Driving in the Snow: Tips to Keep You Safe

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Driving in the Snow: Tips to Keep You Safe

Tips And Checklist To Make Winter Driving Safer, Including An Emergency Kit List

In most parts of the US, driving in the snow is a fact of life during the winter months. While it can be frustrating and challenging, staying safe while behind the wheel is important. Here are some tips to help you stay safe while driving in the snow.

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 Preparing Your Car for Winter Checklist

Breakdowns on bitterly cold winter days are more than inconvenient; get your car serviced. You or your mechanic need to check the following items.

  •  Check for any leaks and repair the cause.
  •  Check hoses and belts for cracks and deteriorating rubber. Replace if indicated.
  •  Clean battery and battery cables of any corrosion. Tighten battery cable connections. Check battery fluid level. Have your mechanic check for sufficient battery voltage and the voltage regulator. Always keep your battery fully charged. Recharge and replace as needed.
  • Check the antifreeze level with an antifreeze tester. First, make sure it is a 50 percent mix of antifreeze to water. Next, check your car manual for recommendations that may be different. Next, please read the label on your antifreeze container for how cold it may get and still be efficient. Finally, check your reserve tank and fill it to the level indicated.
  • Have your mechanic check the radiator for any leaks. Then, flush the radiator as recommended by your owner’s manual. Old coolant breaks down and fails.
  •  Check the oil level and change the oil if it is time. Consider using a lighter, “winter weight” oil. Refer to your owner’s manual for information.
  • Check the functioning of wipers and blades. If streaks appear, it is time to replace the blades.
  • Fill the windshield washer reservoir with a special blend guaranteed not to freeze to 30 degrees below. Keep extra in the car. Car talk recommends adding a concentrate to your fluid in areas with extreme weather conditions.
  • Check window defrosters both front and back, as well as your heater. If they fail or produce less heat than expected, have your mechanic check the thermostat and heater.
  •  Check the condition of the ignition wire and the distributor cap for cracks.
  • Have a mechanic thoroughly check your exhaust system. Carbon monoxide is deadly.
  • Have your brake system and your four-wheel drive checked by a mechanic.
  •  Check tire pressure frequently during cold weather. Air contracts during cold weather, and additional air may be needed. Check tires for worn areas and insufficient thread (must be at least 1/16 inch).
  • Use snow tires. Car talk advises that if you can only afford two tires, install them on wheels that steer the car. Four-wheel drive vehicles need four matching tires.
  • Check that there is only one-floor mat. Do not place rubber mats over carpet floor mats. Mats may get jammed under the brake or gas pedals.

Driving in the Snow be Prepared to be Safe

Check for local weather conditions using the state DOT site or calling 511. If conditions are poor-such as low visibility or winter storms are eminent, evaluate if the trip is necessary. Leaving earlier than usual will allow you extra driving time.

  • Warm up the car. Turn on the car’s heater and defrosters to prevent sudden fogging. Back your car out of the garage. Do not warm a vehicle inside a garage.
  • Remove snow and ice from all windows, mirrors, and off all car surfaces, including the roof, hood, and trunk. Blowing snow from your car may block your vision.
  • Check the car fuel level and never allow it to drop below half a tank. Have a full tank if driving a distance. Stalls and slow traffic may use more fuel than planned. If your car is electric, charge your car overnight.
  • Don’t use alcohol window deicers. They will later cause sudden icing of the windshield when the alcohol evaporates.
  • Check to see if your emergency kit is in the car and supplied. See a suggested list below.
  • Check to see if you have your cell phone (already charged) and car charger before pulling away.
  • Have everyone on the trip take his hats, mittens, scarves, and boots.
  • On a bad weather day, let someone know where you are going, what route you are taking, and when you expect to arrive. Then, alert them when you get to your destination safely.
  • Super fluffy material on your young ones may keep them warm but interfere with proper seat belt use. Instead, use thinner outerwear and have a blanket to wrap around them once they are secured in their safety seat.
  • Have everyone wear safety belts
  • Consider downloading this helpful app called “Winter Survival Kit.”

