Cars are great, right?  Combined with the power of smartphones and satellite navigation, it’s easy to feel like you are only a few taps away from the world.  Unfortunately, ‘IRL’ has its’ own way of doing things.  It definitely pays to have a back-up plan.  That, and a bit of know-how can help you get to your destination.

A roadside emergency kit can be a pain in the neck to lug around until you need it. While you can buy one pre-packaged, creating it yourself can be more rewarding, whether it’s for an extended road trip or your daily drive.

The contents can be divided into three basic categories: Food, Clothing and Tools.

Tools to consider include jumper cables or, better yet, a jumper pack. A small set of hand tools or multi-tool is always a good idea along with a first aid kit.  A headlamp or flashlight are invaluable.  Don’t forget a working jack and spare tire.

Food should consist of calorie-dense, snacks with a long shelf life, in case you get stuck.  Bottled water is a must.  And remember any special needs of your fellow travelers when ‘planning the menu’

Pack clothing such as rain gear, a warm blanket, hats and gloves can really be helpful in a bind.

The challenge is to balance the items you’ll most likely need and the available space, while considering your distance traveled and the reliability of your car.

Safe Travels!



10 Tips For Driving in the Snow

Buurrrr! We have been blasted with snow and ice for the past week. Personally, I can’t stand cold weather, I know some of you like it, though. Today we’re going to be talking about driving safe in winter conditions.

Take it Slow

Make this your mantra: ice and snow, take it slow. When snow is covering the road, reduce your speed, accelerate slowly and steer gently. Keeping your speed down will help prevent spin-outs and keep your vehicle safe on the road.

Don’t Rely on Technology

Your vehicle may be equipped with all-wheel drive, electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes, but no technology can guarantee your safety on icy roads. Safety devices are designed to enhance safe driving techniques, not compensate for a lack of them.

Leave Home Early

When weather conditions are poor, give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination safely. If weather conditions are extremely hazardous, consider postponing your trip.

Use Headlights

Headlights allow other drivers to see you more easily, especially in blustery weather. If you have an older vehicle with yellowish pitted headlights, you may want to consider upgrading to newer, clearer headlights for improved visibility. Always make sure your headlights and taillights are clear of snow.

Learn to Use Brakes Efficiently

Slamming on the brakes in snowy weather is a sure-fire way to spin out of control. Instead, anticipate slowdowns and coast for as long as possible. When you do need to use your brakes, tap them gently.

Watch for “Black Ice”

One of winter’s worst hazards is transparent ice on the roadway, or “black ice.” Black ice is clear, almost invisible ice that may appear to be a harmless puddle or may be impossible to see at all. It is tremendously slick.

Keep a look out for ice on guardrails and ditches, as this may be a sign of icy road conditions. If you hit a patch of black ice, take your foot off the gas pedal and don’t tap your brakes. Once your tires regain traction, reduce your speed and stay alert.

Identify Hazardous Roads

If you use the same roads often, identify danger zones and learn to avoid them. If a house on a certain corner has an automatic lawn sprinkler that sprays water onto the street in freezing weather, consider taking an alternate route in the winter.

Clear Line of Sight

If you can’t see clearly out of your windows or mirrors, you can’t drive safely. Clean the inside of your windows, replace windshield wiper blades, set rear-view mirrors and make sure your windshield washer fluid has anti-ice fluid.

Buy Winter Tires

When driving in snowy or icy conditions, equipping your vehicle with winter tires is essential. Without an adequate amount of traction, your tires will have a difficult time holding the road. So-called ‘all season’ tires aren’t always snow-safe. Winter tires that meet tire-industry snow traction standards have a snowflake symbol etched on the sidewall.

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Winterizing Your Car

If you’re one of the lucky people who live in Florida, Arizona or Sunny Southern California, this post may not concern you. The rest of us however, have to deal with mother nature’s punishment…winter.

These tips can help you get through the cold months ahead.

1. Get the right kind of oil change. Are you approaching the time for a 30,000-mile full service for your vehicle? Among other things, the service should include an oil change, and the oil used should have the right viscosity for your vehicle at this time of year. You owners manual should have the right type of oil for you to use during all weather conditions.

2. Make sure you can see. Check your wiper blades. When was the last time you changed them? They only last around one year. Fill up your windshield washer reservoir with windshield washer fluid. Make sure to also check that your heater and defroster are working properly so you can keep the windshield clear.

3. Check your battery. During the winter months is when your battery’s connection posts get the most corrosion. If your battery is more than three years old, have a certified repair shop test its ability to hold a charge.

4. Look at your belts and hoses. When you have that full service done on your vehicle, make sure the belts and hoses get checked for wear and tear. Cold weather can beat up on your belts and hoses.

5. Check your tire pressure. Your tires must be properly inflated to ensure you’ll have the best possible traction as you drive along — and traction is often severely jeopardized in wet, snowy or icy conditions. The air pressure in your tires has likely dropped as the weather has gotten colder, so it’s important to see where things stand now. Your owner’s manual will tell you what your target tire pressure should be.

6. Think about switching to snow tires. If you live in a hilly place that gets a lot of snow and ice then you might want to improve traction even more by investing in winter tires and using them over the next few months instead of your usual all-season tires.

7. Do you have four-wheel drive? If so, it’s important to check the status of your four-wheel-drive system and be sure it’s working correctly — especially because most drivers don’t use their 4WD systems in the pleasant summer months. Be sure that the system engages and disengages easily.

8. Get the antifreeze mixture just right. Aim for having a 50-50 mix of antifreeze (coolant) and water inside your radiator. This will prevent the mixture from freezing even at very cold temperatures.

9. Prepare an emergency kit. Store this stuff in your trunk during the winter months, especially if a road trip is in your future:

  • a blanket
  • extra boots and gloves
  • an extra set of warm clothes
  • extra water and food, including hard candies
  • an ice scraper
  • a small shovel
  • a flashlight
  • windshield washer fluid
  • windshield wipers
  • flares
  • jumper cables
  • a tool kit
  • tire chains
  • a tire gauge
  • a spare tire with air in it
  • tire-changing equipment
  • a first-aid kit
  • paper towels
  • a bag of abrasive material such as sand, salt or non-clumping kitty litter, which can provide additional traction if a tire gets stuck in snow.
  • Also, keep the gas tank as full as you can to prevent the gas lines from freezing.

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