Friday, January 6, 2012

How to Survive a Winter Car Breakdown

As winter approaches and the snow begins to whip and whirl through the air, your chance of being stranded on the side of the road increases. While breaking down is stressful any time of year, it is particularly so when the temperatures have dropped below freezing. Follow these tips to be sure that you emerge from a breakdown safely:

Prepare Your Vehicle

Proper vehicle maintenance is the best thing you can do to avoid a winter weather breakdown. Before the start of the season, take your car to a mechanic and ask for a tune up. Have your oil changed, your fluids topped and tires rotated, if needed. Be sure to ask that your windshield wipers be tested and replaced if necessary; the same goes for your headlights, break lights and turning signals. Have your tires inflated to their proper pressure to be sure they make optimal contact with the road and provide superior traction.

Pack an Emergency Kit

Many of us have jumper cables and an ice scraper in our vehicles, but that’s where our emergency kit stops. Prepare a proper kit before the white stuff starts flying! Beyond the “normal” items like long sleeve shirts, sweat pants, socks, bottled water, blanket, flashlight, matches, flares, and jumper cables with extra long cables, you will also want to include:

- Jumper cables with extra-long cables
- Power, protein or granola bars
- A travel charger for your cell phone
- A candle
- An emergency flag or bright piece of cloth to tie to your antenna
- A small or collapsible shovel
- An extra pair of boots or shoes
- Reusable Hot Packs
- A Poncho (or two)
- A jackknife

Keep Your Car Clear

Don’t forget to clean out the inside of the wheel wells and the rooftop of your car before heading to your destination. During the winter, it’s not unusual to hear about car accidents that are attributed to snow falling off of a vehicle’s roof.

Should you become stranded, it’s very important that you keep your car clear of snow. If it is safe to exit your vehicle, clear off your hood, roof and lights. Be sure that there is no snow impacting your exhaust pipe and try to keep the area surrounding your tires clear. Keeping your car clear will keep it visible to both rescue workers and other drivers on the road.

Stay In Your Car

Other than leaving your vehicle to clear it off, you should stay inside. Wandering away from your car in search of help increases your risk of developing hypothermia. Even if you think that you know the terrain, it is very easy, particularly in rural areas, to become disoriented and lost in the snow. Sadly, people have died because they left their car, became disoriented or too tired, and were not found until it was too late. Don’t count on rescue workers being able to follow your foot tracks! Your trail will quickly become obscured in a blizzard.


Almost everyone has a cell phone today. In the event that you do not, consider purchasing a pre-paid phone to keep in your car through the winter months. These phones are fairly inexpensive and could save your life if you are stranded on the side of the road. If you absolutely do not want a cell phone, you can consider installing a CB radio in your vehicle or look into OnStar. They’re talking about a new system that will be even smarter in the near future, with capabilities to alert authorities if a car has been in an accident.

Remember, as the roads get worse, the chances of someone driving by and seeing you lessen. Don’t depend on someone to drive by and call for help for you. Without some type of communication device in your car, you will not be able to phone for help should you get stranded.

Back Up Help

As with any type of emergency, the better prepared you are, the better your chances of escaping unharmed. Many insurance companies are now offering roadside assistance for no extra charge. Be sure to check with your auto insurance company about this extra, added, and essential benefit. In addition, having access to a tow truck or a can of gasoline can make all the difference when broken down on the side of the road.

Author Stephen Anderson, an insurance consultant, strongly suggests that you search online for Car Insurance Comparison Quotes to make certain you get the best deal available. Allstate Auto Insurance Discounts are just one example of the provider specials available for comparison. 

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