At the time of this writing, the world is gripped in a pandemic and there is little else on the news. Nevertheless, time moves forward and we are approaching the dreaded hurricane season (we needed some good news, right?). It’s coming whether we like it or not.
Rather than be caught unaware, now is the time to prepare for hurricane season, which begins around the beginning of June. I live in Florida, so I take this very seriously because I hate hurricanes. So, how do you prepare your car for a hurricane?
- Perform routine vehicle maintenance
- Check and top off all fluids
- Make sure you have a full gas tank and a reserve if possible
- Find a safe and secure place to park
- Gather supplies you will need (don’t forget supplies for pets and babies)
- Plan your evacuation route
- Stay informed
- Be Safe
How to Prepare Your Car for a Hurricane…
Hurricane season doesn’t surprise us. Each year it comes around May or June and lasts until November. This year is 2020 is supposed to be more active than last year was. So, with a little over a month left before the beginning of hurricane season, now is the time to prepare your vehicle to weather the storm.
Normal Vehicle Maintenance
When the storm is bearing down on you, it’s too late to be checking your oil and washer fluid to make sure things are topped off. But more than that, overall an overall general checkup of your car is in order. This includes:
- Bulbs – Checking all the bulbs in your vehicle, you want to make sure that your headlights are working
- Windshield Wipers – Perhaps most important on this list are the windshield wipers, now is the time to replace them. Also, if you need to learn how to turn them on and off read here :).
- Tire Air Pressure – Make sure your tires are at the optimal air pressure
- Spare Tire – check your spare tire, make sure it has the proper air pressure and in sound working order.
- Battery – If you are not sure how old your battery is, take it to someplace like Autozone to have it tested. A battery lasts only three to five years, so if you know it’s older, it may be a good time to replace it.
- Shocks and struts – the suspension of your car, if you have to evacuate, again, you want to make sure that your car is up to the task.
- Brakes – (replace the brakes only if it needs to be done). If the brakes have been squeaky for a little while now and you have been putting off getting them fixed, now might be the time.
Some of these items will require the services of a mechanic to be done. Namely the brakes and suspension. That is why you want to take the time now to fix these things because there will be plenty else to do when the storm is approaching.
Also, make sure you remove any external accessories such as a bike rack or antennae. Anything, that can be ripped off your car by sustained high winds. This will damage your car and could become a projectile that will hurt someone else.
Checking the bulbs, windshield wipers and spare tire are all things that you can do yourself to make sure that your car is ready to go. But this isn’t all that needs to be done. You must make sure all of your fluids are topped off. Let’s run down a list of these things.
These essential fluids should be topped off well ahead of any storms that might be approaching. These will keep your car running smoothly, just in case you meet an emergency situation.
- GAS – A few days before the storm, fill your tank up! Trust me, I will explain later.
- Oil – as mentioned in several places on this site. Oil is the lifeblood of the car, if you don’t have enough, your car will leave you stranded.
- Coolant – Coolant will keep your car from overheating. Make sure that your radiator reservoir tank is full
- Transmission Fluid – this often gets forgotten, but here is a quick video showing how to check your transmission fluid. See the video below
- Windshield Washer Fluid – this should go without saying
- Brake Fluid – another fluid that doesn’t get a lot of attention, but should be checked occasionally. If there is not enough, your car won’t brake properly.
- Power Steering Fluid – you’ll know when this is low. It will become noticeably more difficult to steer your car.
How to check your transmission fluid:
Similarly, checking the brake fluid is easy too:
So this is a brief overview of how to prepare the mechanics of your car. Most of this you can take care of yourself, some of it will require professional help. In any case, if you get it done now, you will be ahead of the game.
Lastly, take pictures of your car before the storm. Make sure that there is a timestamp on for proof. The burden of proof will be on you to show that your car sustained damage during the storm.
Okay, so we’ve taken care of maintenance and fluids, now what do you do with your car. You could evacuate, or you can try to ride out the storm. If you decide to ride the storm out; what precautions do you need to take?
Why do you need gas in your car during a hurricane?
There are two basic reasons why you want to have gas in your car BEFORE a hurricane.
- Just in case you need to go; you can go. You don’t want to have to stop at a gas station when you are trying to flee an oncoming storm. Not to mention having to deal with all the other people trying to leave the same area. Have gas in your tank and a reserve if you can do it.
- Power outages. A hurricane may knock out power to your favorite gas station. Ergo you will not be able to get gas AFTER the storm.
There is no shortage of news coverage of an approaching storm. A few days ahead of time go and fill your tank up, you will be thankful that you did.
Where Do You Park A Car During A Hurricane?
Well, there is no one set answer to this question. It really depends on where you live and what is available to you. The safest place to park is in a garage, assuming of course that the garage can withstand a hurricane itself. If you do park in a garage, make sure that the doors and windows are braced for the high winds.
Now we all don’t have garages to park in, and some of us have garages that can’t fit a car. So, what do you do then? I park my cars parallel with my house and get as close to the house as I can. With this setup, the house and the cars kind of, sort of protect each other from the wind.
If you do have to park outside there are a few other things to keep in mind. The wind is not the only element that you need to be concerned with. Floodwaters are even more destructive, and there is very little you can do about them. So, if you do have to park outside, find the highest point and park there. That will reduce the risk of having flood waters damage your car.
