Driving in winter’s snowy and icy conditions isn’t so bad. Just take your time, watch out for other drivers and arm yourself and your family members with these helpful tips.
Before you get in the car
Safety precautions should start before you get behind the wheel. Take a minute to put an ice scraper, windshield fluid and jumper cables in your vehicles. Make your own car safety kit, with flares, a first-aid kit, blankets, gloves and a small broom for ice and snow removal.
Clean your lights and windshield before you leave the driveway. Don’t just clear a little hole from the front window for visibility. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Install good winter tires and consider studs if needed. Keep the fuel tank at least half full all winter so your engine and heater can be kept running to keep you warm if you do get stuck and help is not available immediately.
When you are driving
Make sure your lights are on so other drivers can see you. If the roads are icy, decrease your speed and give yourself plenty of room to stop. Allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you. Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock, ease off the brake.
Handle braking according to the kind of brakes you have. For antilock brakes, press the brakes carefully in a steady, sustained movement. You will feel the brakes vibrate and pulse, but keep pressing, as this is normal. If you have non-antilock brakes, such as those in older cars, pump the brakes gently.
Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills. Don’t assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble. Never use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads. They freeze before the roads do. Even at temperatures above freezing, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed surfaces like bridges.
Don’t pass snow plows and salt trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and the road in front of their vehicles is probably worse than the road behind.
If you get stuck
Don’t spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper. Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way, but do not keep the wheels turned as you accelerate. Use a light touch on the gas to ease your car out.
Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car. Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels to help get traction. Some people even put their car mats under the tires in a pinch.
Try “rocking” the vehicle. (Check your owner’s manual first, as rocking can damage the transmission on some vehicles.) Shift from forward to reverse and back again. Each time you’re in gear, give a light touch on the gas until the vehicle gets going.
Source: CompManagement, Inc.