Road trips can be wonderful, fun experiences if planned and executed correctly. The best time of the year to go on a road trip is spring or fall when the weather is not too cold or hot, so you’re safe from extreme temperatures. However, you can also take a road trip when it’s cold, as long as you take some safety steps.
It’s too cold for a road trip when the temperature is below 32°F (0°C). The car battery starts to deteriorate at this temperature, which could cause your car to slow down or stop. This temperature is also unsafe for you if you get stranded in the middle of the road.
If you want to know more, stick around. I will show you what temperatures are too low for a road trip and answer some additional questions about road trips in low temperatures.
Minimum Safe Temperature For a Road Trip
When you go on a road trip, you’re prepared to drive for a long time amidst the possibility of getting stranded if you have an issue with your car. Getting stranded is always a worst-case scenario, but if you’re traveling in cold weather, it may be a nightmare situation.
Low temperatures can cause issues with the battery and other parts of your car, causing it to experience issues and even break down in the middle of the road. The real danger of the cold starts exactly when you get stranded, especially if you’re stuck without heating in low temperatures.
Generally, it’s recommended that you avoid road trips in temperatures lower than 32°F (0°C). At this temperature, the car battery can start to deteriorate and lose function, which may cause your car to stop working and leave you stranded.
The human body is at risk of hypothermia at this same temperature, even inside a car that’s turned off.
If you take some measures before starting the road trip, you may be able to withstand the low temperatures for a while, provided there are no storms around. However, you should avoid going on a road trip if you realize that the temperatures will go below freezing unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Tips For Traveling In Cold Weather
Sometimes, you might encounter below-freezing temperatures mid-trip, which means you can’t avoid or postpone your trip. If you can, you should find a place to stay until the temperatures rise, but that may not be an option.
When taking a road trip in low temperatures, keep in mind a few tips that can help you drive safely and get to your destination safe and sound:
- Drive slowly: Cold weather brings precipitation like rain or snow, resulting in dangerous icy roads. You must slow down to ensure you have control of your vehicle when you need to stop if the conditions are poor.
- Fill your tank often: You shouldn’t wait for the fuel light to come on before you refill your tank. During a road trip in cold temperatures, gas stations may be few and far between, so you should ensure your tank is always full to keep you warm even if you get stranded.
- Turn the cruise control off: Cruise control seeks to maintain a constant speed, but this could be very dangerous if your car suddenly slips on the ice. You should turn the cruise control off and drive slowly.
- Stay in your car: If your car breaks down in the middle of the road, try to go off any busy roads and stay inside your car. You should stay under a shelter in low temperatures and use extra layers to warm yourself up.
What To Do If You Must Take a Road Trip In Cold Weather
If there’s one thing to remember about road trips, it’s to plan everything.
A road trip requires careful planning of every step to ensure you reach the destination as fast as possible. Going during cold weather requires extra planning and precautions because the temperatures become significant obstacles.
Taking a road trip always includes the possibility of your car experiencing issues on the road, but during winter or the height of summer, this possibility is dangerous for your life, so you need to do careful planning.
Here’s what to keep in mind before starting your road trip.
Check the Weather Forecast
Before planning your trip, you should check the weather forecast for the duration of the road trip and the way back. If the weather service expects the temperatures to be below 40°F (10°C), you can proceed with planning but need to take extra measures to face the cold weather.
If the forecast says that the temperatures will go below freezing, you should postpone your trip to another time when the weather improves. Traveling in lower temperatures is possible, but it’s risky, so you shouldn’t try it unless you have to.
You should also pay attention to other elements of the weather besides temperature.
If the weather service forecasts storms, heavy rainfall, or strong winds, you should also reconsider taking your trip, even if the temperatures are above 40°F (10°C).
Check Your Car’s Condition
Your car’s condition is crucial for your road trip, so to ensure your vehicle can handle a long trip, you should take it to a professional for a check-up, but you can also do the check-up yourself if you know what to look for.
Here are some crucial elements that you need to pay attention to:
- The car battery should be able to handle low temperatures and long distances.
- The motor oil should be suitable for your season, so consider changing your oil before going on the road trip.
- The lights should all work perfectly, so change or fix any that seem dimmer than usual. You need to have perfect vision during the night, especially if it starts to rain or snow.
- The heater should be able to heat the car properly in below-freezing temperatures.
- The radiator should contain anti-freeze so that it doesn’t freeze in extremely low temperatures or boil during the height of summer.
- The tires should be appropriate for the trip and the weather. If all-season tires are not suitable for your destination, you should get other types of tires.
Before starting your trip, you should ensure that every element mentioned above is in top condition.
Plan Your Route Carefully
Today, people often start a trip with only a vague idea of the roads they will take, trusting the map of their car or phone to get to the destination.
However, these maps may often be inaccurate or stop working randomly, so you should know exactly where to go even if you don’t rely on online maps. You should study the road trip before you start to know exactly the route you need to take and the potential shortcuts and stops along the way.
