is crucial to your safety while driving in the winter. Lauren Fix, founder of the Car Coach with years of car expertise, shared step-by-step guides to recover from a loss of traction and how to drive in icy conditions. How to recover from a loss of traction Understand that the process for recovering from a skid is the same for cars with front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive. Maintain eye contact with a safe area where you want your vehicle to go. Take your foot off both the gas and brake pedals immediately. Turn smoothly into the direction you want the car to go. Warning! Do not slam on the brakes. Locked, sliding tires have no directional control. How to drive in icy conditions Use the defroster and windshield wipers for better visibility. Brakes are not your friend; the gas pedal will help you get away. Give sufficient warning time to other drivers when turning, stopping, or changing lanes. Keep plenty of distance between cars. You never know when you will hit an icy spot. If you do skid, turn the wheels into the direction of the skid. Keep in mind that melting ice is still slippery. Drive slowly so that your tires can push water through their grooves for better traction. She shared, “Loss of vehicle traction, over slippery conditions or for whatever reason, is always dealt with in the same manner. The object is to maintain your original path by looking where you want your vehicle to stop, and resisting the natural urge to look at trees and other objects you don’t want to strike, including pedestrians.” Kara Harms, owner of Whimsy Soul, further points out that “when the roads are icy and slippery, drivers need to tap, release, tap, release very quickly, but steadily, to slow the car down without spinning out. This is the biggest mistake I see people make when they are not used to driving in the snow, and I think it is the most important winter driving tactic. I learned this the hard way as a teenager in Wisconsin. One day I pushed the brakes like normal on an icy patch and spun out, very narrowly avoiding taking the whole car into a ditch!” Sam Maizlech, an outdoor and survival expert from Gunivore adds that, “Accidents often occur when someone gets frightened and slams on the breaks when they hit the ice. When your vehicle hits an ice patch, you do not want to hit the brakes as you will immediately lose control of your car.” 2. Replace the fluid and check tire air pressure Dani Dimacale, of Matt Blatt Dealerships, notes that a driver needs to check their cars fluids. This includes antifreeze, transmission fluid, brake fluid, oil, and windshield washer fluid. Throughout the season, keep an eye on your windshield wiper fluid and refill as needed. Next, replace your windshield wipers. Do they leave streaks? Squirt water on the windshield to check. If so, it's time to replace them. Also, DO NOT try to scrape your windshield with only your wiper blades. It will ruin them and possibly burn out the wiper motor.” William Lu, automotive lead for 5 miles agreed by saying, “Check all of your fluids and belts, in particular your antifreeze and oil levels.” Shaun Savage, founder of GoShare, advises drivers to “Prepare your engine by checking the antifreeze, testing your battering and getting an oil change. Cold temperatures drain battery life quickly, and you don't want to be stranded. So, consider a heavy-duty option. Oil behaves differently in cold weather as well, so make sure to get an oil change and get the proper viscosity for the season.” 3. Invest in winter tires A representative from Etyres says, “With the winter throwing us into black ice, snow and everything in between, it's important that drivers know how to drive safely. If you drive through the snow frequently, winter tires are ideal for you as they provide you with better traction and greater grip in cold conditions, especially when temperatures reach below 7°C/44°F. Winter tires can drive on icy roads better than summer tires as they won't freeze up, allowing you to drive a bit safer and allowing you flexibility with the rubber compounds that they are featured with.” Ian Coke, Pirelli’s Chief Technology Officer adds, “While many drivers believe the need for winter tires is based on precipitation and the ability to maneuver in the snow, in reality, temperature is the first and most important deciding factor. This is because the rubber in tires is formulated with specific compounds to perform well in different conditions — and cold is an important issue. Winter tires uses different rubber formulations that stay soft below 44°F degrees to improve their ability to maintain grip on a cold road surface — wet or dry. Winter storms, bad weather and sloppy road conditions are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter. Yet in areas where winter tires are mandatory, like Canada, there has been a significant reduction in wintertime serious accident rates, with accidents in Montreal dropping by 46 percent, for example. Moreover, 80 percent of winter tire owners believe that a vehicle equipped with winter tires has saved them from being involved in a potentially hazardous driving situation.” NTB Tire & Service Centers says, “Consider buying snow tires for the season. Investing in snow tires is a smart decision if you live where winter brings prolonged snow, blizzards and/or ice storms. The tires will give you the traction you need to travel safely in ice and snow. Snow tires typically last through three or four winters, depending on how they're stored and cared for.” When questioned about specific tips to extend the life of your snow tires, NTB says, "Checking the tire pressure regularly is key because the cold temperature changes can cause a tire to go low on air pressure. Good grip, good tread and tire condition are just as important for proper pressure for the tire to maximize performance as it is intended." Furthermore, Cofounder of You Could Travel, Cory Varga shares, "Winter tires are paramount. Don't go for the cheapest option but consider investing a little more in some well-reviewed tires from well-known companies which are more specialized. 4. Put together an emergency kit Lu advises “If you live in an icy area, you also can put a bag of kitty litter or sand in your trunk for traction on ice if ever you get stuck” Laura Adams, safety and education analyst at Driver’s Ed noted the importance of having emergency supplies. She says, "Being stranded after a breakdown or accident can be especially dangerous when the temperature plummets. Since you never know how long you could be stranded, keep these cold-weather emergency items in your vehicle: Ice scraper Snowbrush Blankets Water Energy bars Warm clothing Flashlight and extra batteries Shovel First aid kit Charger for phone battery 5. Slow down Kaitlyn Darby from Superior Honda advises drivers to “accelerate and decelerate slowly. It takes longer to speed up and slow down on icy roads. Take your time when you are stopping for a light. Apply the gas slowly to avoid skidding.” Steven Hileman from Togo Group shares expert advice on driving in the winter from Togo's RV guide by adding, “Winter driving presents its own complications. The most important thing to remember is to slow down even more than usual. Leave at least three times as much space between yourself and the vehicle in front of you as you would normally. Also, while most cars are front-wheel drive, RVs aren’t. If you find the rear end sliding and you feel