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Is it Safe to Drive in Extreme Cold?

December 26, 2019 |

Montana sees extreme weather conditions each winter. Unpredictable weather systems can include heavy snowstorms, high-speed winds, sleet, hail and temperature dips to 50 degrees below zero. Driving in extreme cold is possible, but it can take a toll on you and your vehicle. Avoid unnecessary risks and car accidents by staying home in bad weather when you can. If you have to drive in extreme temperatures, however, take safety seriously.

Pack an Emergency Kit

Prepare for anything by packing an emergency kit in your car if you have to drive in extreme cold. Your supplies should cover you, your passengers and your vehicle if something happens, such as crashing or breaking down in the middle of a snowstorm.

Before you ready your vehicle for the drive, create an emergency supplies kit to keep in your back seat or trunk. Keeping emergency supplies in your car all winter long can give you peace of mind if you have to drive in extreme cold. It can help you prepare for anything, including a serious emergency.

Prepare Your Vehicle

Extreme cold can be difficult for your vehicle to handle. Take potential problems seriously. Your engine must be warm enough for the fuel to ignite and burn to start your car. The freezing point for summer-grade fuel is 32 degrees Fahrenheit. It is important, therefore, to switch to winter-grade fuel as the temperature starts to drop. Do not let your fuel drop below halfway on a wintertime car trip. Your battery can also weaken and decrease in capacity in cold temperatures. Your vehicle will be unable to start if the battery dies on a freezing day. Have a professional mechanic test your battery before embarking in extreme cold.

Check all lubricants and fluids, especially the antifreeze. Have a professional flush your antifreeze if you have not done this in a few years. Antifreeze prevents your engine from freezing in extreme cold. Mix your antifreeze with water to work properly, but do not use only water, as this could freeze when temperatures drop. Also have someone check your oil, windshield wiper fluid and transmission fluid. Only use snow tires during Montana’s extreme cold season, as standard or all-weather tires might not be enough to keep you safely on the road. Check the pressure in your tires to make sure they are correct before leaving.

Drive Safely

Once you have prepared your vehicle for extreme cold, ready yourself for the drive ahead. Only drive in bad weather or extreme cold if you have no other choice. Visually inspect your vehicle for issues such as low tire pressure or an icy windshield before leaving. Drive slowly and keep both hands firmly on the wheel. Prepare yourself to react if you strike ice and start to slide.

Skidding on ice is a common problem when driving on snowy or icy roads in Montana. The most important thing is to stay calm when driving in extreme cold. Prepare yourself and your vehicle for the drive ahead, reduce your speed, pay attention to the road, and tell people where you are going and when. If you do not arrive on time, your friends or family will know to send someone searching for your vehicle. If you do not feel comfortable operating your car in extreme cold, stay home.