Cold Snaps and Hub Caps – Winter Road Conditions and You

Welcome back to the VIP Blog! Fall has truly arrived this year and we are zooming quick into the winter holidays. For a lot of us, that means taking trips ‘back home,’ or visiting the relatives to share dinners, gifts, turkey, and general good cheer! While we here in Arizona rarely have to deal with the wintery accessory called ‘snow,’ when we make these trips (sometimes across country or even further!) we find ourselves driving through a foreign winterscape. For that, we here at VIP, wanted to compile a helpful post on all things for the season: handling winter road conditions, what tools are essentials and should be kept in your car and more.

In lieu of our usual two posts this month, we figured we’d drop a big, old bombshell of info here at the start of the month to make sure all the info is available right up from at the start of the holiday traveling season. Going on a trip? Bookmark this bad boy as you get prepped. Buckle up, it’s going to be a long one!

winter driving conditions

Driving in Winter Road Conditions

Before You Go

Before you even put your foot on the gas, there are a number of things you can do to ensure a safe trip! Here are some:

  • Plan out your trip in advance, know what roads and highways you’ll be using. Where you are stopping, etc.
  • Let someone know your plan. Where you are going, the way you are taking, and your expected arrival time.
  • Fill the tank! While you’re at it, do your best to ensure it never gets much lower than ¾s. You may be stopping more frequently but running out of gas in the winter can be especially dangerous in the winter.

With all of these precautions taken, should your trip go sideways in any manner, you know that not only will people know it, by knowing your route they will better be able to get you help.

Prep the Car

Your route isn’t the only thing worth preparing ahead of time! Make sure your vehicle is up to snuff!

  • Check your battery, brakes, your heater, defroster. Check it all. A cross-country trip through snow is not when you want to find out your heater doesn’t work.
  • As for fluids, ensure your antifreeze can handle freezing temperatures, top it off if necessary. Change your oil to a winter grade option.
  • Check your headlights, taillights, turn signals, and brake lights, that they are both working and visible in difficult conditions.
  • Get new wiper blades.
  • Use chains, snow or studded tires for snowy winter road conditions. In Arizona, studded tires are permitted October 1st through May 1st.

Driving in the Snow

Drive for and respect the winter road conditions.

  • Don’t warm up your car in an enclosed space (you know, like a garage)
  • Accelerate/decelerate slowly. Hitting the gas slowly is the best practice for keeping traction and avoiding skids.
  • Drive slowly, everything takes more time on the wet pavement. Turns, stops, everything will need more time so make more by driving slowly.
  • That normal follow distance of three to four seconds needs to get bumped up to eight to ten seconds.
  • Don’t attempt to power up hills! The extra gas will just get your wheels spinning. Build inertia before you reach the hill and let that help you crest the hill. When you reach the top reduce your speed to descend the hill as slowly as possible, staying in control.
  • Know when you don’t need to go. The safest trip is the one you don’t take.


Gear to Keep in The Trunk

So, your car is prepped, the route charted, and your friends and family have your itinerary of routes and ETAs, you’re thinking ‘Hey, I got this, I’m ready to go!’ Well hold your horses! Your car might be ready, but are you? Bad weather can come in scary fast so you need to be equipped to handle it should it come your way. Here are a dozen or so essential tools to keep in your car this winter!

winter road conditions toolsA Folding Shovel

As you can imagine a shovel can be mighty useful during the winter, when you need to move a hefty amount of snow. A traditional shovel isn’t much use when it’s stored back in the garage and keeping one in the trunk certainly isn’t convenient.  That’s why collapsible, foldable shovels are the tool to keep.

When picking one out from the store, make sure you’re getting a quality product. The same principle of ‘space-saving’ often makes for cheap shovels that can break when you need them most. We can’t be having that so make sure you get a quality shovel.

Snow/Ice Scraper

Anyone who has lived in more snowy, cold parts of the world probably still have one of these floating around on the floor behind their passenger seat. It’s the most used tool for drivers in the winter, helping them clear off their windows (and lights, don’t forget!) rather than getting their hands wet. These can be found relatively cheap, even a $10 one should do fine.

Jumper Cables

Well, everyone should have these in the car, whether they’re in the snow or not. Having your car not start as you’re about to head home to Mesa is a pain. Having your battery drained and getting stuck in the middle of a snowstorm. Keep these in your trunk and you’ll be doing better than most!

Bag of Sand/Kitty Litter

Just what am I doing recommending you carry around a bag of sand or kitty litter in your car? Think I’m some sort of mad catman? Au contraire! The thing about snow and ice is that it creates a surface that is notoriously difficult to get traction on. Keeping a sand bag or some kitty litter will allow you to give your car the traction it needs to get moving.

Safety Flares

In addition to the lack of traction caused by snow and ice, the weather typically makes for poor visibility. Should your car stall, or you end up in a snow bank, you will want to make sure no other travelers accidentally collide with you. Safety flares will keep your car visible should things go sideways.

Snacks and Water

Having something to eat and drink should you find yourself stuck in a snowbank will make that wait for help less stressful. So long as everything else is taken care of, help shouldn’t be far behind either.


Even if it’s the middle of the day, a snowstorm can make it dark! Be prepared to handle low visible conditions with a flashlight. It’s hard to improve your situation when you can’t even see it. Flashlights should be in your car no matter the weather.

Along with this list and some warm clothes, you should keep the usual tools and trappings of preparedness: first aid kits, necessary medications/pain reliever and you’ll be well prepared to tackle just about anything the trip might throw at you.

All of this info has been compiled from several sources, including AAA and AZDOT, check out their sites and resources for more information. Happy Holidays from all of us here at VIP! We’ll be back on the blog in December with more auto interior goodness. If you need your ride freshened up, give us a call and we can get you sorted out!