you’re losing control, simply pump the brakes to regain control. If weather conditions warrant, pull over.” Angela Rucci, CEO of Tego insists driver should, “make sure to keep space in between you and the cars around you during a snowstorm. If you follow too close and the car in front of you hydroplanes, they may accidentally hit you too. Giving more space allows you to have time to safely react and move around them.” 6. Vehicle maintenance Ethan Lictenberg, from CarInsurance.org says, “Many people forget how important it is to take good care of your car, especially in such harsh conditions. It can mean the difference between life and death in some cases. If you have bald tires and didn’t bother to replace them before the season, you can bet on slipping and sliding all over the road. If you didn’t top off your fluids and assure your battery is working correctly, it could mean a very cold night for you.” The CEO and founder of GoShare notes that, “safe winter driving starts with good vehicle maintenance. Before you even climb into the driver's seat this winter, you should ensure your car, truck or van has been properly prepared for the cold, icy or snowy conditions.” Laura Adams from Driver’s Ed shares “Give your vehicle a check-up now, so when storms blow into town, you can handle them. Let a reliable mechanic winterize your car and check your tires, battery, wiper blades, engine oil, anti-freeze, belts, hoses, and four-wheel drive. Before getting on the road, remove all the ice and snow from your vehicle, not just from the windshield. Leaving snow on your windows, roof, trunk, or lights makes you less visible to other drivers. If you take time to warm the interior, you can prevent the windshield from getting foggy when you turn on the defroster and de-ice the exterior more quickly.” Bonus: SPOT If you want to take extra precautions to keep you and your family safe, think about investing in SPOT. SPOT is a X 2-way satellite messenger. This handheld device features a full keyboard, paper-lit screen, built-in rechargeable batteries and allows you to have direct communication with emergency services. Its unique phone number allows friends and family to contact you outside of cellular range. The IP67 rating comes with all the functionality of the original SPOT products including GPS tracking and check-in. The SPOT includes an S.O.S. where you can message back and forth about the nature of your emergency with the 24/7 Search and Rescue services and then receive confirmation when help is on the way. You can also exchange messages with any cell phone or email address from virtually anywhere in the world. It has features that allow you to check in from wherever you are to let everyone know that you are okay.
Whether you’ve had car problems on a road trip or in-town, these stories are relatable. If you’ve had the good fortune to never have encountered a car problem, you can still learn from the misfortunes of others. Here are some of the best ways to be prepared should problems arise. Tire trouble Unavoidable problems Lost without GPS Fuel mix-up Tire trouble Tires play an important role in a car’s ability to get us from point A to point B. If your tire blows out, comes off, or deflates while you’re driving, you could be in danger of an accident. Tire blow-out Becky Beach, Finance Blogger“Over the Labor Day weekend, I was driving to Galveston with my 3-year-old son, Bryan. We had a tire blow out so almost caused an accident. Luckily, I swerved to the right shoulder at the last minute, and we parked safely. I had a jack and donut tire in the car so proceeded to change the tire. We were in the middle of nowhere in West Texas at 4 p.m. on a Friday. I was almost finished changing the tire when a truck driver pulled up behind me to offer assistance. I'm wary of strangers so said I had everything under control. Drivers should always be cautious when others offer help on the side of the road. If you really need help, then call roadside assistance. Many insurance plans offer this for free. Strangers may be dangerous, especially to women who are traveling alone with small children. I have a kit in my car that comes with jumper cables, flares, a reflective vest and other safety equipment. It's a good idea to keep these kits in your car if you have an emergency. I then drove to Discount Tire Company and had to purchase a new tire. By having my jack and donut tire, I saved lots of money. Otherwise, I would have had to spend $100+ on a tow truck to get me to the tire place. After the car had the new tire, we proceeded to the hotel in Galveston with no more mishaps.” Flat tire Kelly Beasley, CampAddict.com co-owner“I was pulling my trailer to Banff, Canada on the Trans-Canada Highway. I realized I had a flat tire on a right-hand curve. (The worst) There really wasn’t a median so I was partly in the road. It was after dark, of course. I had NO idea how to get the tire down from under my truck. I started to read my manual, but thank goodness a Canadian police officer came by. He kept us safe. He also changed the tire for us! Knowing how to change your own tire is a very basic skill. It's also a skill that could save your life, depending on the situation. Make sure you know where it is, how to get it out, and how to get it on.” Tips Check your tires before you drive. Make sure you have the right pressure in your tire and good tires suitable for the road. Check to make sure that the tires are secure, just to be on the safe side. Have a spare tire kit and know how to change your tire. Unavoidable breakdowns Even with the best preparation and maintenance, your car can still give you trouble on the road. Shattered windshield Charles McCool, Travel Happiness Advocate, McCool Travel“On my last road trip with my car (a brand new Subaru Outback), the windshield shattered. That was heartbreaking and I tried to get it fixed in another state. They could have done it if I stayed an extra three days. Instead I set up an appointment to do it at home. My insurance covered it, except for $100 deductible.” Brake malfunctions Rhett Grametbauer, Author of 25,000 Miles to Glory“I had the dream of visiting every NFL stadium and to live that dream from the driver's seat of a 1967 VW Bus. The VW Bus had more tows than months on the road, left us stranded on the side of the road in rural locations across the country, and cost a small fortune to repair. Worst of all, the brakes went out on the VW Bus three different times. The unmistakable feeling of driving a vehicle that you may or may not be able to stop is a sensation that I will always remember. The most horrifying experience was outside of Atlanta when the brakes went out, and I found myself racing towards a cement wall. It's not often you know you are going to crash and it's just a matter of how bad it's going to be. At the end of the road, right before the cement wall, I turned left, avoided a tree and safely landed the VW Bus into some harmless shrubs.” Acceleration problems John Z. Wetmore, “Perils for Pedestrians” Producer “Years ago, my old Toyota Camry started having acceleration problems when I was in the Colorado Rockies. I looked under the hood, but could not spot anything that looked abnormal. I limped with my flashers on into the town where I spent the night. The next morning, I went to the one mechanic in town. He couldn't help, so I had a 50 mile tow into Denver. It turned out it was a worn distributor shaft. The dealer replaced it, and