Winter Driving Survival: Skills Everyone Needs to Know

The Winter Driving Survival Skills Everyone Needs to Know

Car driving on a snowy road

Winter driving conditions can turn treacherous in an instant. Snow, ice, poor visibility, and extreme cold can disable your vehicle or make roads impassable.

Even on a relatively short trip, you can find yourself stranded for several hours. It's important to plan ahead for the conditions and situations that can arise as winter conditions develop.

Prepare your vehicle for winter

The best time to get ready for winter is before the first storm of the season. Some items to check include:

  • Hoses and fan belts
  • Spark plugs
  • Antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid levels
  • Battery strength
  • Tire pressure and tread life
  • Air, fuel, and emission filters
  • Spare tire and jack

Follow winter driving recommendations

Winter driving has its own set of challenges from the moment you start your vehicle. Here are some useful winter driving suggestions:

  • Never warm up your vehicle in a closed garage.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to prevent gas line freeze-up.
  • Make sure your exhaust pipe is not clogged with mud or snow.
  • Don't use cruise control on icy roads.
  • Allow more time for braking when visibility is poor.
  • Stay calm if you start to skid.

Carry emergency supplies

In addition to the just-in-case items you should always have in your vehicle, such as jumper cables (and learn how to jump-start your car safely,) tire-changing tools, flashlight, and first aid kit, be sure to include these winter essentials:

  • Small folding shovel
  • Tow and tire chains
  • Basic tool kit
  • Bag of road salt or cat litter
  • Windshield wiper fluid
  • Antifreeze
  • Warning flares

Pack a survival kit

In case you're marooned in your vehicle, you will want to keep a small survival kit on hand. Some useful items include:

  • Compass
  • Ice scraper and brush
  • Wooden matches
  • High-energy, non-perishable food
  • Drinking water
  • Cell phone charger
  • Blankets and warm clothing

Stay calm if stranded


If a winter storm strands you with your vehicle, follow these tips:

  • Pull off the highway, if possible, turn on your hazard lights or light flares, and hang a distress flag from an antenna or window.
  • Call 911 if you have a phone and describe your location as precisely as possible.
  • Remain in your vehicle so help can find you.
  • Run your vehicle's engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm. Open a downwind window slightly for ventilation and clear snow from the exhaust pipe to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Exercise a little to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion and sweating.
  • Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • Conserve your vehicle's battery. Use lights, heat, and radio sparingly.
  • At night, turn on an inside light when you run the engine so help can see you.

Disclosures

State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates) is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites hyperlinked from this page. State Farm has no discretion to alter, update, or control the content on the hyperlinked, third party site. Access to third party sites is at the user's own risk, is being provided for informational purposes only and is not a solicitation to buy or sell any of the products which may be referenced on such third party sites.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm®. While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. The information is not intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. Nor is it intended to effect coverage under our policy. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.