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Winter Car Travel

This article is courtesy of Doug Barr.  Please share this article with your friends and family.  Safe driving doesn't happen without proper preparation.

Winter Car Travel for the RS&R Club


All of us travel by car in the winter whether we want to or not. It goes with living in the greater Reno area. This article provides a few things you can do to prepare for you winter trips and to prevent having this go bad.

It’s not an all-knowing document. I’m sure there are more ideas for how to prepare. Please share those ideas if you have some.

I hope that all your future travels are safe and enjoyable.


Well before you go

  • Take care of any necessary repairs and maintenance
    • Tires: snow tires, tread, pressures, rotation, spare tire
    • Heater, cooling – yes, your car can overheat in a snow storm
    • Check engine light? – fix everything
    • Battery check - makers have battery wear out down to a science   
  • Check road conditions
  • Allow for extra travel time due to driving slower, traffic, weather
  • Keep your gas tank at least ½ full
    • Stuck: run engine for days for warmth (15 minutes an hour)
    • Weight of fuel helps traction
  • Tell multiple people where, when and the route you’re going to take


What to carry – Trunk or inside cab; what works best for you?

  • First aid kit – should be year-round
  • Tire chains
    • Even if you have snow tires, even if you have 4wd
    • Make sure they fit and are ready to use w/ new rubber tensioners
    • Tools for putting on chains

When was the last time you put THOSE chains on your CURRENT tires?

  • Warmth: Blankets, sleeping bag
  • Clothing
    • Waterproof jacket (old ski jacket with hood)
    • Hats: ball cap, ski cap, old ski baclava
    • Gloves (work pair and a warming pair)
    • Boots w/ socks (winter - snow boots, summer - hiking boots)
    • Layers: jacket, sweat shirt, long sleeve shirt, socks
    • Full change of clothes (think caught outside in a downpour of rain)
    • High visibility safety vest
  • Food & Drink – think freezing temperatures
    • Snacks that last – beef jerky
    • Bottled water, Gatorade, vitamin water
  • Tools
    • Basic tool kit – should be year round
    • Jumper cables or battery booster
    • Shovel – think correct size for you
    • Pocket knife – multitool
    • Flashlight – consider a head lamp
    • Ice scraper – for your passenger to use
    • Tools for changing a tire – should already be in your car, check them
  • Miscellaneous Stuff
    • Fire extinguisher
    • Road flares – better: LED flashers
    • Spare fuses – okay, it’s a Jeep thing
    • Wiper fluid – it could freeze, check the temp rating or add rubbing alcohol
    • Tow strap, learn how to use it, where to safely attach it
    • Duct tape – now in many colors and patterns
    • Paracord
    • Glasses: sun, readers, prescription
    • Kleenex, paper towels
    • Toothbrush, toothpaste
    • Lip balm
    • Sunscreen
    • Spare wiper blades – save the old ones when you put new ones on
    • Medications, medical needs for all family members (use a 7-day holder)
    • Deck of cards, books, games, crosswords, etc.
    • Note pad, pen, paper
    • Moist wipes
    • Toilet paper
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Road map – old school paper map, think cell tower down
    • Spare cash
    • Lighter
    • Hand warmers, hot packs
    • Battery powered radio
    • Laser pointer for helicopter – don’t point AT the pilot (another Jeep thing)
    • Traction device or non-clay kitty litter
    • Backpack to carry a bunch of this stuff
  • Phone specific stuff
    • Download a GPS app to your phone (GPS Status)
    • Spare ‘quick charge’ battery pack (batter jumper box)
    • Charging cords – for your phone and your friend’s phone
    • Hard copy, paper list of phone numbers of family, Friends and doctors

Once stuck

  • Don’t panic
  • Stay with the car
  • Call highway patrol for help
  • Clear the exhaust of snow
  • Crack windows for fresh air
  • Make car visible
  • Run the car occasionally for warmth (10-15 minutes per hour)
  • Keep yourself moving (inside the car)
  • Keep yourself occupied


Hopefully, with what you’ve learned here, you will never find yourself in that situation.



Please prepare your vehicle before ANY travel.

Carry all needed items in your car.

Always know where you are and where you’re going.

If things go bad, stay with vehicle and use your phone to call for help.