the car ran fine. I had had the car checked out before I started the trip, but the shaft hadn't reached the state where the wear was critical until I was half way through my trip. Sometimes breakdowns are unavoidable. If you have slack in your schedule, getting delayed a day or two won't ruin your trip.” Rising temperature gauge Debbie Wright, Auto Repair Shop Owner and Car Blogger“The temperature gauge was rising as I was heading up the hill on my drive home. I knew better than to continue driving, so I pulled over on the side of the highway. There I was, unprepared as I sat in the car. The sun was setting and the weather was getting cold. Because I had this car for sale, I had taken everything out of the car, including my phone charger, my sweater, and my phone charging cord. I was concerned about the low charge on my battery. I was prepared in that I did have numbers to tow companies stored in my phone. It took three calls to find a tow company that could tow my car sooner than later. I then called my daughter to come pick me up.” Tips Have a charged phone with you. Keep an emergency kit in your car with snacks, water, food, first aid, etc. Be alert on the road. Lost without GPS We rely heavily on technology, especially as it’s gotten easier to use and is generally reliable. Be aware that technology doesn’t always work well everywhere, and be prepared with some not-so-technically advanced solutions. Matt Woodley, MoverFocus.com founder“My fiancé (now wife) and I were once on a road trip a few years back in a remote area when the GPS ceased to work, and we were out of cellphone reception too. It was at this time we realized we also didn't have a map book for the area we were in, and we had to drive without directions for several hours before we regained cell phone reception and could then use Google Maps and find out where we were and needed to go. We learned our lesson and now make sure we have a physical map book with us when we're traveling to an unfamiliar location. It's easy to take technology for granted, but there's really no substitute for a good ol’ fashioned map book.” Tips Download your map and directions on your phone. Print out directions in advance. Keep a map in your car. Wrong fuel The right fuel keeps your car running well. The wrong fuel, on the other hand, can cause some serious problems. Saurabh Jindal, Talk Travel Founder“Once, while driving in India, I had an issue while stopping at a fuel station to fill the tank. In India, fuel stations have people who fill the tank for you (rather than you doing it on your own). My car had a gasoline tank, and very recently the company had launched the diesel version of the car also. Now maybe because he got confused, but the fuel assistant who was filling my car tank started filling diesel in it even though I had asked specifically for gasoline. Fortunately, I noticed immediately and asked him to stop. Now the issue was how to get the diesel fuel out. Since my tank was almost empty, and very little diesel (less than a litre) had gone in, the fuel assistant, turned on the car and then turned it off — repeating the same thing multiple times. He did this without putting the car into any gear with the sole aim of completely burning the fuel. He was finally able to rid the tank completely of every drop of fuel and then filled it correctly with gasoline. He told me that this is a common error, and if the fuel quantity in the tank is small, it gets resolved by burning the fuel. This was a one time experience for me, and I have no idea how I could have resolved it without the fuel assistant. I mean, if by mistake I had done the same, I don't think I would have know then as to how to resolve it. Though now, I know how to go about it. I then put up a sticker on my car fuel tank cap with a capital G to show that it needs gasoline. I also started getting double confirmation with the fuel assistants before they filled my tank.” Tips Know what kind of fuel your car needs, especially if you’re driving a rental car or a friend’s. If you accidentally put in the wrong fuel, don’t drive the car. If you do, the whole fuel system will have to be cleaned. That’s expensive. Check out these other articles for more tips on avoiding car trouble: Expert Tips for Summer Road Trips8 Tips for Winter Road Trips
Guest Post by Mike Jones Are you in the market for a new car? With low prices and no shortage of certified dealerships, there are plenty of reasons to consider turning a used car into your new car. However, when you start doing research on the used cars that are out there, including their make, model, color, and safety features, — there’s one important thing to pay attention to — their mileage. Purchasing a car with high mileage can cost you thousands of dollars in the long run and create maintenance problems for you down the road. Thankfully, technology has advanced greatly over the past decade or so, prolonging the lifespan of our vehicles. Some newer cars get as many as 200,000 miles. However, even while today’s cars no longer head to the scrapyard after 100,000 miles, there are still some issues to be aware of. The engine’s burning oil This is one of the most common issues with high-mileage cars. High mileage can wear out the piston rings that seal your engine’s combustion gases. If a car hasn’t been properly maintained or has used poor engine oil, it’s likely that the engine burns through oil more quickly than normal. If you’re looking to purchase a used car, don’t forget to check the oil. Is the oil level low? Slide the dip stick between your fingers to check the oil quality. Does it appear dirty or gritty? Is the color clear or dark? Does it smell burnt? These are signs that there may be an issue under the hood. Transmission fails Once your vehicle reaches 100,000 miles, transmission failure becomes much more likely. It’s important that you keep up to date on the transmission’s maintenance to prevent premature failure. Change the transmission fluid. Some cars only require this every 100,000 miles, while others may require it every 30,000. If you hear any bangs or groans coming from your transmission, get it checked out by a mechanic as soon as possible. These noises could foreshadow a more serious problem.Try to keep towing heavy loads, like trailers, to a minimum. Heavy pulling can shorten the life of your transmission. Sometimes, a transmission cannot be repaired. Instead, it has to be replaced — at a price tag of several thousand dollars. Timing belt breaks The timing belt is critical to your engine operating smoothly. If you hear a ticking noise as you drive, see leaking oil from the front of your motor, or experience engine misfires, it means your timing belt is failing. This usually happens between 60,000 and 100,000 miles. If you suspect that your timing belt is failing, get it replaced before it breaks and causes serious damage to your engine. Mechanics recommend being proactive and getting your timing belt changed at least every 100,000 miles. Water pump leaks Any car with 60,000 to 90,000 miles has a risk of water pump leaks. The water pump is perhaps the most important element of your car’s cooling system. It circulates the engine coolant, which helps prevent the engine from overheating. With high-mileage cars, it’s important to change your coolant and antifreeze regularly. Flushing your coolant system can also help prolong its life. Look for steam rising from your radiator and water or rust