It’s that time of year when we could find ourselves in a snowstorm tomorrow. This is one of the few occupations where we can be in the 80's one day and driving in a blizzard the next. Having your truck prepared for winter can make the difference between being comfortable while sitting out the storm or miserable. A few common-sense precautions can make driving in bad weather a bit safer.
One of the most important winter preparedness tips is to know the weather and road conditions. You can do this with apps, such as WeatherBug or Weather Underground, and websites, such as safetravelusa.com that provide state road reports. A CB radio is useful for checking on road conditions and accidents. The best advice, if you know the roads are going to get nasty, is to stop early to make sure you get a parking spot in a safe and comfortable location.
Here are a few things you can do to your truck to get ready for winter:
- Install fresh wiper blades. I prefer blades that have the rubberized boot to help prevent snow and ice buildup. I have also found the beam style blades work best. Pro-tip: DON’T BUY CHEAP BLADES!!! Nothing is worse than having to replace a blade that fell apart in bad weather.
- Use MotorKote. Put some MotorKote onto a cloth and rub over your door seals and anything that opens or closes to prevent them from freezing shut in the winter. Be sure to let air dry before closing. You can also put a few drops in locks to prevent freezing. Coat your wiper blades with a thin coat and let dry for a few hours then wipe off excess. This will prevent snow and ice from sticking to the blades.
- Carry WD-40 or similar spray lubricant.This can defrost frozen locks. I have seen drivers who could not get their padlocks off due to ice buildup fix the problem with a few shots of WD-40.
- Lubricate your 5th wheel.Spray lithium grease or silicone to lubricate your 5th wheel when it is too cold for traditional 5th wheel grease to spread easily.
- Always have spare fluids on hand.Check your fluids and tire pressure before heading out. It is always a good idea to carry spare fluids and an air hose. Elevation and temperature changes can affect fluid levels and air pressures. Carrying spares and an air hose can mean the difference between getting back on the road and beating a storm or getting stuck in it waiting for road service.
- Prevent your fuel from freezing.When the temperatures drop below freezing treat your fuel to prevent gelling or ice build-up in filters and fuel lines. Products such as those found in the FPPF line, Power Service, or Howes are great options to prevent being shut down roadside due to gelling or water in your fuel.
- Make an emergency kit.Use a duffel bag or backpack (BlackCanyon Outfitters has some good options) and make an emergency kit with items such as a flashlight, battery bank, charging cords, snacks, food, bottles of water, medicine and important documents.
No matter how prepared you try to be, you will be caught someplace without something that you want or need. Many of the items that can be found at travel centers will bail you out in a pinch.
- Work or winter gloves - Most travel centers have a good selection of BlackCanyon Outfitters or Wild Gear.
- Coats or jackets - Many travel centers carry them this time of year and often at competitive prices compared to many major stores. BlackCanyon Outfitters and Wild Gear make some great options.
- A way to heat water and food on the truck, such as the RoadPro 12-Volt Lunch Box Stove.
- Oil, coolants, spray lithium grease or silicone and additives from companies like Lucas, FPPF, Power Service or Howes
- Zip ties
- Spare headlights
- Wiper blades
- Duct tape
- WD-40 or MotorKote spray
- Snacks, non-perishable food, gallons of water
- Battery bank for charging cellphones, such as the Tough Tested solar charger
- Jumper cables
Whether this is your first winter on the road or you’re a seasoned winter driver, it never hurts to listen to conversations at the truck stops and learn what other drivers carry in their trucks. You may get a few good ideas or learn something new. I also suggest carrying more food and water than you think you need. If you get stranded on the road you might have the opportunity to help other stranded travelers so carrying extras is a good thing.