Proper preparation helps make winter driving safer

Updated Dec 6, 2021

By Rich Guida, Brand Manager, Howes

Despite how confident your local meteorologist may sound when you turn on the news, winter weather has always been the toughest to predict. Massive temperature drops, volatile storms, and varying amounts of precipitation are just some of the things that can come about unexpectedly as winter falls upon us.

With that fact in mind, it’s crucially important to take the time to develop a winter preparedness plan. You want to make sure that both you and your truck are equipped to take on freezing temperatures, icy roads, and all the dangers of severe weather. Here are 5 basic things to consider that could make a world of difference when facing the looming challenges of winter.  

1.  MONITORING THE WEATHER When hauling a load, trip preparation is key. So, checking the weather forecast before you hit the road will give you a baseline idea of what conditions lie ahead. Because weather can change in the blink of an eye, it’s still important to keep tabs on it both throughout the day and your entire trip. However, knowing in advance where severe weather is set to hit allows you to plan your route more efficiently. For example, you may be able to avoid some bridges and overpasses until the roads are more likely to be salted or avoid less traveled roads that are likely to be plowed later than others. Whether the roads appear clear or not, you should always drive slower and more carefully when there’s a chance of ice.

2.   ADDING EXTRA TIME Bad weather slows you down, and road conditions can significantly affect your travel times. Winter is an important season to budget for what can easily become a longer trip. You want to be sure to buffer arrival times to allow for slowdowns without feeling the pressure to unsafely rush your driving. You also don’t want to run out of driving hours or hit your driving limit before you can get to a safe place. While the DOT does allow you an “extra two hours of driving for unforeseen weather,” this rule only applies if it’s completely unexpected. You still need to factor in your slower speed when initially calculating your trip.

3.   TREATING YOUR DIESEL Not being able to start your vehicle in the cold is certainly something you want to avoid. Diesel can begin to gel as soon as temperatures drop below 32°F, and if untreated, can cause your truck not to run. Fuel filter icing, which can occur in freezing temperatures if there’s any water in your fuel, can also leave you stranded. As soon as the weather starts to get colder, you want to add an anti-gel additive to your truck’s tanks before adding your fuel. This can help you avoid the costly issue of gelling. We recommend Howes Diesel Treat, North America’s #1 trusted anti-gel, to prevent gelling in cold weather. Beyond preventing gelling, it safely removes water from your fuel, helping you to avoid icing. But for even more peace of mind, you can add Howes Diesel Lifeline to your supply list so you will have the best defense against unforeseen extreme weather. It can re-liquefy gelled fuel or de-ice frozen fuel filters fast in case of an emergency. Both products are alcohol-free, made with no harmful solvents, and are 100% guaranteed. It’s a good idea to stock up on anti-gel additives early in the season because high demand during severe weather could make them difficult to find. It’s also smart to always have an emergency backup plan, so keeping a rescue product on hand is essential. 

4.   CHECKING COOLANT SYSTEMS You want to be sure your truck’s anti-freeze system is strong enough to handle colder temperatures. It’s good practice to pressure-test your coolant system and radiator cap on a cold engine to recommended levels. It’s also a good idea to check all heater and water hoses for wear, cracks, hardening, or softening. Finally, you want to be sure to tighten any loose hose clamps you find to prevent future issues.

5.   STOCKING THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT It’s good to have proper chaining equipment and a good quantity of various sized bungees stocked in your cab. You always want to pack sturdy, waterproof gloves, a reflective vest, boots with good traction, a flashlight, and a kneeling pad to be prepared for any job at hand. As the weather begins to turn, you also want to start packing extra warm bedding and winter clothes such as hats, gloves, and scarves. These can help with your own safety and comfort or be of great assistance if you ever encounter a fellow driver in need.

Winter can be a challenge but getting prepared can help make the season a lot less difficult. Being aware of your needs along with those of your vehicle can help ensure your safety and keep you both rolling along.