Prep Your Car for a Snowy Road Trip

A snowy road with the words "winter road trip safety."

Considering a fun road trip that will take you through snowy conditions? A drive to see the snow and perhaps even get out and play in it can be exciting and fun, but if you're ill-prepared, it can also be dangerous. Before you go, here are a few things you'll want to do to make sure both you and your car are ready for the trip.

Prep With a Pre-Trip Inspection

The first thing to do before a trip into a winter wonderland is a little pre-trip inspection. You don't have to be a mechanic to do your own inspection, but if it's been a long time since your last maintenance checkup, it's worth it to take it in and have it checked before you leave. This type of checkup is often free when getting an oil change or when other routine maintenance is performed.

If you're doing the inspection yourself, check the following things, and if you're not sure of any of them, take your vehicle to your nearest auto parts store as they will test or check most of these things for you for free:

Full tank of gas

Battery charging / fully charged

Tire pressure: the inside of the driver's side door will tell you the appropriate PSI (pounds per square inch) for your tires

Belts and hoses (no cracks or tears)

Radiator topped off with antifreeze appropriate to your weather conditions (check when the engine is completely cooled)

Heater and defroster working

Wipers and wiper blades working and in good condition

Lights working

Check on brakes, including parking brake

Packing and Preparing for the Worst

After you've checked your vehicle out, it's time to pack it with what you'll be needing when traveling into a snow zone. Just what will you need, though? In the winter it's often hard to predict what you'll need in every scenario, so it's best to pack for the worst case such as: passes closing, an accident, or a big storm that causes all travel to come to a standstill. You don't have to overpack even for a worst case scenario -- just one large tote container and then a few side items will be enough to get you through a wait of a few hours or even a few days.

Items For the Trunk or Rear:

Tire chains

Jumper cables

Ice scraper


Extra batteries for flashlight or radio

Cell phone charger

Shovel (collapsible shovels are available if space is limited)

Rope (for towing)

Car Tote Kit:




Snacks (non-perishable: peanut butter, granola bars, nuts)

Boots / gloves / warm clothes


First aid kit

Most of the items you need you'll already have laying around in your house or in your garage. The only thing you may not have would be tire chains, but you can easily order them online or find them locally at an automotive store. To know when you'll need the chains, check on your local weather or traffic websites before you leave. Even if there isn't an announcement of tire chains being needed or required, it's still good to carry them since conditions may change by the time you get to the area.

This may seem like a lot to do before a little trip through the snow, but once you get your kit ready, it'll be ready for years to come. Once you have your vehicle ready, all you'll need to do is grab your tote box and a few other items and you'll be off to have fun in the snow!

Note: If you do find yourself stranded, call for help and put your flashers on -- stay in your car until assistance arrives.