under your hood. These are tell-tale signs of a leaking water pump. Rust spreads Any car that is driven as lovingly as a car with over 100,000 miles on it is bound to have rust, especially if the car was driven frequently in rain or snow. The problem with rust is that it spreads. Surface rust in your vehicle’s paint is a relatively easy fix. You can sand off the rust, prime it, paint it, and buff it. However, issues arise if surface rust is left untreated. Rust bubbles form. They can eat away at your vehicle’s metal, leaving gaping holes that only welding can repair. Is a high-mileage vehicle safe to buy? These problems may leave you wary when it comes to buying a used car; however, a used car is still a popular, practical, and cost-efficient option. When looking at a car’s mileage, it’s important to note the difference between a high-mileage car that has been properly maintained and a high-mileage car that hasn’t. If the previous owner took their car to a mechanic for regular oil changes, inspections, and maintenance, you should have nothing to worry about, even if the vehicle has 100,000 miles on it. On the other hand, you probably shouldn’t buy a car that hasn’t been properly maintained, even if it only has 50,000 miles on it. If you’re in the market for a used car, be sure to do the following: Ask dealerships or sellers for background info on the vehicle, like its Carfax. This allows you to see whether the car’s been maintained or whether it has been in any accidents. See if the vehicle has an extended vehicle warranty or vehicle protection plan attached to it. These plans can help cover the costs of unexpected repairs. Take the car to a trusted mechanic before you purchase it. They can see whether there are any maintenance issues you should worry about. Today’s high-mileage cars have a surprising amount of life left in them. They may just need a little extra care, consideration, and maintenance. Mike Jones is the president and CEO of autopom!, a BBB Accredited A+ rated provider of vehicle protection plans for both new and used cars. Click here to learn more about autopom!
Guest Post by Azhar Mirza It is no longer enough that teenagers take driving lessons from their parents. Nowadays, teens who intend to legally drive are required to enroll in a driving school and take formal driver education classes. Taking driver education is mandatory in 32 states in the United States. This requirement is one of the solutions of state governments to the worrisome number of car crashes involving teen drivers. As supported by several studies, requiring teens to take formal classes enables them to observe safe driving practices, thereby reducing their chances of getting in auto accidents. If your child intends to get a license and driver education is mandatory in your state, then you need to research driving schools. Keep in mind, not all driver education providers are top-caliber institutions. Hence, you have to be meticulous in your selection process if you want your child to obtain the needed knowledge and skills to pass a licensing test and, more importantly, to become a responsible and safe driver. So, how do you determine if a driver education provider is worth your money and your teen’s time and effort? Make sure that the driving school satisfies all the three criteria listed below: DMV-approved or state-approved This is one of the most important things you should look for in a driver ed provider. First, a DMV or state recognition signifies that the school is a legitimate company that offers driving lessons. Just as it has made it simpler for businesses to widen their reach, the internet has also made it easier for unscrupulous people to set up bogus companies. In your search for a driving school, you may come across some of them. These enterprises masquerade as driver education providers but are actually just out there to get your money. Your child won’t get quality education from them or worse, won’t get any driving lessons at all. Steer clear of these fake driving schools. Always check if the company you are eyeing is a legitimate business. More importantly, verify if it is a state-recognized or DMV-recognized driving school. Furthermore, when a school is DMV-approved, you are guaranteed that its driver education course covers all the topics the DMV or state deems essential for one to become a licensed driver. Hence, you can be certain that, after finishing his lessons, your teenager is going to pass the licensing exam. Comprehensive driver education course It is also imperative that the school offers a comprehensive driver education course. Remember, as a parent, your concern should not just be for your child to get a driver’s license. You should also ensure that he or she becomes a safe driver. Do not settle for a driver education course that only covers the basics — handling a vehicle, knowing signs and road markings, driving on highways, parking, etc. Make sure that you pick one that inculcates the importance of observing safe driving practices and avoiding risky behaviors like texting while driving. Studies have shown that texting while behind the wheel is the riskiest type of distracted driving behavior. A driver’s crash risk increases up to nine times when texting and driving. This shouldn’t be surprising since using a cellphone when one is behind the wheel occupies almost 40 percent of brain activity from driving. Aside from the cognitive disruption, this act also causes visual and manual distractions. Yet, despite the dangers of texting while driving, many teenagers engage in this risky behavior. In a 2015 study, over 40 percent of teenagers admitted to using cellphones to text or send an email while they were behind the wheel. Creating awareness about the hazards of texting while driving and other risky driving behaviors is essential in reducing accidents due to distracted teenage drivers. It is important that the driver education course your child will be taking tackles this topic. Make sure you check the curriculum of the driving school you are considering. Track record of excellent service A good driving school is one that is known for delivering high quality education and first-rate customer service. It is recognized for consistently helping students pass their licensing exams the first time. Furthermore, it has a reputation for providing exceptional assistance to its customers. This is very important especially if you are going for an online driving school. One of the primary reasons why parents choose online driving schools is to make things more convenient for their children. This can be impossible to achieve if your child encounters problems with the website and the school does not provide immediate support. Instead of making the entire learning experience hassle-free, poor customer service can make things more stressful for your child. Check the driving school’s reputation. However, do not just solely rely on what’s stated on the company’s website description or what its sales specialist says. Look for feedback from previous students or clients. Remember, a truly good driving school won’t have a shortage of good reviews online and offline. Finding the right driving school for your child can be challenging, but it’s not impossible to successfully accomplish this task. All you need to do is to research and use the above mentioned criteria and you are certain to find a driver education provider that’s going to help your child get a license and become a responsible driver.Azhar Mirza is the General Manager of DMVEdu, an online driving school offering top-notch drivers education in California, Georgia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.
