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Prepare your vehicle for winter travel

Some tips to avoid being stuck and out of luck

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Dubbed 'Snow Drifter', Willy has decked out his 2000 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD pickup to battle winter. It is pictured here on a winter road in northern Manitoba.

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Willy put a BMW through its paces in Quebec last winter. The car was equipped with dedicated winter tires that provided amazing traction.


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YOU'RE on the way out of town to watch the grandson play hockey. You've never been to the small town you've carefully dotted on the map, but it's only 75 kilometres from home and the weather looks good.

The car is warmed up, the tank is topped up, the thermos is full of coffee. You impatiently tap your watch. "Come on dear, the game starts at seven, we are going to be late."

Things are going great until you realize you've been paying too much attention to the hockey game on the radio and not enough attention to the road signs. To make matters worse it is starting to snow.

Like you've done so many times before, you find a break in the road to make a quick U-turn and get back on the correct route. The wife isn't amused, and she's letting you know.

As you turn the car around the rear tires suddenly slip off the shoulder and you become buried in the deep snow. Oh crap, you mutter. You spin the front tires, trying to drag yourself out for so long the acrid smell of burning rubber is filling the interior of the car. You finally realize you have no choice but to get out and give it a push. "Just call a tow truck," your wise wife concedes. Good idea. What, no cell signal?

OK, now you HAVE to push. You push until you're red in the face, but the tires are still spinning. Another vehicle hasn't passed in more than an hour. Now it's snowing hard. And it's cold. Really cold. There are no homes nearby.

You are out of breath and out of luck.

You are stuck.

Perhaps my tale of woe is a bit far-fetched, but, here's the burning questions you need to ask yourself. Do you know what to do if you get stuck? Do you have any winter survival gear with you?

Ultimately, the best defence is always a good offence, and a good set of dedicated winter tires are the best way to avoid getting stuck in the first place. Even when installed on low-riding import cars, you will be simply amazed how well a car performs on ice or snow when winter tires are installed.

Perhaps I've taken it to the outer limits with my winter survival provisions, but last winter we drove my Chevrolet Silverado truck, dubbed the Snow Drifter, all the way to Tadoule Lake in northern Manitoba on the winter roads. I practise what I preach and am prepared for winter travel.

In my truck there's a sleeping bag, an old army parka, extra gloves, extra toque and scarf, balaclava, two pairs of socks, a high-visibility vest and my Sorel winter boots. Tools include two tow straps, one chain, a farm jack, two wooden blocks, a good spare tire, a breaker bar with a socket welded on for my wheel nuts, an old tool box full of tools as well as wire, fuses, hoses and belts, a battery booster, booster cables, road flares, a killer flashlight, a small saw, an artificial fireplace log, candles, extra fuel, gas-line anti-freeze, oil, transmission and brake fluid, radiator anti-freeze, some nuts, candy a few packs of dehydrated astronaut food and a couple of bottles of water. There's also a small pot, a propane bottle with an attachable burner and my trusty CB radio. I have enough provisions to live in my truck for 48 hours.

Now, go outside, climb in your vehicle and imagine you are stuck. Take a good look at what's available. How long can you survive?

Winter survival kit

The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) recommends you keep the following items in your trunk:

-- shovel

-- sand or kitty litter

-- traction mats

-- tow chain

-- compass

-- cloth or roll of paper towels

-- warning light or road flares

-- extra clothing and footwear

-- emergency food pack

-- booster cables

-- matches and a "survival" candle in a deep can (to warm hands, heat a drink or use as an emergency light)

-- fire extinguisher

-- extra windshield washer fluid

-- fuel line antifreeze

-- reflective vest

Keep the following items inside your vehicle.

-- road maps

-- ice scraper and brush

-- flashlight

-- first aid kit

-- blanket (special "survival" blankets are best).