Winter Driving… Don’t let it get the Best of You!

By: Kurt Buesching | January 25, 2012

We helped you get your car ready with Quick Tips to Get Your Car Winter Ready!

Now that your car is ready for the snow… what about you? Do you know the basics of driving in snow and ice?  The number one rule when the weather gets bad is to not drive at all. However, that is not always an option, so if you must go out, be careful and be prepared. When the weather gets bad, anything can and will happen, so be ready.

Here are a few helpful tips to keep you safe this winter. First, try and wait until the snow plows and sand/salt trucks have had a chance to get onto the roads. If they are not out yet, you probably should not risk it. Once you are ready to head out, give yourself extra driving time. Be sure to take it slowly and modify your speed according to the road conditions.

With the snow comes ice. And there is nothing worse then driving on snow and ice covered roads. If you find yourself in these conditions, try and adhere to the following:

  • Take it slow. Reduce your speed and give yourself plenty of drive time.
  • Give yourself plenty of room to stop. It will take you 2-3 times longer to stop then in dry conditions.
  • Don’t slam on your brakes. This will send you sliding. Instead, brake gently.
  • Turn your lights on to ensure you are more visible.
  • Have your windshield fluid full so you can keep the windshield clear.
  • Be mindful that bridges and overpasses freeze earlier then other roads and use caution.
  • Avoid infrequently used roads. They will be plowed last and have more hazardous driving conditions.
  • Don’t be fooled by your cars capabilities. Even cars, trucks and SUV’s with 4-wheel drive can encounter issues when driving in snowy and icy conditions.

 

Pretty much everyone has been in that terrible moment where you find your car sliding on icy roads. What do you do? Well, that depends…

If it is your rear wheels that are sliding, take your foot off the accelerator and steer in the direction that your back wheels are going. If you have standard breaks, pump them gently. If you have anti-lock breaks, DO NOT pump them. Just keep steady pressure and you will feel them pulse on their own.

If it is your front wheels that are skidding, take your foot off the accelerator do not try to correct the vehicle. As you slide sideways, the car will slow down and traction should return. Then, steer in the direction you want to go and gently apply the gas. Do not slam on your brakes as that will only make the sliding worse.

Even with the best instructions, you still may find yourself off the road and stuck. If that happens, follow these simple steps:

  • Remain calm. You will be able to think better with a clear head.
  • If you have a cell phone, dial 911 and let the dispatcher know of the situation and where you are located.
  • Do not spin your wheels; that will only get you stuck deeper.
  • Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.
  • Try and gently press on the gas to see if the car will move.
  • Do not exit the car unless it is safe to do so.
  • Try and shovel snow from away from the tires.
  • Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels to help with traction.
  • Try rocking the vehicle. Shift from forward to reverse, and back again. Each time you’re in gear, lightly press down on the gas. This will not work with all vehicles and can even damage some, so be sure to check your owner’s manual.
  • Stay with your car until help arrives.

 

There may be a time when you find yourself stranded with no way of getting help. Maybe you cell phone is dead or has no signal. In this worst-case scenario, try these tips:

  • Remain calm.
  • Take stock of what you have in your vehicle. (See our article Quick Tips to Get Your Car Winter Ready! for tips on what you should have available in your vehicle).
  • Do not leave your car unless you know exactly where you are, how far it is to get to help and that conditions are favorable enough that you will make it safely.
  • Try and attract attention by setting up roads flares or building a signal fire (a safe distance from your vehicle).
  • Hang a brightly colored cloth from your antenna.
  • As long as the exhaust pipe is clear, run the heater for about 10 minutes every hour to warm up. This is dependent on how much gas you have.
  • Put all extra clothing on and wrap up in a blanket to prevent hypothermia and frost bite.
  • Try to keep one widow open a crack as too much snow and ice can seal a car shut.
  • Ration your available food.
  • Wait until help arrives.

 

We hope that you never find yourself in any of these situations, but again, the most important thing is to be prepared. It is recommended that you take some free time after a snowfall to test out how your car handles. Drive to an empty parking lot and practice driving to see how your car handles the conditions. Obviously, use caution and be safe while doing this.

All of the tips in this article are merely suggestions. We hope that it helps if you ever find your self in poor driving conditions. Happy Driving!