The last shreds of winter have faded. Spring is here. Summer is just around the corner. For many, summer means hitting the road for a break and vacation time.Road trips can be both adventurous and exhausting. To ensure the success of your trip, it’s important to plan, prepare, and pack well. Here are some expert tips to help you make this summer’s road trip one to remember: Planning your trip Grainne Kelly, Inventor of BubbleBum “Although a fun summer car trip sounds like it should be a last minute, “wing it” kind of outing, it requires almost the same level of planning and forethought as any other trip — especially during the busy summer travel times. A carefully planned summer car trip is a plan for success. Do your research on the destination of choice, try to choose less hectic times, and make sure lodging is available at the destination and on the way if the trip is longer. Also confirm that you don’t need tickets in advance. Mapping out your journey is important and you'll want to avoid congested roadways around busy holiday travel days and investigate what events are taking place at each stop along the way so you can allow some extra time.” Oliver Browne, Credit Industry Analyst for Credit Card Insider “For any type of trip, budgeting is a necessity. Unless you drive an electric car, gas is likely to be one of your more significant expenses on a summer road trip.There are several credit cards that have rewards specifically catering to purchases at gas stations, giving you cash back or points every time you’re at the gas pump or stocking up on supplies. There are several gas cards without annual fees, allowing you to earn rewards at no cost, as long as you pay your balance in full and on time.Rewards are either a cash percentage of your overall purchase or a specific number of points for every dollar you spend on gas. This means if gas prices increase, your rewards will increase.” Jose Bone, from The Passport Office “For those planning summer road trips that may leave the states, we'd recommend checking their passports. While sometimes lax border conditions allow this, if someone's passport is within three months of expiring they cannot use it for international travel anywhere. Some attempting to return with a soon to be expiring passport may not be able to reenter the country if the border is strict on that day.” Preparing your car Jake McKenzie, Content Manager for Auto Accessories Garage “Before you leave on your road trip, it’s a great idea to check all of the standard maintenance points of your vehicle. Check that your tires have ample tread on them. Check to see if your air filter, oil filter, and fuel filters need replacing. And possibly most importantly, make sure your tires are properly inflated. Properly inflated tires will save you tons of gas money throughout the course of your road trip.” Laura Gonzales, Marketing Manager for Mercedes-Benz of Pembroke Pines “The best way to prevent a break down on a road trip is by taking off in a car that is in good condition. This means you've taken your car in to get checked and get any serious repairs done before you leave. You should also bring an emergency kit in case something does happen. This includes jumper cables, spare tire, fire extinguisher, a tire-pressure gauge, cell phone charger, water, and food.” Lauren Fix, Automotive analyst “When the engine is cool, check some of the fluids — engine oil, radiator coolant and windshield washer fluid — and refill or replace them as needed. A certified technician can do this if you don’t want to do it yourself. Follow the service manual if you are unsure about service intervals, don’t just do a change because you are being upsold.Check the hoses and belts that can become cracked, brittle, frayed and loose, or show signs of excessive wear. These are critical to the proper functioning of the electrical system, air conditioning, power steering, and the cooling system. Check the wipers and lighting so that you can see and be seen. Check that all interior and exterior lighting is working properly and inspect and replace worn wiper blades so you can see clearly when driving during precipitation.” Packing for your trip Sam Maizlech, Outdoors and Travel Expert for Glacier Wellness “Before you head out on your big summer road trip, be sure you're prepared for any emergencies. The first thing to pack is a first-aid kit. Be it a prepackaged kit or a DIY one, make sure you have enough supplies to handle basic first-aid needs, such as gauze, bandages, antibiotic cream, cotton swabs, disposable gloves, and alcohol pads.Next, be sure to pack an emergency supply of water. Besides for drinking, this water can come in handy if your car overheats. You'll also want to pack a blanket, flashlight, basic tire changing tool kit, jumper cables, and a spare tire. Additionally, it's worth bringing reflectors, reflective rainwear, emergency flares, backup fluids, and some snacks too.” Mallory Mercer, Lifestyle and Travel Expert at Grapevine Gossip “You don't want to cram the car with luggage, so if you are going to be on the road for a week take one large suitcase. Make sure to check the weather of your destination, if you are going somewhere like San Francisco, it can get as low as 40 degrees in the summer. Make sure you have enough snacks and road trip games to keep you occupied. And don't forget a garbage bag! Nobody wants to sit in garbage for hours.” Grainne Kelly, Inventor of BubbleBum “Make sure you’ve got your car registration and insurance information, car manual, and an extra car key (not on the same ring). Also pack a car charger for your cell phone, maps, first aid kit, extra bottled water, Swiss Army Knife, jumper cables, flashlight, matches/lighter, necessary tools to change a flat tire, and emergency flares. It’s also smart to include travel blankets and plenty of snacks, especially if traveling to remote areas. It's better to be safe than sorry.” Enjoying the trip Laura Gonzales, Marketing Manager for Mercedes-Benz of Pembroke Pines “The first thing you should do when a breakdown occurs is turn your hazard lights on and pull onto the side of the road safely. Call roadside assistance and keep in mind you need to know exactly where your car is located, take a look at the nearest cross street or the exit number if you're on the freeway or interstate. If you're on a road trip, it's a good idea to ask for the estimated time of arrival. If you're feeling unsafe you can let the operator know or even call 911. If you don't have roadside assistance, you can always look up the nearest towing company or contact the non-emergency number of the local police department.” Grainne Kelly, Inventor of BubbleBum “Excitement and anticipation makes heroes of us all sometimes. Acknowledge it, and plan for it. There is nothing worse than arriving at your dream vacation exhausted and grumpy. Include breaks in your plan and arrive ready to enjoy the trip you’ve worked hard for. Rest stops are a good option for a picnic break, but so are smaller towns along the way that are easy to get in and out of, but usually have a local park with a playground for the kids. Pack a frisbee or ball for the family to work off any potential wiggles. Stopping every three or so hours is a good rule of thumb. If you have a child (or parent) that suffers from motion sickness, you might want to consider a stop every two hours to get some fresh air.” Mallory Mercer, Lifestyle and Travel Expert at Grapevine Gossip “Use a portable essential oil diffuser that plugs into the USB to keep the air smelling amazing and your mood uplifted. Essential oils are proven to have therapeutic benefits. Diffuse citrus oils to keep you energized for your long drive. Create a killer playlist. You'll need hours upon hours of good tunes so everyone should get to create their own playlists and you can take turns controlling the music.” Playing it safe Roadside assistance can be helpful, especially if you’re traveling through more remote areas. If you have an extended warranty, check to see if your policy includes 24/7 roadside assistance. Before your road trip, make sure to educate your self on the laws and overall road safety of the state that you will be driving in. For more road trip advice, check out Your Parking Space's article about road trips.