Winter Driving Emergency Kit

Store these in a tub in your car.

Driving in the Snow Tips

  • Turn on your headlights.
  • Read your car manual for recommended actions to take if your car goes into a skid.
  • Know your car. Go to an empty lot during daylight hours and practice steering and braking. See how your car responds and how to control skids.
  • Snow glare can be blinding. So carry a pair of sunglasses with you on bright days.
  • The speed limit posted is for dry payment. You need to adjust your speeds to road conditions. Go slow on icy roads.
  • Know what brake system you have. If you have ABS, apply firm pressure and hold when braking. If you don’t have ABS, pump your brakes.
  • Don’t make your four-wheel drive an off-road vehicle on icy roads. The four-wheel drive helps when attempting to pull away when stuck but does not help with braking on icy roads.
  • Apply slow pressure to the gas pedal while accelerating. Allow more space between you and oncoming cars when pulling out in traffic.
  • Maintain a greater distance between you and the car in front of you than you usually do to allow for braking. Use two car lengths or more for every ten mph you are traveling. Ice can increase braking times by ten.
  • Be super careful in areas known to be icy intersections, shaded areas, bridges, underpasses, and off-ramps.
  • Passing snow plows is not advised. They kick up snow and may temporarily blind you.

Winter Driving Emergency Tips

The worse has happened, and you find yourself stalled or stuck. Stay calm and do the following.

  • Stay in the car.
  • Mark your car. Apply a banner or flag to your vehicle. Use flares or road hazard markers.
  • You can use the shovel and kitty litter to attempt to dig the car out. Don’t overheat yourself to the point you get sweaty. Wet clothing feels cold.
  • Use your car’s emergency flashers on well-traveled roads. If not, only turn it on when there is oncoming traffic.
  • Run your car for only short periods to warm it up. When your vehicle is running, turn on the dome light. Remove the dome light cover so the light will be more visible.
  • Periodically check exhaust pipe and radiator for clogging by snow and remove.
  • Removing snow from car surfaces, particularly windows, makes the car more visible. So if you have a roof-top satellite beacon, always keep it free of snow.
  • If two or more people are traveling together, one should always be awake. If alone, stay awake.
  • When leaving the car, to remove snow, tie a cord to yourself and the steering wheel; it is easy to get disorientated in blowing snow.

Stay safe; it is cold out there!

Sources:
AAA| Winter Driving Tips
Car Talk| Winter Driving Tips

What do I do as a first-time
Driver in the snow?

Many people find driving in snow for the first time to be a daunting experience. The key is to take things slowly and be prepared for the unexpected. Start by ensuring your car is in good working order, with tires that have good tread and are appropriate for winter driving conditions. It’s also a good idea to keep a shovel and some sand or kitty litter in the trunk in case you get stuck. When driving, go slowly and avoid sudden stops or turns. And be sure to give yourself plenty of space between you and the car in front of you, as it can take longer to brake on snow-covered roads.

How do you handle front-wheel
drive in snow?

Driving a front-wheel drive (FWD) car in snow can be challenging, but it is possible with the right technique. First, ensure your tires are properly inflated and have good tread. Second, start slowly, and avoid sudden stops or turns. Third, use a low gear to maintain traction when driving up a hill. If you start to slip, turn in the direction of the skid. Finally, take care when braking, as it can be easy to lock up the wheels on an FWD car. By following these tips, you can safely navigate snowy roads in an FWD car.

How slow should you
drive in snow?

When driving in snow, it is essential to go slowly. This allows you to have more control over your car and avoid skidding. Avoiding sudden stops is important, as this can cause your car to slide on the snow. If you need to stop, do so gradually by gently pressing down the brake pedal. Remember that it takes longer to stop on snow than it does on dry pavement, so give yourself extra time to come to a stop. Finally, keep your headlights and taillights clear of snow so that you are more visible to other drivers. Following these tips can help ensure a safe and enjoyable driving experience in the snow.

Other sources you may find helpful:

Weekly Car Care

Gifts for the Car Buff

If you have any questions or comments, please share them below.

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