I often hear people say they are ready for whatever Mother Nature has to throw at them this winter because they have a 4×4. They reckon extra ground clearance and all-wheel-drive is enough to get them out of any situation they might encounter. Then I get my phone out and show them a clip of a big, rough and tumble SUV getting stuck on an icy road hopelessly spinning its wheels, and they realize there is more to weathering the winter on the road than just than ride height and extra differentials.
That is why even if you own SUV you need to take some time winter-prepping your car. And the first thing you need to invest in is a set of good winter tyres. Unless you are lucky enough to get a bespoke off-road package with your SUV which includes chunky 30inch tires, you are going to need winter tyres because you can’t rely on the standard rubber on your car to deal with low-friction surfaces of which there plenty in winter time. Most SUVs these days are built as jacked-up saloon cars. They come as standard with low-profile street tyres that are now good on a light trek across a green field, let alone tackling roads covered with a thick sheet of ice and driveways blanketed with snow.
This is applies doubly to sedans and other family cars. Due to their nature they need winter tyres above all else if they are to remain workable throughout the cold season, and work with optimum safety and comfort. Family cars, as their name clearly suggests, are for driving your kids around and do shopping stuff. So it pays to invest in a proper set of tyres to make sure there is less chance of getting into an accident because your standard tyres are too void of grip to keep the car in check. Do not trust the safety of your family in your own driving skills alone!
As for other less vital, but still pretty important, things you can do to improve the safety of your drive this winter, the list begins with the routine checks of your car’s fluids. You want to make sure there is antifreeze in the radiator and the window washer fluid is replaced with a winter-grade version. The latter may seem trivial, but it is terribly important as it has to do with visibility. What’s more, in winter the roads are often covered with mud and grime, which get thrown into the air and stick to your windscreen as you drive behind other cars. So that’s something to be mindful of. So go as far as changing their oil with a winter-grade model. But as long as you live in the arctic that is not really necessary.
Having a proper winter supply box in the car could also become handy, especially if you travel long distances. What you want to keep in there besides the usual tools, include a high-visibility jacket, hat, gloves, flashlight, blanket, a good lighter, water bottles and high-calorie food stuff like chocolate. As for the tools that you may find useful, sturdy ropes for giving or receiving a tow would be a good thing to have, as is a machete or a small axe to clear away braches and the like blocking the path, and of course, a trusty shovel. You can use the shovel to dig out your car should it get stuck, or to clear the path of snow.
If you have got yourself some good winter tyres you probably don’t need this, but having a set of snow chains could prove useful. Even if you don’t use them yourself, you will sure encounter an unprepared motorist who could definitely use them! Another important thing to consider regarding your tyres is the air pressure. As a general rule, winter tyres should be set at 0.2 bar above the summer tyre recommendation. Make sure to check them regularly.