In cold weather, you must choose a route with many potential stops that can help you stay somewhere for the night if the weather gets too harsh.
Make an Itinerary
When planning your route, calculate the time it will take you to travel from one place to another. You should consider that the cold affects your battery and, thus, the car’s ability to accelerate, so it may take longer to get to a certain place.
Also, remember that days are shorter during early spring or winter, so you must take advantage of daylight and stop at night. It’s dangerous to travel at night when it’s cold, because the temperatures drop significantly, making the road much more dangerous.
And, if you get stranded during the night, you will have to deal with much lower temperatures as you wait for help.
Let Someone Know Where You’re Going
If you’re planning on taking a solo trip, you should let someone know where you’re going and when you’re supposed to be back. This will ensure that someone will be aware of your situation if you get stranded somewhere, so they can ask for help.
Also, if you don’t check with your loved ones during your trip, they can call the authorities at your presumed destination so they can start looking for you. At least one person must know your plans, or you might become another fatal statistic.
Before taking a road trip, prepare for all kinds of scenarios you might face while traveling. You need to consider everything that might occur on the road and then prepare a list of items that will be helpful in different situations.
Even if the weather forecast is good or the trip is relatively short, you should have certain essential items to ensure you’re prepared for everything.
When traveling in cold weather, you should dress warmly, but in layers, including a t-shirt, hoodie, and winter coat. While the temperature inside your car should be too warm for a coat, you should at least have your winter coat in the car. And if you break down, you’ll at least be warm enough for a little while until you can get help.
Essential Items To Take On a Road Trip
To prepare for every possible scenario during a road trip, you should take a few different items with you and keep them in your car at all times.
Here are some essential things you may need during a road trip:
- Food and drinks: You should have a few different food and drinks to provide sustenance, especially if you get stranded in the cold.
- Jumper cables: The car battery experiences issues in the cold, so you need to pack jumper cables in your car to help you boost your dead battery.
- Extra clothes: During the night, the temperatures drop significantly, even during the summer. Having some warm clothes around ensures you stay warm in all situations.
- First aid kit: You’ll want to pack a fully stocked first aid kit to help in difficult situations.
- Car charger and power bank: It’s important to always keep your phone on to ask for help if necessary. A car charger and a power bank will always keep your phone charged.
- Flashlights: If your car stops working during the night, you’ll need to use a flashlight to check what’s wrong and signal other drivers to help you. Make sure the batteries of your flashlights are always full.
- Blankets: Extra clothes are great for a chill night during spring or summer, but you need to ensure you have something to keep you warm even if you get stranded in much lower temperatures.
- Cat litter: If the temperatures outside are below freezing, you may need cat litter to help your car get some traction if it gets stuck.
What To Do If You Get Stranded
No matter how cautious you are, you can get stranded during a road trip. Sometimes you may get lost and run out of gas, and other times your car may break down, so you should prepare for this scenario.
If you feel your car is about to die or break down, try to drive it to a side road so you can stop without endangering yourself or other people. Be sure to turn on your hazard lights while on the busy road to alert other drivers traveling your way.
When you’ve stopped, try calling for help. In most cases, you will be able to contact someone to help you with roadside assistance and get you to safety.
However, some areas have bad signals, so it could be difficult for you to ask for help. If you want to be fully prepared, you can purchase a satellite phone or a locator to alert others of your situation.
If you have none of the above options, you should stay with your vehicle. In low temperatures, you must find shelter and use everything you can to keep warm.
Don’t forget to eat and stay hydrated.
Before you take a road trip, you need to ensure that the temperatures won’t be below 32°F (0°C). Any temperatures lower than that can cause your vehicle to stop working and harm your well-being.
If you can’t avoid a trip in these lower temperatures, you should prepare for any situation. Keep food, drinks, and supplies in your car that can keep you warm and ensure that you will get help if you get stranded.
- Roadtrippers: Everything you need to know to take a winter road trip
- Solo Traveler World: Winter Road Trip Alone: 40 Essential Tips for Survival & Enjoyment
- Healthline: Hot and Cold: Extreme Temperature Safety
- The Points Guy: Buckle up: 11 tips for taking a safe winter road trip
- USA Today: Taking a road trip this winter? Don’t drive off until you go through this checklist
- The Manual: Here’s how to survive a road trip breakdown in the dead of winter
- Neste: The weather is extremely cold – take this into account when driving in the winter
- Venchas: How Cold Is Too Cold To Sleep In Your Car? Real Dangers Of Car Camping
- Firestone Complete Auto Care: Top 3 Things That Can Drain Car Batteries in Winter
- CDC: Hypothermia
- The Weather Channel: What Is Black Ice And Why Is It So Dangerous?
- Travel Artsy: Road Trip Safety — Driving in Stormy Weather
- GIS Lounge: Top Causes of Errors in Online Mapping Systems
- Village Dodge: Use Sand, Salt, or Kitty Litter to Help With Traction