Winter Driving – Make a List, Check it Twice
No one wants to be stranded with no battery power and no jumper cables. Keep the necessary supplies with you, and check battery life before any winter driving. If you don’t have a multimeter or voltmeter, bring it to your auto repair shop for a full pre-winter driving check.
Running out of gas isn’t too bad in the summer because, worst case scenario, you can wait for a friend to bring over a couple gallons. In the winter, though, you’ll need some way to keep warm during that wait. Fuel is what allows your car to run and blow nice, cozy, hot air. So, don’t let the needle get to the “E.” In fact, keep it above a quarter tank if possible.
Coolant / Antifreeze
Always keep a 50-50 ratio of water to coolant in the radiator. Some may say, “Just go all in! 100% coolant!” But, the mix of water and coolant has a lower freezing point which is especially necessary for the cold season. When in doubt, check the freeze rating of the coolant you use at the gas station or by purchasing a device from your local auto part shop.
Does it really matter to have snow tires when you have all-wheel or four-wheel drive? Yes. Just because your car is built for somewhat inclement weather doesn’t mean seasonal tires won’t give you increased efficiency and control. Most cars encounter 30% better braking power with the right tires for winter. Also, tire pressure is critical. Your tires are rated for a particular pressure level, so keep it in that range. If you’re unsure, have the shop regulate it for you to be extra safe.
No one wants to be stuck in the middle of a downpour or snowstorm with old, poor-functioning wipers. Take a look at them as the seasons change, and replace them if needed. Glaring sun that’s lower on the horizon also means you want your windshield nice and clean for good visibility.
Obstructed views through any vehicle window is illegal in most states. Confirm that your defroster is functioning properly before it causes you to be late for work. This way, when your local police officer drives by, you’ll get a smile instead of spinning lights.
Have the shop look at your brakes so you’ll be set regardless of what mother nature throws at you. Know if you have anti-lock brakes or not because that changes how you’re supposed to drive in inclement weather which we’ll talk about next.
Take it Slow, Rudolph
Driving in the snow and ice is dangerous. If you can avoid it, do. But, if you must do some winter driving, follow these tips and techniques to be as safe as possible.
Use Snow Tires
Why? All-wheel or four-wheel drive are just helpful mechanisms but don’t guarantee the amount of traction needed for all bad weather. As stated earlier, you’ll have close to 30% better braking power with the proper tires.
When it’s snowing outside or there’s ice on the roads, passing should not be anyone’s highest priority. Make sure to leave plenty of space between you and other drivers and slow down before getting to intersections. That way, the light may turn green by the time you arrive so you don’t have to stop completely and start from a standstill. For the same reason, keep inertia for going uphill and brake lightly on the way down.
Know Your Brakes
Stomp on antilock brakes, pump on non-antilock brakes. Also, don’t use your emergency/parking brake if you can avoid it because it’s at a high risk of freezing when implemented.
Warming Up Your Car – Yes or No?
Some people think you must heat up the car before it can drive well. That’s not true. These days, cars are more technologically advanced and no longer rely on the engines being warmed up to go. However, it may help to have heat involved for defrosting. If you are going to heat up the car for this or any other reason, don’t do so in an enclosed space. This will prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
A Few Last Notes—
Always get enough sleep before taking the wheel, have a designated driver if you’re drinking, and keep your eyes peeled for pedestrians.
Winter driving may be daunting, but the necessary preparations go a long way to keep you and everyone else safe.
Happy Holidays and Safe Driving!