Guest Post by Richard Reina Many of us rely on our cars to get around every day, and whether it’s a quick trip to run errands or multi-day road trip during summer vacation, driving takes a toll on our vehicles. External factors such as road conditions, weather and your driving habits, can also impact the health of your vehicle. Of course, sudden or unpredictable events such as fender benders or encounters with potholes are often hard to avoid and can damage your vehicle. However, other damage happens due to wear and tear; when a car’s systems are worn down and not properly maintained, they are more likely to experience problems that can result in costly repairs. The good news is all drivers can keep up with some simple maintenance tasks to help avoid wear and tear damage. Generally, these tasks can be divided into one of two categories: prevention of mechanical damage and prevention of cosmetic damage. Mechanical damage This is by far the more serious of the two categories. Damage to your car’s mechanical systems, tires and lights can result in roadside breakdowns or even accidents. Keeping up with basic maintenance can help prevent this from happening. This includes the following: Oil changes — Oil is crucial to keep your engine running smoothly, and driving for too long without changing your oil can lead to major issues. Modern vehicles no longer require oil changes every 3,000 miles, like cars of the past did. However, you should be keeping track of how long it’s been since your last change. Check your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended schedule: many cars can go about 10,000 miles between changes these days. If you know the proper quality and viscosity of oil to use, you can even perform a DIY oil change to save money. Tire pressure — Driving with tires that aren’t adequately inflated can have a domino effect on other areas of your vehicle. Tires with low pressure don’t grip the road as well and can negatively impact your car’s handling, particularly if one tire is drastically less inflated than the rest. This is an easy fix, however. Use a tire pressure gauge to assess each tire and then compare it against your manufacturer’s recommendations, usually located on the inside of your driver’s door jamb. A variety of reasonably-priced, portable tire pressure gauges and pumps are available. Consider keeping one in your trunk so you’re always prepared. One disclaimer to note — if you refill a tire and its pressure drops again within a short time, you might have a leak and should consult your mechanic. Brake pad changes — If you routinely let your brake pads wear very thin before changing them, you can cause damage to other areas of the vehicle, such as your rotors, and even risk a collision due to unreliable braking. Pad wear varies too much to state a replacement interval. However, a good rule of thumb for checking pad thickness is to do it at every oil change. Cosmetic damage This category includes damage to your vehicle that isn’t going to cause immediate danger or risk a breakdown. However, it’s still something most drivers will want to take care of eventually, for aesthetics and to preserve the car’s resale value. Examples of cosmetic damage include paint chips, fading, dents and interior stains. Similar to mechanical damage, you can do the following things to minimize your risk of cosmetic damage: Visit the car wash regularly — This is incredibly important during the harsh winter months. Salt and sand from road surfaces can settle on your vehicle’s exterior. You might think, “what’s the point of going in for a car wash when it’ll only get dirty again?” This may be true but allowing these materials to build up for months can lead to dull and fading paint and the start of corrosion. A regular wash and wax will help preserve your vehicle’s finish and get ahead of minor damage. Additionally, if you live in an urban area and frequently park outside, consider investing in a washable car cover to protect your exterior from road dust, salt, and debris. Guard your exterior — If you frequently park on narrow streets, making your vehicle vulnerable to scratches and dings, it might be a good idea to purchase add-ons which protect your exterior from cosmetic damage. While they may look clunky, bodyside moldings and bumper protectors are easy to find online for all vehicle sizes and do wonders to keep your vehicle looking new and preserve its resale value. Protect your interior — Keeping your seats and floor mats clean might not be as much of a priority for some drivers. However, if your car is used to transport children, school projects, and sports equipment during all seasons, it can be easy for dirt, slush, and spills to cause ground-in stains that are hard to remove. If you have plans to trade in or sell your car, a dirty interior can decrease the vehicle’s value. To mitigate the build-up of debris, make sure you opt for the interior vacuum when you visit the car wash. If you and your passengers are prone to spills, it might make sense to keep some multipurpose cleaning wipes in your car to address stains quickly or take it a step further by investing in seat covers and removable, washable floormats. All drivers want to keep their cars looking and running well, a goal which is sometimes easier said than done. However, by keeping up with basic maintenance and investing in the proper accessories, you can get ahead of damage and your car will look its best all year round. Richard Reina is the Product Training Director at CARiD.com and an auto enthusiast and expert with over 30 years of experience working with cars.