As you are parking your car on the high ground; be aware of what is around you. An area that has a lot of lamp posts or power poles may not be the best area to park. They can just as easily be knocked down on top of your car.
One last thing that you can do is reinforce your windows with masking tape. I personally haven’t done this, but some swear it will help protect your windows.
After you make sure that all of your windows, including the sunroof, are secured then apply the tape in a criss-cross pattern over the window. Supposedly, this will help reinforce the window against high winds and debris.
Keep in mind, too, that open-air or pole barn-like structures are not ideal parking areas for cars. They offer little protection from flying debris and could easily be brought down on top of your car, defeating the purpose. It is recommended to park close up against solid buildings as mentioned above.
Some of you may be thinking ‘that’s great, but I don’t live out in the suburbs. I am in the city, where am I going to park my car’? This is a good question, and you can take most of the precautions that I have mentioned here, but there is one thing that you have that we in the country don’t. Parking garages.
Is a Parking Garage Safe During A Hurricane?
That depends on where you are in the parking garage and if the parking garage is hurricane ready. If you decide to go this route, parking garages that are inside malls or have several levels of elevated parking are ideal. These are structurally sound for the most part and offer some protection from flying debris.
Now the bad news, many of these garages are NOT public so please make sure that they are open to you before parking there. Please stay informed as to your local area to see if any of the owners of these garages will open them to the public. If they do, they are as safe as anyplace, just make sure that you are up high enough to avoid any floodwaters.
One last thing to keep in mind is that you will be separated from your car if you decided to park in a parking garage. If you need to get out or have an emergency this could leave you in a bad spot.
Items You Will Need For Your Vehicle…
Above we discussed what you need to do to your vehicle to make sure that it is in proper working order. Now we will discuss some things that you need with your vehicle in order to safely ride out a storm.
- Emergency car kit
- Emergency supplies (Foodstuffs)
- Phone Charger
- Power inverter
- Baby Supplies
- Go Bag
- Copies of Insurance Paperwork
- Car Cover
Emergency Car Kit
You never know what you will be dealing with before, during, or after a storm. Here is a brief list of things that, at a minimum, you should have in your emergency car kit. There is a comprehensive list of items to include in an emergency car kit for winter over here.
I know we are not in winter now but many of the basics can be used year-round. Here are a few that you should have with you:
- First Aid Kit
- Tool Kit
- Pocket Knife
- Jumper Cables or Battery Jump Starter
- Emergency Flares
- Fix -A – Flat or some other tire sealant
- Pen and Paper
- Paper Map
- Medications you may need
I know it’s a lot of stuff and daunting to look at, but you never know what you will need.
Your cell phone is so important, but it doesn’t do any good if it’s not charged. You should have not only your AC wall charger and USB cord. Have a charger that plugs directly into your vehicle’s power supply.
Also, it doesn’t hurt to have a small portable battery that can be used as a power source. I purchased one for the first hurricane we lived through. Even if you don’t have to leave your house, it’s good if you lose power.
These are handy devices. We also have one of these in the car to run my son’s nebulizer. It converts your car’s power supply into an A/C current that your typical household items would run on.
You can use this to charge your phone, or even power an electronic device to keep the kid’s entertained while you gather your thoughts.
This is a nice option if you need a backup power supply.
I have three kids, I know what it’s like to try to take care of a baby on the road. It’s not easy on a normal road trip or vacation. Having a baby while you are trying to prepare your car for a hurricane can be scary.
However, by taking care of things ahead of time, it’s one less thing you need to worry about when the season comes. So what are some things that you should have in a baby go-bag? Just a place to start, but obviously, assess your own situation:
- Changes of clothes
- Wash Clothes
- Hand Sanitizer (kid-safe of course)
- Insert whatever else you NEED here…
Babies require so much more than we do and we want to take care of them to the best of our ability. By preparing ahead of time you can be sure that your baby is taken care of.
Your Own Personal Go Bag
Well, you have taken care of the car and the kids, now you need to take care of yourself. Make sure you have your own personal go bag ready to grab.
Ready.gov gives some suggestions of things that you want to keep supplied if you have to evacuate.
Insurance isn’t sexy and it’s a pain to deal with, but if you don’t have it you’re screwed. Make a call to your car insurance company to make sure that your car will be covered in case something happens.
This is where taking pictures ahead of time becomes more clear. If your car does sustain damage from the storm it will be easier to prove.
This is self-explanatory. If you don’t have a garage to park in and you want to avoid an open-air car shelter, a car cover will offer some protection. There may be debris, dirt, sand, and stones being blown around by high winds.
A car cover will offer some protection from these elements. Not to mention protection from saltwater if you live close to the coast. A car cover is relatively inexpensive compared to having bodywork done on your car.
Hurricanes are stressful enough when you are prepared for them. Taking care of your car ahead of time will help relieve some of that stress. Most of the items on this list can be completed in the afternoon.
So, check all your fluids and have any repairs done that you need, now. Call your insurance company to make sure that you are covered. Stock up on the supplies that you need now. Hurricane season is coming whether we like it or not, you might as well be ready and be safe.