December 21, 2022
PORTLAND, Ore. – With snow, ice and record-cold temperatures expected for the Portland area and much of Oregon, AAA Oregon/Idaho urges drivers to be prepared for winter driving conditions.
The National Weather Service in Portland says the forecast looks increasingly wintry for even lower elevations of northwest Oregon as cold air moves in ahead of the Christmas weekend, just in time for one of the busiest holiday travel days of the year.
“Make sure your vehicle is ready for cold weather, and that you’re prepared to drive on slick, icy roads,” says AAA Oregon/Idaho Public Affairs Director Marie Dodds. Find tips and helpful advice at AAA.com/winterprep.
Whenever Mother Nature brings snow and freezing temperatures, the number of calls to AAA Oregon/Idaho for roadside assistance can spike. The most common problems in cold weather are dead batteries, frozen locks and vehicle extrications. “Drivers aren’t always prepared to deal with colder weather and winter driving conditions,” adds Dodds.
Of course, the best advice is to stay home during a winter weather event. If you need to head out, check the latest forecasts, and visit TripCheck.com or call 511 for the latest road conditions and incident information, especially if you are driving over mountain passes.
Here are the top four tips for cold weather prep:
- Check your vehicle’s battery. Dead batteries are the number one reason why people call AAA during a cold snap. “Most vehicle batteries have a lifespan of about three years. If your battery is approaching the end of its lifespan, it may turn over fine when it’s 40 degrees and raining, but it may not start up when the thermometer dips below freezing, especially if the cold weather lasts for longer than a couple of days,” says Dodds.
- Have proper traction. Equip your car with the right snow tires, or carry chains or tire socks and know how to put them on.
- Know how to go on ice and snow. The number one mistake people make when driving on slick roads is going too fast for the road conditions.
- Don’t leave home without an emergency kit in your car. Bring water and snacks for all passengers. Even a normally short trip can take hours in wintry weather so have enough provisions in case of a long delay.
Below are more tips on preparing your vehicle, what to put in your emergency road kit, and how to drive on ice and snow from AAA Oregon/Idaho.
- Make sure your vehicle has proper traction. Snow tires and/or chains are often the best options in snowy conditions. Carry chains or tire socks and know how to put them on. With light or moderate snowfall, a set of all-season tires may suffice. Remember the amount of traction that exists between the tires and roadway surface determine how well your vehicle accelerates, turns and stops.
- All-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive systems can improve traction in many situations; however, they don’t provide significantly greater traction on ice.
- Have your battery and electrical system tested. Most batteries have a life span of about three years and may not turn over in cold weather. AAA can check your battery before you hit the road. Schedule a time for a AAA battery technician to come to your vehicle and test your battery, starter and alternator. We’ll even deliver a new battery, install it and take away your old one. Visit AAA.com/battery.
- Check all fluid levels, including anti-freeze, transmission fluid, brake fluid and engine oil.
- Make sure all lights operate properly.
- Inspect tires and brakes. Tires with less than 4/32” of tread will have reduced traction in wet and snowy conditions. Put a quarter in the tread. If you can see the top of George Washington’s head, it’s time to start thinking about replacing the tire. In addition, make sure tires are properly inflated, and check for signs of uneven wear.
- Check windshield wipers and washer fluid levels.
- Keep the fuel tank at least half full and make sure your electric vehicle has enough range in case you get stuck or encounter long traffic delays.
Winter Driving Kit:
- Keep an emergency kit in your car with tire chains, abrasive material such as sand or kitty litter, small shovel, flashlight with extra batteries, ice scraper, rags or paper towels, flares or other warning devices, booster cables and a first aid kit.
- Bring blankets, jackets, hats and gloves for you and your passengers.
- Pack water and snacks, such as energy bars, and bring pet food if you’re traveling with four-legged friends.
- Keep the pandemic in mind. Bring extra face masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes.
- Charge your mobile phone before you hit the road.
- Slow down on snow- and ice-covered roads. Driving too fast for the road conditions is the number one mistake people make on slick roads. Watch the traffic ahead and slow down immediately at the sight of brake lights or skidding vehicles.
- Leave plenty of distance between you and the car in front of you. Allow at least three times more space than usual.
- Make gentle stops and starts to prevent skids; don’t brake or accelerate quickly.
- Don’t brake and turn at the same time as this can make your tires lose traction.
- Steer out of a skid. If your vehicle begins to skid, take your foot off the brake and the accelerator and look where you want to go. Gently steer the car in that direction, keeping both hands on the steering wheel.
- Avoid unnecessary lane changes as this increases the chances of hitting a patch of ice between lanes.
- Don’t power up hills because this may only result in spinning your wheels. At the same time, don’t stop while traveling uphill as it can be difficult to get going again.
- Know what type of braking system you have and how to apply brakes properly (for example, don’t pump anti-lock brakes. Instead, firmly press the brake pedal.) Downshift to a lower gear to reduce speed.
Use Common Sense:
- Dress according to weather conditions and bring an extra coat, gloves and change of clothes in case you get wet putting on chains or tire socks or changing a tire.
- Let family members or friends know your travel plans, including destination, route, and expected time of arrival so they can alert authorities if you don’t make it to your destination.
- Don’t blindly follow your navigation system. If it directs you to a road that doesn’t look maintained or well-travelled, turn around!
- If you do get stuck, stay with your vehicle. It’s easier for authorities to find you there.