In many parts of the country, winter means dealing with bad driving conditions. Whether you live in an area that gets a lot of rain, ice or snow or are planning a trip where there’s a good chance you’ll run into inclement weather, these tips can help you stay safe on the road.
- Check your tires to be sure they are in good shape and inflated properly. Cold temperatures cause tire pressure to drop, and low tires can negatively effect how your car handles.
- If you live where it snows, keep snow tires handy. In a pinch, two will be okay in most situations; mount them on the wheels driven by the engine. If you have to drive in heavy snow, even front-wheel and all-wheel drive cars need snow tires.
- See that your tires inflated properly for cold weather?
- If you use tire chains, apply them before you head out onto snowy roads.
- Make sure the gas tank is at least halfway full.
- Snow, ice and mud can clog the exhaust, so periodically check to make sure it’s clear. Otherwise, carbon monoxide gas can flow into the passenger area when the car is running.
- Running the engine and heater for a short while will conserve gas.
- The windshield wipers should be in good shape and the reservoir is full. Be sure to turn them off prior to shutting the engine down so the blades don’t freeze to the windshield over night.
- See that the rear window defroster is working.
- Have your car’s battery, charging system and belts checked to verify they’re in good working order.
- Ensure that the antifreeze is right for cold temperatures. Make it half coolant and half water for a lower freezing point than you’ll get with 100% coolant.
- In snow country, keep a few supplies in your car: snowbrush, ice scraper, extra windshield washer fluid just in case, a bag of sand for when you need to gain traction and a shovel. Also carry a blanket and extra winter clothes and boots.
On the Road
- Whether you’re accelerating or decelerating, do it slowly so you can maintain or regain traction and avoid skidding.
- When driving in wet conditions, following distance should be eight to ten seconds rather than the three to four seconds needed in dry conditions.
- Be careful when braking. With anti-lock brakes (ABS), press hard on the pedal when you need to stop suddenly. If you car doesn’t have ABS, keep your heel on the floorboard and apply the ball of your foot to the brake pedal, firmly and steadily.
- Avoid using the parking brake when it’s cold, raining or snowing.
- Driving uphill can be tricky on icy roads. If you hit the gas when going uphill, the wheels will spin. Get a good start on a flat surface before you go up and don’t stop as you’re going uphill. Going downhill, reduce speed as much as possible.
- If you skid, turn into it and regain control.
- Never use cruise control when you’re driving on a wet, icy or sandy surface.
If you need to drive in wintery conditions, these tips are good to follow. But, the best safety tip of all? If you can, just stay home.
Even when we’re careful on the road, accidents happen. Be sure you’re properly insured. Check out your options based on the type of vehicle you have.