Is Your Car Ready for a Snowstorm?

ELI5: Negligence

It’s getting to be that time of year again; when all the Utahns pack away their speedy, reckless driving, and bring out the winter driving. In Utah, we generally see an increase in speeding tickets during the summer months and, in the winter months, we see an increase in incredibly cautious drivers. Although defensive driving can make Utah’s roads safer, it’s also important to have a car that’s ready for Utah’s roads as well. Let’s talk about Utah Snowstorm safety.


If your brake pads are too old, it could take you a lot longer to stop. And this can be a big problem when the roads are icy or snowy. Fortunately, there are signs that your brake pads may need to be replaced. For example, it’s not uncommon for brake pads to come with “wear indicators” that squeal when the brake pads need to be replaced. If you’re driving along and you hear a squealing sound that goes away as soon as you let off the brakes, that may be a sign you need to replace the brake pads. If you’re noticing any signs that you need new brake pads, like squealing, grinding, or shaking when you apply the brakes, it’s a good idea to get your brake pads checked out before the first snow storm—which, at the time of writing this blog, has already happened in some places.


If you need new windshield wipers, you need them right now. In Utah, we’ve already started our rainy season. Having wipers that are way past the point of being useful is already unsafe. Plus, since it could snow at any minute, it’d be really unfortunate to be caught in a snowstorm with wipers that barely function. Some signs you need new wipers may include noticing streaks after you use your wipers or if they make an unusual noise. If your wipers cannot remove streaks, you may have a hard time seeing the road in front of you. And this could be particularly dangerous in a snowstorm, especially if you’re traveling through foggy canyons.


If you haven’t put on snow tires, now is the time to do it. It’s not uncommon for certain parts of the country to see snow in the end of October and the beginning of November. Do not be the one who is caught off guard by a fluke snowstorm. It’s a good idea to have tires that are winter ready because winter tires are specifically designed to drive in the snow. You especially need winter tires if you’re planning on driving up one of the canyons to get some freshies at one of the ski resorts. Depending on where you live, you may need a set of winter tires. Some people may be able to get away with only all-weather tires. If you have questions about whether or not your vehicle needs winter tires, ask a tire store in your location what their recommendations are.


Maybe you don’t need winter tires but you do need a new set of tires. If your tires are low on traction, it’s going to be much easier for your car to hydroplane and lose control, and more difficult for you to come to a complete stop. If your tires need to be replaced, you may notice that they’re bulging or cracking. You may also notice that there’s a vibration as you’re driving down the street. Some tires have wear bars between the treads to show when they need to be replaced. If your tire has wear bars, and the tread isn’t significantly higher than the bars, you need new tires.  If your tire pressure light is on, the tread is lower than 1/16th of an inch, or there are cracks in the sidewall, those are all signs that you need to get your tires checked, or replaced, sooner rather than later.


Make sure that all of the lights on your vehicle are working properly. If your brake lights are out, the car behind you may not realize that they need to stop or slow down before it’s too late. You might also want to make sure that your tail lights are working properly and that your headlights are working. Driving through the night during a snowstorm could be particularly scary if you don’t have headlights. Not only will you struggle to see what’s in front of you, other drivers may also have a hard time seeing you, which can easily lead to a crash. It may also be a good idea to verify that your blinkers are indeed working. Believe it or not, it appears as if there are a lot of drivers out there with blinkers that don’t work.


Make sure you have a safety kit that’s got items to help you out if you ever get in a frosty jam. It’s always a good idea to keep a shovel in your car in case you need to dig yourself out of a ditch. Depending on where you live, you may also want to have cat litter in your car. Cat litter that doesn’t clump can be poured in the tracks of the tires in order to help you get unstuck. Make sure you have a flashlight, phone charger, water, non-perishable food, jumper cables, and a heat-reflective blanket, which may all be good additions to your winter safety kit.

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