We got our first taste of winter cold early this year. Whether the next run-in with freezing or snowy conditions takes weeks or months, it’s time to start preparing for the different driving conditions that winter brings Montana.

Whether you’re a resident or just visiting for some of the incredible winter activities Montana has to offer, discover some important things to consider before winter driving here.

1 – Test Your Battery

While some people think they just have bad luck with a car battery going out on what feels like the coldest day of the year, that’s not a coincidence. Colder temperatures actually work to lower the power output of even healthy batteries; bad car batteries could show their first signs of going out or even fail when going to start your car on a colder day.

While it’s never convenient to get your battery tested, remember that it certainly won’t feel fun to learn that your battery is going bad on a cold morning when you have somewhere to be. Get it checked while the weather is still favorable and you can avoid the hassle later on.

2 – Consider Snow Tires

If you haven’t invested in snow tires for your vehicle yet, we’d strongly recommend considering it. Keeping an extra set of tires that work well in the cold and snowy months on slick roads has some incredible benefits. You’ll feel the difference driving one of Montana’s highways when things get slick and likely feel glad you made the investment. Many local tire stores offer tire swap services to allow you to get your seasonal tires placed on the vehicle and removed after the coldest months. In general, we’d recommend having snow tires on from December to March in Montana.

3 – Check the Tread

Whether you’re working with snow tires or all-terrain tires (common year-round tires), you want to ensure that your tires have a tread depth of at least 2/32 of an inch. Again, many local tire stores are happy to check your tread depth for free and provide recommendations for tire replacement or rotation.

If you’re going to check the tires yourself, use a depth tread tool (not a penny, which is a common myth) and be sure to check the tread in the middle of the tire, not just the outermost edge, which could have less wear.

4 – Pack a Phone Charger

While there are plenty of things you’ll want to have with you in the event of an emergency during the colder months, the best thing we can recommend is a charged cell phone. While most drivers these days have their phones with them on pretty much every trip in the car, very few of us keep a car charger handy to ensure our phone is charged up and ready to use. This is a crucial thing to remember, as your phone can work to call for assistance, look up a service center or gas station, find an alternate route with GPS, and more. Assuming you have a signal and a charged battery, there’s nothing better to have in your vehicle in the event of an emergency.

5 – Prepare an Emergency Kit

In keeping with emergency protections, having a dedicated kit of things you could use in the event of an emergency within the vehicle is a great idea. These things are usually only useful in the event of an emergency but could be potentially lifesaving in the right conditions. When we consider Montana’s miles of two-lane highways in the cold, it doesn’t hurt to feel prepared for just about anything.

Here are some things we recommend your emergency kit includes:

  • Warm blankets
  • Jumper cables
  • Multipurpose tool
  • Spare tire, if possible
  • Compass
  • First aid kit
  • Drinking water
  • Traffic cones
  • Snowbrush
  • Cat litter or sand for traction
  • Dry foods, such as energy bars

6 – Double Check Documents

Unfortunately, more vehicle accidents occur during the snowy season. Here in Montana, not only do our drivers have potentially slick roads and other dangerous driving conditions, but we also have to contend with unfamiliar drivers visiting for winter tourism. So, one important thing to check for is your licensing, titling, and insurance coverage documentation to ensure you are compliant with all of the rules of the road. The last thing you want is to be far from home wishing you had a document or proof of coverage in the car with you.

We’re Here to Help

Get in touch with our team for assistance with your motor vehicle services, such as car registration, including title fees or transfers, as well as driver’s license services for first-time drivers and renewals alike. Our team in Billings is here to help with any motor vehicle services or questions to ensure you’re ready for the road.

Contact us today for help, including current wait times.