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How to Drive in Utah’s Weather Conditions

Here's what you need to know...
  • If you live in Utah or plan to travel through the state, it is important to be prepared for its weather conditions
  • Utah can experience many weather extremes from extreme heat to several inches of snow
  • Having the necessary supplies and a well-maintained vehicle as well as extra time and patience will help to maintain your safety on winter roads
  • Making sure you have an auto policy that meets your budget and your driving needs in Utah is important

Utah became a state on January 4, 1896. It is home to the largest saltwater lake in the western hemisphere and widely known for its ski slopes and rock formations.

Commonly referred to as the Beehive state, Utah saw the completion of the first transcontinental railroad which joined the Union and Central Pacific Railroads at Promontory Summit.

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Weather in Utah

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The Northern Wasatch Mountains in Utah receive more than 60 inches of annual precipitation while the Great Salt Lake Desert averages less than 5-inches each year.

Spring can offer both extremes of the weather spectrum in Utah. It can be warm and sunny one moment and snowing the next. Utah summers feature warm days and warm nights. Fall brings in some thunderstorms with cooler nights.

Depending on location, Utah can see several inches of snow in the winter.

In fact, Utah is no stranger to strange weather events. In January of 2013, there was plenty of upside down snow storms where the valleys received more snow than the mountains. That same winter brought freezing rain and several inversions.

January Utah temps can range from 46 degrees F to 9 degrees F, depending on what region you are in.

March temps range from 67 to 23 degrees F, May temps average between 86-41 degrees F, July temps are usually between 102 and 48 degrees F, September temps range from 93 to 39 degrees F, while November averages are between 65 and 18 degrees F.

Prep Your Car

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Whether you are a Utah native, new to the state, or just traveling through, you should be prepared to drive in the winter conditions that drivers often experience in this state. Making sure your car is safe and ready as well as having the right supplies can make all the difference.

– Check Fluid Levels

You can’t expect your car to perform well for you in bad weather if you do not take care of it first. At the end of autumn, you should check all of your vehicle’s fluids.

Maintaining the right amount of antifreeze and engine coolant is essential to making sure your engine doesn’t freeze.

Check the owner’s manual to your vehicle to find out how to check all of your fluid levels and how to add more fluid if necessary. Luckily, adding antifreeze is pretty simple and easy in most vehicle types.

– Tires

If you anticipate doing a lot of winter driving, you may want to consider putting snow tires on your vehicle or even purchasing a vehicle with 4-wheel drive. Before the first snowflake hits the ground, check your tire pressure and be sure they are filled with air to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Additionally, you will want to check the tread on your tires. A simple test to do so is commonly known as the “Lincoln test”. Take a penny and insert it into the tread of your tires with Lincoln’s head pointing inward at the tire.

If you can see all of his head, it is time to replace your tires before winter.

– Lights and Wipers

Now is a good time to make sure your windshield wipers are doing their job correctly.

You can try rubbing the edges with sandpaper to help smooth them out or they may need to be replaced altogether. You should also check your headlights, blinkers, and brake lights to ensure they are all in good working order. If you any of them need to be replaced, do so as soon as possible.

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Stash an Emergency Kit

The single most important step you can take for your own personal safety is to pack a winter supply box and keep it in your vehicle. Having this kit on hand can determine whether or not you survive in some extreme conditions.

During the winter months in Utah, it is a good idea to also keep your gas tank at least half full so that you are prepared for any emergencies you may encounter. What to pack in a winter supply box for your vehicle:

  • Flashlight with spare batteries
  • Road flares
  • First aid kit
  • Warm blankets
  • Warm clothing that would fit the driver
  • Extra pairs of warm gloves that are waterproof
  • A radio
  • A bag of sand or kitty litter for tire traction
  • An ice scraper or two
  • High energy snacks that have a long shelf life such as jerky or nuts
  • Bottled water

You can store these items in a large plastic container.

Some drivers prefer to take the kit out and leave it in their garage during the warmer months of the year. If you choose to do this, make sure you set a reminder to put it back in your car prior to the first snowfall of the season. You can also purchase pre-packaged kits.

What to Do in Certain Weather Conditions in Utah

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In addition to being prepared with the right supplies and fully-maintained winter-weather vehicle, knowing how to drive in the various weather conditions you may experience in Utah will make life much easier.

In general, you should always let someone know where you are going and keep a fully charged cell phone on hand for any problems or emergencies.

If you do not have to go out in poor driving conditions, stay home and wait until conditions are safer and the roads have been cleared of snow and ice.

If a chain law is in effect for an area you need to drive in, be sure to comply. Not doing so can lead to natural consequences as well as legal consequences. Allow yourself extra time to get where you need to go and be patient.

Here are some specific driving tips for each weather condition:

– Snow or Icy Roads

First, be sure to turn your lights on. Drive at slower speeds as it can take much longer to come to a complete stop on roads that are covered in snow or ice.

You should also watch for other vehicles that may have lost control. If your tires begin to skid, let off of the brakes and the accelerator. Simply steer in the direction that you are skidding as steering in the opposite direction can cause you to spin.

– Fog

During periods of fog, you will want to ensure that you have your lights on and are giving yourself extra time to slow down and stop since your visibility will be reduced.

– Rain

Rain also requires the use of headlights. Be aware that rain can make the roads slicker, especially within the first 30 minutes or so of rainfall as any oil on the roads will be released.

Use your windshield wipers as needed and give yourself plenty of room and time to stop if you need to put on your brakes for any reason.

– Extreme heat

If you know you will be driving in extreme heat, be prepared with plenty of water for you and for your vehicle. Fill up your gas tank and try to keep it at least half full during trips, as gas stations may experience power outages during intense heat.

Comprehensive Coverage

While most people think about their car being damaged in a car accident, your car can be damaged in other ways as well. Collision covers damages caused in an accident, while comprehensive car insurance is important for other types of damages.

Comprehensive coverage can come into play if you hit wildlife or your vehicle is stolen, vandalized, or damaged by a fire, flooding or natural disaster. Most financed and leased vehicles are required to have both collision and comprehensive coverage.

Roadside Assistance

Sometimes the unexpected can happen on the road. If you find yourself or other drivers in a limb or life-threatening situation, call 911 immediately.

If you are in need of assistance but do not need emergency help, having roadside assistance through your auto insurance company can help.

With roadside assistance, you can call and have help arrive if your car won’t start, you locked your keys in your vehicle, you ran out of gas, or need some other type of vehicle assistance.

Comparison Shopping for Auto Insurance

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No matter where you live or travel and no matter what type of vehicle you own, you likely want to pay the best possible price on your auto insurance policy.

Shopping around and comparing rates and policies is the best way to ensure you are paying the lowest price for a policy that is right for you and your situation. You can use an online price comparison tool to easily and quickly compare rates.

In fact, you can enter your zip code below now to find the best rates on car insurance in your area!

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