We’re almost there! That magical white stuff is already starting to fall in the mountains – even if it is just wet stuff here in Sydney. Pretty soon you’ll be dusting off those snow suits and heading off for some carving, straight-lining, and if you’re anything like us, probably a bit of après skiing too.
But before you go, there are a few things you should definitely do to make sure you keep yourself and your family safe.
Pre-Trip Check Time
Before you head off, book your car in for a quick check. Let your mechanic (Barr Automotive obviously) know you’ll be heading to the snow, and we’ll make sure to pay extra attention to the things that are most important when you’re taking your car into the cold of the mountains.
- Having enough of the right kind of coolant in your engine is really important. If you’re going to the snow we’ll check to make sure the freezing point of your coolant is below -5. If it’s not, we’ll flush the system, clean it, and replace all the fluids with a coolant that has a -40 freezing point. Without this you run the risk of your radiator or engine block cracking. And nobody needs that sort of drama or expense on a holiday.
- Checking your battery is at full strength. Batteries that work fine under normal conditions can struggle to get your car started in colder temperatures, so you want to make sure yours is up to the task. If not, better to put in a new one before you go.
- Checking the tyre treads are okay for alpine conditions. Tyres that are fine for driving in the city won’t necessarily have enough tread for snowy, icy conditions. Making sure there’s enough tread on your tyres might be the difference between a safe trip and a bit of scary aquaplaning.
If you’re looking to get a service done, we recommend 2 weeks before your trip, to make sure it’s driving well before you leave. Otherwise, a service when you return won’t hurt either.
You might not have heard this, but there’s a second part to Murphy’s Law of ‘If it can go wrong, it will’. The second part is much better. ‘If you plan for the worst, it probably won’t happen.’ Unfortunately, the opposite of that is, if you haven’t planned for it, well, you get the idea.
So in amongst all the snow gear and skis make room for an Emergency Survival Kit. That way, if you do happen to break down – even if it’s late and you have to spend the night in your car – you’ll be safe, warm and fed. Your kit should include:
Jump starter kit
Air compressor for adjusting tyres
Folding snow shovel in case you get snowed in
Can of Antifreeze spray for the windshield, along with a plastic scraper
Portable hazard light you can set up a few metres behind your car as a warning
Thermal blankets – one per person if you can
First Aid Kit
Pocket Hand Warmers – at least two per person. Top Tip – you can put them in your shoes too.
Gloves (not in your luggage, but somewhere you can get to them easily)
Food – and I don’t mean lollies because what sort of crazy person goes on a road trip without lollies? I mean muesli bars, sandwiches or even a thermos of soup. Something a bit more substantial
Fully charged battery pack for your phone
Wow. Now that it’s all written down that seems like a lot of stuff. But trust me, if the worst happens, and you do break down, you’ll be calling me to say how good it was to have every last one of them.
Snow Tyres & Chains
If you’re planning on spending a lot of time in the snow over the winter, think about whether snow tyres could be a good investment. It might seem like a big expense, but with two sets of tyres you’re halving the wear and tear on both of them, doubling their life.
Whether you decide to invest in snow tyres or not, you will need snow chains. If your car is not 4WD, you can be fined if you’re caught driving without them in the mountains, and nobody wants to ruin a great weekend away because they forgot to get the chains. Even if you are in a 4WD, we recommend having chains with you. Those icy mountain roads can be brutal.
You can hire chains, but if you’re planning more than one trip, buying some is probably a good investment. Some people like to wait and hire the chains when they arrive, but you can’t always be guaranteed you’ll be able to get the right chains to fit your car. So make like a scout and be prepared.
Top Tip – practice putting them on before you leave home. There’s a definite trick to them and you don’t want to be trying to work it out while you’re kneeling in freezing slush by the side of the road.
A Word About Fuel
If you have a diesel car you’ll need to put Alpine Diesel in your car once you get close to the snowfields, where it’s already in the fuel. Diesel doesn’t perform well at low temperatures, and Alpine Diesel has an additive that stops it from crystalising and causing problems.
Try and aim for a pretty empty tank by the time you get close the mountains. The more fuel with the additive you have in your tank, the less likely you are to have problems.
Last But Not Least
Have a great time and try not to break anything!
If you’re planning on a trip to the snow this year, a pre-trip check-over or service at Barr Automotive can help set you up for a brilliant time, although we can’t be held responsible if there’s no snow. Give us a call on (02) 9476 2182, or book here.