Many people enjoy spending the holidays with friends and families. A recent poll conducted by Branded Research found that 40 percent of U.S. consumers plan on traveling over the holidays.The poll found that of those traveling the most common mode of transportation was car with 23.9 percent of people choosing to hit the road. Planes came next at 11.7 percent, followed by trains and public transportation at 3.6 percent. Over a quarter of people polled ages 25-34 (25.8 percent) and people ages 35-44 (28 percent) plan to travel by car this holiday season. Also, 24.2 percent of people age 45-54 plan on hitting the road.Winter travel presents hazards and risks, like blizzards and black ice. According to the same poll by Branded Research, 31.6 percent of U.S. consumers have been in an accident during the winter.No one wants to get in an accident or be stranded on the road while traveling this winter. Safe driving techniques and good preparation will help keep you safe on the roads this winter.If you’re traveling this holiday season, here are eight things to do as you prepare for and plan your trip: Pay attention to the weather Let people know your plans Pack an emergency kit Wear waterproof clothing Take sunglasses Check your car before you go Start with a full tank of gas Be well rested Pay attention to the weather Weather forecasts can help you plan the best days for your trip. Though everyone knows weather can be fickle and change unexpectedly. Make sure you are aware of the conditions of the city or region that you are going to be in during the winter. Auto Insurance EZ provided a chart with historical winter weather conditions in all50 U.S. states.Caitlyn Paltsios, travel expert for Grapevine Gossip, says, “Check the weather before leaving for their trip. If the weather looks good in the morning but not at night, plan on leaving either the night before or early that morning to avoid any hazardous weather.”Making sure your travel plans are flexible and adjusting your plans around bad weather keeps you out of hazardous driving situations.Richard Reina, Product Training Director at CARiD.com, says, “Don’t take any chances if conditions are predicted to be bad. If possible, it may be better to postpone your journey and arrive safely than risk getting stuck in a storm.”Amanda Hagley, Content Manager for Aceable, adds, “Why chance getting stuck in a snowbank in the middle of a winter storm when you can be warm at home with some hot cocoa and a blanket?”It’s not usually a good idea to travel in the middle of a snowstorm or blizzard. However, circumstances may be such that you need to get on the road even though conditions are bad.“If you do have to venture out always keep an eye out for changing road conditions. While one road may just be wet, the next could be icy so be sure to stay alert and adjust your driving accordingly,” says a spokesperson for Hankook Tire. Let people know your plans Whether you’re driving through a storm or not, provide your family and friends with detailed travel plans.“People should not keep it a secret where they are going. During the winter many problems can arise while traveling in your car. Make sure at least one person knows where you are heading, so they can send help if you need it,” Paltsios says.Hagley says, “Send a text before you leave and again when you arrive. Following this tip ensures that if you're in an accident or get stuck in a bad situation, someone will know to look for you and the general area you're traveling.” Pack an emergency kit Darryl Croft, automotive expert at OK Tire in Canada, says, “As winter approaches, think about putting together a survival kit to keep in your car for emergencies.” He recommends including the following: Washer fluid Spare tire Jack and tool kit Jumper cables Shovel Traction mat Non-perishable food Bottled water Candles Blankets Warm clothing First-aid supplies Flares Matches Flashlight Extra batteries The essentials for a winter road trip emergency kit fall into four categories: snowy weather basics, communication tools, car repair tools, and survival essentials. Snowy weather basics Ice scrapers Snow brushes Shovels De-icer fluid Sand or kitty litter Flashlight Reina says, “Winter essentials include ice scrapers and brushes, portable shovels, extra antifreeze, and cat litter, which can be used to help gain traction if your vehicle gets stuck.” If you’re parking your car outside, it’s essential that you have an ice scraper to remove ice from the windshield and a brush to help remove heavy snow after snowfall. Another handy tool for ice removal is de-icer spray. You can either purchase it at the store or make some yourself. Kevin Tennant, franchise owner of the Glass Doctor, a Neighborly Company in Alaska, shares one of his de-icing spray recipes. He says, “Pour water into a spray bottle and add a scoop or two of salt. Since salt water has a lower freezing point than fresh water, it starts to melt the ice on contact. Road salt is even more effective than table salt in this recipe.” “No matter what type of de-icer you use, store it at room temperature in your house, not in the trunk of your car,” Tennant says. Because there is less daylight in winter, Paltsios also recommends including a flashlight. This is a good idea even if your cell phone has its own flashlight. Communication tools Phone charger Handheld radio Hard copy of a list of contacts/map/directions Flares One of the most important things in an emergency situation is the ability to communicate. Kelly McManus, blogger and family travel enthusiast at www.travellingmama.com, says “When going on road trips or driving for long periods in winter, I always keep an in-car phone charger in the car. If there was ever an emergency, the last thing you need is a phone with low or no battery!” Having a fully charged phone will ensure that you can communicate your need for help and your location in an emergency situation. However, depending on where you travel, cell service may not be reliable.Dylan Gallagher, who takes winter tour groups to Yosemite and is CEO of White Wolf Private Tours, says, “I carry a handheld radio for when we’re out of cellular signal, which in Yosemite, happens often.” As useful and generally reliable as technology is, it’s always a good idea to have a hard copy backup, just in case. Tangela Walker-Craft, a family and parenting blogger at Simply Necessary, Inc., says, “Always have a printed list of emergency contact numbers (relatives, family doctors, pediatricians, roadside assistance, etc.) on-hand in case of an accident.” Since it is more and more uncommon for people to memorize phone numbers, it’s a good idea to have a list. That way, if your cell phone dies, you can still reach out to family and friends on another phone. “Print out a map and the text directions to have in the car. GPS devices fail sometimes during extreme weather,” Walker-Craft adds. Having hard copies will help you travel safely. A map is an especially good idea because it shows other towns and cities that may be closer than your destination. You can stop in these places if the weather gets bad or potentially use them as a reference point when telling people where you are. When all else fails, sending off a flare is a distress signal. If an emergency responder sees it, they will come help.Car repair tools Jumper cables Tire chains Jack and tool kit Spare tire It’s a good idea to be prepared to handle emergency repairs. Gallagher says, “I also carry a collection of emergency supplies such as an ice scraper, spare tire and changing kit, chains for the snow, and a reflective jacket.” Having a spare tire, a jack, and a tool kit will help keep you moving on the road if you get a flat. This preparation is especially important if you are traveling through a rural area. A reflective jacket will help passing cars see you better, which will help keep you safe. Grant van der Harst, Managing Director at Anglo Liners, says, “If you’re taking a winter driving trip, it’s essential that before setting off, you buy and place jump cables in case of an emergency. Cold conditions can really affect your car’s battery life, which can lead to you unexpectedly breaking down mid-journey.” Jumper cables do not take up very much space. In fact, you can even