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        Formerly known as:

HomeWinter Driving

Courtesy of the Bureau of Automotive Repair and the Eldorado Backcountry Ski Patrol
Start with your Owner’s Manual
Be sure your vehicle is up-to-date on its recommended maintenance, including changing the engine oil and filter, and adding antifreeze, coolant, brake, automatic transmission, windshield wiper and steering fluids if needed.  Be sure to use the correct engine oil because engine oil thickens below a specific temperature.
Carry Tire Chains or Cables
Practice placing the chains on your tires before venturing out.  It’s better to get the hang of it before you need to use them.  Even if you have a 4WD or AWD vehicle, you should still carry chains.  Make sure that your chains fit your vehicle.
Check the Battery
Corrosion, cracks, and dirt can affect battery cables and hinder performance. Have your battery load tested at a licensed repair facility.
Be sure your brake system is in good shape. Have a licensed adjuster check pads and linings. Visit the BAR website at to find a licensed brake station.
Inspect the Lights
The inspection should include turn signals, brake, fog, and high and low beams. Cleaning your car’s lenses can maximize visibility.
Check Hoses and Belts
Look for any cracks, soft spots, or bulges that could be a potential problem and find a qualified technician for any repairs.  Visit the BAR website ( to find a licensed auto repair technician.
Climate Control
Test your vehicle’s heater and defrost systems. Make sure they are working properly and the temperature is correct and the air is diverted to the proper location.
Change Wiper Blades
Unless you recently purchased a pair, it is best to err on the side of caution and purchase new, quality, windshield wiper blades. Wiper blades deteriorate over the hot summer months, so it is best to replace them before the next big storm.  Also clean your windshield often outside and inside for best possible vision.
Inspect Tires
Balding or underinflated and overinflated tires reduce your vehicle’s handling and traction and can be a safety hazard.  Check the air pressure in your tires regularly, including the spare.  Make sure there is more than enough tread.  If you own a 4WD or AWD vehicle you will need mud and snow rated tires to avoid most chain up requirements.  Check for the M+S on the sidewall.  
KEEP IN MIND: Road trips during the winter months, although beautiful, can be dangerous.  Below are additional precautions and items you might consider bringing while traveling in winter.
Share your Plans. Let family members or friends know your dates of travel and proposed travel route.
Carry a Road Atlas. GPS reception can become compromised in remote areas or during storms.
Bring Extra Windshield Washer Fluid. During a snowy or messy day of driving, you may use your windshield wipers and the washer fluid more than usual.
Fill’er up! Your vehicle may become your life source should you become stranded during a winter road trip.  The more fuel you have, the longer the vehicle can idle to heat the interior of the car in an emergency.
BE PREPARED FOR THE UNEXPECTED.  Pack a winter safety kit with the following essentials:
Jumper cables
NOAA Weather radio with re-chargeable battery and crank power option
Phone/tablet charger through USB connection 
Flashlight with extra batteries
Cellphone and extra batteries
Basic first-aid supplies
Bottled water and non-perishable snacks
Fleece blankets
Extra clothing
Road safety Triangles
Windshield ice-scraper and brush
Tool kit
Snow shovel
This information comes from a presentation at the December 2015 EDNSP Winter Backcountry Skills Class.