Hot or cold – double-check your vehicle

Mild temperatures last fall made it seem like winter was far off, but then ol’ Jack Frost came to town, sending chilly temperatures across the United States. Just recently, I was actually happy to see the thermometer reach 18 degrees.

We frequently discuss how quickly temperatures can reach dangerously high levels inside a parked vehicle during the summer months and the need to take extra care with children, pets and anything else that can easily become overheated. But what about items that should not be left in vehicles when temperatures plummet? Just like excessively warm temperatures, being stuck inside an unheated vehicle when temperatures are dangerously low can also have serious, unwanted consequences.

Regular stops at the pump should be first on your list when cold weather hits. I’ve previously cautioned about the need to keep fuel levels above half during winter months. Not only does it help to prevent fuel lines from freezing, it can also ensure you can keep your vehicle running long enough for help to arrive, should you find yourself in need. Being stuck is bad enough. Being stuck AND out of gas is dangerous.

While your tank should be full, checking to make sure the inside of your vehicle is empty once you reach your destination is also a good idea.

Of course you want to ensure people and pets are safe and warm inside the house, but if you’ve been out running errands and have a vehicle full of items you’ve gathered along the way, double-checking to make sure you have everything can save you time and money later.

For instance, forgotten groceries left to freeze can wreak potential havoc. Carbonated beverages (or any liquid, for that matter) and canned goods expand, breaking seals and making a mess if they’re not found until they start to thaw. A broken seal can also equate to spoiled contents, so if a can escapes and you find it later, it’s best to cut your losses and just throw that one away.

Frigid temperatures are not good for many kinds of medications, including both prescription and over-the-counter. If your errands included a trip to your pharmacy, make sure whatever medications you picked up along the way make it inside. If your medications are exposed to cold temperatures for a long period of time, check with your pharmacist to see how it might impact their effectiveness.

During the recent “bomb cyclone” that hit the northeast, my husband learned the hard way that cell phones operate the same in frigid temperatures as they do in extremely hot temperatures. He didn’t leave his phone in the car, but he did keep it with him while he was clearing the snow drifts from our driveway. The phone got way too cold and when he then jumped in the car to head off to work, he had to give his phone more warm-up time than both himself and the car!

This winter has already brought more cold-weather challenges than some of us care to consider and we still have many weeks to go. Hopefully, Punxsutawney Phil will be kind to us and bring us good news this year, but in the meantime, stay warm out there!