buy jumper cables that are attached to a battery, so you don’t need to connect to another car. Just be sure to charge the battery before you head out on your trip! Emergency essentials Blanket Meal/food Water First aid kit Regardless of your preparations, you may still become stranded. It’s important to be prepared to stay warm, energized, and safe. “I carry what’s required by law by the U.S. Department of Transportation for any commercial operation, including spare fuses, first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, and emergency triangles,” says Gallagher. A first aid kit can help with cuts and other minor injuries. It’s a good idea to include Hot Hands as part of your first aid kit because they can help keep your hands and feet warm. Nicholas Smith, founder and director of CompareNewTyres.com, says, “Make sure you take something to eat, possibly a long-life, ready-to-eat meal, and something to drink.” Having water and food with you will keep you going while you wait for help. Along with your winter clothing, Paltsios recommends packing a blanket. A blanket will help keep you warm in the event of an emergency. Wear waterproof clothing It’s essential to stay warm when traveling during the winter. While your car may have seat warmers and an excellent heating system, it’s a good idea to be prepared for the outdoors on a car trip.Grant Sinclair from Our Wander Filled Life has a lot of road trip experience. He says, “Make sure you have enough good cold weather gear that you can deal with getting stuck in the snow.”Steve Long, co-founder of The Travel Brief, also recommends wearing waterproof outer jackets, pants, and boots. “It's hard not getting wet in the winter, especially with the amount of outdoor activities to do on a car trip. Any ice and snow you get on you while outside the car is going to melt when you get back in. That cold, damp feeling is not only unpleasant, but can also lead to catching a cold. Bring waterproof outer layers for both your comfort and health,” he says. Wear sunglasses Unless you’re going on a warm, sunny, Caribbean cruise, this advice may seem counterintuitive. However, it’s an important safety precaution for driving during the winter.George Sink, CEO of George Sink, P.A. Injury Lawyers, says, “During the day, light glaring off the white snow can be really bright. Wearing sunglasses with a yellow or amber lens can help with depth perception, allowing you to see rises and dips in the road that may not otherwise appear to the naked eye.” Check your car before you go Making sure your car is in good shape will make sure that you start your trip off on the right wheel, as far as safety is concerned. Smith says, “In wintery conditions, your car needs a little extra care and preparing now can help prevent breakdowns. First of all, you should have your vehicle checked by a mechanic with a free winter check. These checks can help prevent major problems and ultimately breakdowns.” Our experts recommend checking the following: Headlights Wipers Fluids Battery Tire pressure and tread depth Defroster Heater Headlights and wipersWinter weather means fewer hours of sunlight. “Make sure that your head and tail lights are fully-functional before hitting the road in winter. This will ensure that you can see and be seen by other drivers when visibility deteriorates during winter weather,” says Reina. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to check your headlights on your own with a friend. “Rotate through your lights from inside the cabin while someone outside the car lets you know whether or not they are in working order. Taking the time to check and replace if necessary your lights as you head into winter could make all the difference down the track,” Liam Ridings, from Sparesbox, says. Reina adds, “Look at your vehicle’s tire pressure, the condition of your wiper blades, and all fluid levels, particularly antifreeze.”Making sure you have the right windshield washer fluid and working wiper blades and lights will improve your visibility while you drive. Chris Burdick, founder of Automoblog.net, says “Driving along the highway, the last thing you want is to run the windshield washer fluid over it just for it to freeze into a sheet of ice. Getting some heavy duty wiper blades will make sure they actually clear the snow and ice instead of gliding right over it.” Car batteryCroft recommends checking the car’s battery. He says, “The cold can be rough on your batteries, and it’s an unwelcome surprise when your car won’t start on a frigid winter day. Get ahead of things by testing your batteries and making sure connections are tight, clean, and free of erosion.”TiresThe cold weather also affects tire pressure. Ridings says, “It’s a little-known fact that the chill of winter can wreak havoc with the air pressure in your tires, which can lead to poor handling, reduced fuel economy, and also affect the life of your rubber. As the temperatures drop heading into winter, pull into a gas station and ensure your tires are inflated to the recommended pressure.” Other important considerations to make with tires include switching to winter tires, tread depth, and chains. “Make sure you switch to winter tires. They’re designed to operate in colder temperatures and in snowy conditions helping to keep your car firmly on the road,” Smith says. Sinclair adds, “Make sure the tires have plenty of tread depth. Consider chains if you are headed into the mountains out West.”If you do not live in a wintery climate, investing in winter tires can be expensive. Having chains on-hand can be a cheaper option that increases your car’s traction and provides safety on the road.Heater and defrosterMargot Peppers, content editor of LazyTrips, says, “Make sure to check that the heater, defroster and brakes are working properly.” Since you’ll be spending some quality time in your car, you’ll want to make sure that it’s nice and toasty. It’s also a good idea to make sure the heater is working just in case you get stranded somewhere. It will help you stay warm longer. A working defroster helps with de-icing your car and maintaining good visibility while driving. Start with a full tank of gas Starting with a full tank of gas will keep you on the road longer and give you options for finding gas. If your tank is less than half full, take the next opportunity to fill up — especially if you’re traveling through rural areas. Smith says, “Every year thousands of motorists become stranded on motorways due to snow and wintery conditions and you need to be prepared in case this happens. The best way is to make sure you have at least half a tank of fuel so if you do become stranded you can keep the engine running and stay warm.” Be well rested Just as you want your car to be fully ready to go, it’s important for the driver and passengers to be as ready as the car is.Smith says, “Driving in the winter, particularly snow, is really challenging for us as drivers, simply because we’re having to constantly adapt our driving style for the road conditions. A tired and unrested driver doesn’t react anywhere near as well as one who is well rested and ready for the drive. If you feel yourself getting tired during a drive, try and stop for a short break.” Bonus Tip: Activities for kids on the road If you're traveling with kids, it's also a good idea to pack a few things to keep them entertained on the road. AutoAccessoriesGarage has a few suggestions of activities or games to pack.