How to Get Your Car Ready for Hurricane Season

When you're prepping for hurricane season, it's easy to get caught up in protecting your house and making sure you're stocked with basic supplies. You may totally forget about your car. This is a mistake — in a natural disaster, your car might be your saving grace.

If you get caught in extreme weather, having a stocked, maintained, and ready-to-go vehicle can make all the difference in getting you to safety. Here's how you can prepare your car for hurricane season. (See also: What Hurricane Maria Taught My Family About Life, Money, and Community)

1. Keep it maintained

Before hurricane season starts, do a basic maintenance check. Get the oil changed, top off the wiper fluid, check the tire pressure, and clean the battery terminals. If you're mechanically inclined and have the tools, you can do these tasks yourself; while you do, check some other basics. Otherwise, take it to your mechanic to get an oil change and an inspection.

Consider also checking:

  • Age and alignment of tires

  • Windshield wipers

  • The spare tire

  • Age of battery

  • Fluids: wiper fluid, coolant, oil

  • Condition of hoses and belts

  • The air conditioning/heating system

If you've been putting off a car repair due to time or budget constraints, it's time to dig in and make it happen. You need reliable transportation. Schedule a time to take your car in as soon as you can. (See also: Bookmark This: Easy to Follow Car Maintenance Checklist)

2. Keep it fueled

Think about how much fuel you can safely store. In inclement conditions, gas becomes a high-demand item quickly. Keep your car's tank above the halfway mark until hurricane season is over. Buy a gas can or two and keep them filled, and follow these basic safety rules:

  • Only use approved containers, and store them outside or in your garage or shed.

  • Keep them away from children, and don't store them near pilot lights or ignition sources.

  • Don't store gas indefinitely; it goes bad.

  • Periodically use what's in the cans to fill your car, and then refill the cans.

3. Keep it insured

Make sure your auto insurance is up to date. Print out a copy of your policy information and keep it tucked in the glove box of your car. It might not be easy to access your personal files if you have to evacuate. With your insurance information on hand, even if your car is damaged, you can start the coverage process immediately.

4. Keep it stocked

The next move in prepping your car for hurricane season is to consider what you might need if you have to quickly evacuate, or if you're not able to reach your house for some time.

You can purchase a pre-packed emergency kit, or make your own emergency kit. Stock your kit with first-aid and any medication that your family members might need.

Here are some other smart items to include:

  • Solar-powered lights

  • Portable water filter or water purification tablets

  • Strong flashlight with extra batteries

  • Power inverter

  • Battery-powered fan

  • Blankets

  • Battery packs for your mobile devices

  • Ponchos for every member of the family

  • Small toys and games for children

It's also a good idea to have a couple of quarts of oil on hand, so you can top off your oil, if needed. Check that you have everything for changing a tire, too: a tire iron, a jack, and (of course) a spare tire. A good set of jumper cables is also a must. If you don't need them, chances are someone else will. Weathering a storm is all about helping one another.

5. Prep for meals and clothes

Keep some food basics in your car, as well. Start with bottled water, then add some nonperishable items that won't be damaged by heat. Dried fruit, nuts, beef jerky, and crackers work well. Protein gels can be helpful, too. The goal is maximum nutrition for minimal space.

You might have already packed a go-bag for each person in your family, kept in your home. Consider packing a family version as well to keep in the car: one duffel bag that can stay in the trunk. For every member of the family, include two (or more) sets of clothes, a pair of sturdy shoes, extra socks, basic hygiene supplies, and a copy of identification. Finally, include a prepaid mobile phone, a short list of important phone numbers, and a paper map with evacuation routes for your area highlighted. (See also: 13 Essentials Every Emergency Bag Should Have)

6. Stash some cash

Don't forget about money. Hurricanes and tropical storms can damage telecommunication lines and towers; if that happens, you might not be able to get cash from an ATM or even from your bank until repairs are completed. Keep a stash of cash hidden safely in your car. Consider at least $200 per person, if possible.

7. Look for shelter

The incredibly strong winds that come with a hurricane can cause all sorts of things to fly through the air. If you're going to wait out the weather, park your car in a sheltered area. A covered garage is best.

If that's not available, secure a tarp over your car to protect the paint. Parking it close to a building can provide some shelter from wind, but beware of balconies or signage that might fall off and damage your car.

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