Some people love winter. They love the snow, the snap in the air, the short days and cozy nights at home. Others can’t stand it, for many of the same reasons. Regardless of whether you love it or hate it, though, chances are you’re going to have to get out and drive in it at some point. We’ve got a few suggestions to help you through the winter safely:
• Make sure you’ve got a well-maintained car. This includes fresh windshield wipers, proper tire inflation, a strong battery, a properly-maintained cooling system and a fresh oil change. If your tires aren’t up to the job of winter driving, you might consider switching to winter tires for a while – just
remember to switch back when temperatures get above 40 degrees. The softer tread compound of winter tires will wear quickly in warmer temperatures.
• Make sure your car is thoroughly de-iced before you go anywhere. Hot water might seem tempting because it’s quicker…but it’s also almost guaranteed to crack your windshield, and room-temperature water is likely to just freeze again. Don’t just carve a hole to see out of; make sure your whole windshield is clear. And don’t forget the roof! In many areas it’s actually illegal to take off with a mattress-sized pile of snow and ice on the roof of the car, waiting to fly off and hit other motorists.
• Pack a trouble bag. A good selection of items for a trouble bag would include a sweater, socks, gloves, cap, first-aid kit, flashlight, Leatherman-style multi-tool, duct tape, high-protein snacks and highway flares. If you have room, it’s also a good idea to carry a bag of sand or kitty litter as a traction aid if you get stuck.
Now, for the actual driving tips…
• Do everything more slowly. Snow changes the responsiveness and drivability of your vehicle. Drive more slowly, allow more room between you and the next vehicle, brake more slowly, use the gas sparingly and anticipate turns well in advance.
• If you go into a skid, don’t panic. Don’t stomp the brake or do anything drastic. Correct the skid by turning in the same direction as the skid, ease off the gas and get the car back under control again.
• If the roads are icy, stay home if you possibly can. No vehicle does well on ice. If you can’t avoid getting out, just be even more careful than you would on snow.