Imagine. You’re driving down a long and winding road in the middle of a white winter forest. The sun is blinking it’s way through the frost-covered pine trees, the windows are down and a cool crisp air fills your car with vigor and satisfaction.
Maybe you’re on your way to Sun Valley, ID to enjoy the famously sunny slopes, or maybe you’re headed for one of Idaho’s 130 luxurious hot springs. Whatever adventure awaits you, it’s undeniable that the beauty of Idaho’s winter landscape is breathtaking.

But don’t be fooled…
Whether you are an Idaho native or just here for a visit, winter road trips can quickly turn from epic adventure to tragic disaster if you aren’t careful. Black ice and whiteout snow storms are only a few of the extreme hazards that mother nature likes to throw our way during the winter.

Lucky for you, we’ve compiled 20 winter road trip essentials to help you avoid these dangers and keep your winter wonderland a place for fun and adventure.


Before You Go

Thorough preparation is important before heading out on your epic journey and you want to make sure you are equipped for anything and everything- though, hopefully you won’t need it. Before embarking on your adventure, we suggest the following precautions.

  1. Know Where You’re Going– Occasionally, your GPS may lose service or lose battery life, leaving you without navigation. If you are unfamiliar with your drive, we suggest mapping out your destination and writing down a second set of directions before you leave. Always familiarize yourself with your destination directions but bring a hard copy map with you as well. You never know when a detour may be necessary.
  2. Check the Weather– Weather conditions can change drastically while on your trip. While it’s best to avoid driving in extreme weather conditions, we understand that emergencies happen or sometimes not driving is not an option. Checking the weather beforehand will at least give you an idea of what you are getting yourself into so that you are not caught unprepared in a possible whiteout storm.
  3. Pack an Emergency Kit– This includes an extra jacket, blankets, phone chargers, extra flashlights, and non-perishable snacks (Granola bars, protein bars, water bottles etc). These extra necessities will certainly come in handy if you happen to be stuck on the side of the road waiting for aid.
  4. Car Adapter for Phone and GPS– You probably already have a car charger for your phone- but make sure it works and that it is in fact, in your car. A dead phone eliminates your ability to contact anyone for help in an emergency.
  5. Spare Tire– Make sure that your car has a spare tire and car jack in case of a flat tire. You do not want to be left stranded in the cold. If you don’t know how to change a tire, there are plenty of tutorials we recommend familiarizing yourself with just in case of emergencies.

Car Care

There are several ways to prepare your car for the winter that are essential before your road trip. You don’t want your car to be the reason your trip is canceled.

    1. Fill her up!– This may seem obvious, but filling your tank up before you go and filling up often during your trip is critical. Waiting until the last minute to fill up your tank in the middle of winter can be dangerous if you find yourself on long road trips in unpredictable weather conditions. Start your trip with a full tank and anticipate filling up every time you have half a tank or less.
    2. Maintenance Check– Cooler temperatures will affect the way liquids interact with your car. Before heading on a long road trip, it’s a smart idea to have your car checked by a professional who can make sure that everything is working properly and ready for winter weather.
    3. Headlights– We’ve mentioned this before in previous blogs, but clear headlights are extremely helpful in the wintertime. When you attend your maintenance check for your car, make sure that they defog your headlights. This will ensure your vision in a snow storm as well as help other cars be able to see you.
    4. Ice Scraper– It doesn’t matter if you park in a garage or outside, when on vacation, an ice scraper is a must. It’s important to scrape the ice off of your windshield and mirrors- this is common sense. However, a lot of people try to rush the scraping job by not brushing the snow off the top of the car. This is a mistake for a couple of reasons. If the snow falls onto your windshield from the roof, it can impair your eyesight. It could cause even more damage if the snow dumps off your windshield and onto a car behind you. Avoid causing damage to yourself and others by thoroughly scraping all the ice and snow from your car.
    5. Tire-Chains– Black ice and slick roads go hand in hand with winter and snow. Because of the slickness of the roads, it’s easy for your car to hydroplane or slide on the road. Tire chains are super easy to put on your tires yourself and will help add traction to your vehicle.


Usually, a good rule of thumb is to avoid driving in the snow if at all possible. But we’re talking about your road trip here! We want you to get to your destination safely, and that means understanding that driving in the snow is different than you’re used to.

  1. Drive with your lights on day and night– As we mentioned before, having clear headlights is critical for your car visibility. Driving with your headlights on allows for better visibility not only for you, but also for your fellow drivers. Seeing in a whiteout is hard enough as it is, this small step can easily make things easier.
  2. Keep your distance– When driving and stopping behind another vehicle, make sure to keep a distance of at least 3 cars ahead of you. When there is snow or ice on the road, the chances of you sliding into another car is highly likely.
  3. Slow Down– Speaking of sliding into other cars, don’t rush your driving in the snow. The faster you’re going, the harder it’s going to be to stop and it’s no secret that small dents are less expensive to repair than a totaled car. If you do find yourself in this situation, McDowells does exterior auto repair at affordable costs.
  4. Take Your Time– I know I sound like a broken record, but if you have to be somewhere at a certain time, leave early. Allow yourself the extra time to navigate through the snow and be prepared for any sort of traffic or emergency.
  5. Avoid Cruise Control at All Costs– When you are trying to maintain a certain speed, cruise control can be tempting. But with the dangers of black ice, the chances of your car hydroplaning are high. If this happens while in cruise control, it will be difficult to gain control of your car because it will be trying to maintain the initial speed. Keep yourself safe and keep your cruise control off.

In Case of Emergency


  1. Pack a shovel– We hope this doesn’t happen to you on your trip, but occasionally you get stuck deep in the snow. It’s hard to realize how deep some snow is and getting stuck happens often. Make sure to pack a shovel to help you free your car from the snow.
  2. Kitty Litter or Sand– On the rare occasion that you do get stuck in the snow, kitty litter or sand can help create traction between the ground and your tires in the wet snow.
  3. Flare– No, we aren’t being dramatic. Sometimes the snowy weather gets so thick, it’s hard to see the car in front of you. If you have called for help or need a helping hand, your car may be hard to see. The flare will help others know that you are stranded and in a state of emergency.
  4. Jumper Cables– Help yourself to help yourself. There is an abundance of kind people willing to help in times of need. However, if your car battery dies, jumper cables are a MUST and if the kind person stopping to help you doesn’t have them, well… you’re back at square one. Keeping jumper cables in your car is something we recommend rain or shine, winter or summer.
  5. First Aid Kit- Once again, we hope you won’t need it, but better to be safe than sorry! Make sure to always keep a first aid kit in your car in case of emergencies. Slick roads and ice storms make preparations for injury hard to predict.

By following these guidelines, your winter adventure should be a fun and carefree experience.However, should you get yourself into some trouble and need repairs from those other unprepared drivers, McDowells Specialty Repairs can help you out! We specialize in paint-less dent repair, paint scratch touch up, headlight restoration, window tinting, headliner replacement, upholstery repair, hard plastic dash and door panel damage.

(208) 378-1530