Select Page

Preparation is important for safe winter driving

« Back to the November 2009 edition

ODOT encourages drivers to prepare their vehicles for winter driving conditions and drive with extra caution. Before traveling to areas that may have hazardous conditions, make sure your vehicle is ready:

• Ensure the heater and defroster work properly.
• Test all lights. Carry spare light bulbs.
• Use antifreeze that works to -25°F; check and fill washer and other fluids and make sure hoses aren’t loose or brittle.
• Keep wipers clean and in good condition; fill the wind shield washer tank.
• Make certain your battery is fully charged (also check battery age and make sure cables are not loose or corroded).
• Ensure your tires are in good condition and properly inflated for best traction, including your spare.
• Carry chains or use traction tires in winter.
• Keep an automotive safety kit in your vehicle.

If you travel with an infant or baby, pack extra food, warm clothes and blankets, toys and games, and extra diapers, just in case. Remember to use your child safety seat properly.

Before leaving, tell a family member or friend of your planned route and when you anticipate arriving. Keep them updated on any major route or arrival changes.

Make sure your vehicle is stocked with the following:

• Rechargeable flashlight
• Cell phone and car adaptor
• Extra food and water
• Flares
• Tools: jack, lug wrench, shovel
• Road maps
• Blanket/sleeping bag(s)
• Extra warm clothes, boots, hat and gloves
• First aid kit
• Pocket knife
• Matches or lighter
• Battery jumper cables
• Ice scraper and snow brush
• Paper towels
• Extra washer fluid
• Chains or traction tires
• A full fuel tank

In Oregon, it’s important to learn how to install your chains before snow storms strike.

Travelers putting on chains at the last minute can block lanes, impeding other drivers and making it difficult for crews to sand and plow the road. By putting your chains on early, you’ll do your part to keep traffic moving.

Practice installing your chains at home when the weather is fair. Here are some tips on chaining up and driving with chains:

• Check your vehicle operator’s manual for the right type and size of chains to use. Follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
• Ensure chains are the proper size. Do not deflate tires to install chains.
• Don’t wait until you lose control of your vehicle before chaining up.
• Pull over to a safe and level area to install or remove chains.
• Take along a waterproof tarp or plastic sheet to help keep you dry.
• Keep children and pets safe in your car to avoid distraction and injury.
• Pull over and stop if any part of a tire chain fails or comes loose.
• Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Avoid spinning or locking your wheels.

Winter driving information in the ODOT News Room:

ODOT winter maintenance photos and videos:

On Twitter: @oregondot

Winter driving tips brochure available online in English and in Spanish:

For road conditions in Oregon, call 511 or (800) 977-ODOT (6368). Outside Oregon, dial (503) 588-2941. Reports are updated continuously and available 24 hours a day.

Visit for road and weather conditions, incidents and traffic delays. Links to cameras on many mountain passes and major routes give real-time views of road conditions. The site also provides links to bus, train and airport information as well as lodging, Sno-Parks, restaurants, attractions and other traveler services.

For questions about winter road maintenance or other issues, contact ODOT at (888) ASK ODOT.

« Back to the November 2009 edition