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Strategies for Surviving a Car Breakdown in Winter

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Photo: jill111

Winter definitely poses some formidable challenges for drivers. Considering that approximately 70% of injuries that happen during the winter are vehicle-related, it’s important to know what to do in case of a vehicle breakdown during this chilly season.


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What Not to Do

Don’t dig your car out of a snow bank

While it might be common practice in a movie, digging your lifeless car out of the snow when it’s severely entrenched is usually ineffective. It’s more important to conserve your energy and keep as dry as possible, to protect your body from the cold winter air.

Don’t let yourself fall asleep

While waiting for help to arrive, it might be tempting to succumb to sleep. It’s crucial that you stay alert; according to the CDC, this will help prevent you from catching hypothermia and other cold weather health conditions.

Don’t eat snow

Wait…what?! Yep, you read that right. Even if snow isn’t your favorite winter “treat” to enjoy, if you’re stranded, you might think that snow is a great way to quench your thirst. It turns out that eating snow can make your body even more dehydrated due to the fact that your body has to heat up the snow in order to process it. However, it’s a good idea to collect snow inside of a thermos or water bottle, melt it, then drink it.

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What to Do

Call for help

This might be a no-brainer, but in the panic and mental fog you might experience during the breakdown, it’s easy to forget this essential step in surviving this situation. Since your phone is such a protective tool to have, make sure to keep your phone fully charged before you embark on any road trip. It’s also a good idea to invest in a phone charger that can hold its own charge, so you don’t have to drain your car’s battery in the case that you’re stranded.

Rev the engine (sparingly)

In the likelihood that your car breaks down with a sufficient level of gas in the tank, then it’s helpful to turn on the engine once an hour (for about 10-15 minutes) to help you keep warm.

Clean off your car

Make sure to clear the snow off of your vehicle, to the best of your ability. This will increase your car’s visibility to any other drivers passing by.

Ventilate your car

If stuck in a snow bank or snowstorm, crack a window open to minimize the chance of carbon monoxide poisoning. Also, make to clear off snow both inside and around the exhaust pipe. Ventilation is even more important if you turn on the engine and/or heat while you’re waiting for help to arrive.

For even more protection against winter breakdowns, make sure that your car has an emergency kit—and don’t forget to pack a blanket and a spare set of winter clothes.

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News Sources: WXYZ News, VERC