Every year we have a deep-seated hope that winter won’t really come, and even if it does it will probably be nice and mild. It’s only human. And so we wait for a big storm to convince us that we better prep our cars.
Now that we are well into winter, here are a few key elements of winter safety:
Ideally, you have all-season tires. These are tires designed for increased traction in the rain and snow. They also resist low temperatures and winter-associated dry rot. However, if you don’t have all-season tires, you can still drive; just remember to use extra caution.
As temperatures drop, so will the pressure in your tires. It is a good idea to check your tire pressure every other week and add air when needed. Contrary to popular belief, low tire pressure does not give the car greater traction in the snow. Instead, low-pressure tires are just much more likely to pop or go flat. And no one wants to get a flat in winter. But if you do, you’ll want to be ready. So while you’re checking pressure in your four regular tires, it’s a good idea to check your spare tire as well. Make sure it’s ready to go. If you ever do get a flat in the cold, you don’t want to be stranded long.
Things to pack
Which brings us to preparing to be stranded. In case something ever happens, it’s a good idea to have an ice scraper, snow brush, warm blanket, survival kit, and some extra winter clothing stored in your trunk.
Cold weather is a strain on batteries. If your battery is sluggish in the fall, winter will only exacerbate the problem. Consider getting your battery checked as well as a basic car tune-up. Any long standing problems will likely get much worse in the winter.
Once every two years you should flush out your cooling system and add new antifreeze. It’s a good idea to make the swap before the antifreeze is put to the test.
An important safety item for winter driving is cold-weather washer fluid. Typical washer fluid won’t help much in below freezing conditions. It will just add a layer of ice to your windshield.
It is always a bad time to have your brakes go out, or to have a carbon monoxide leak, but everything is worse in the winter. Make sure your brakes, lights, exhaust, oil, and filters are all up to date. It’s a good idea to look over your car once a year, and why not do it while you’re preparing for winter?
Driving in the winter is an acquired skill. And though winter looks different in different areas, here are a few tips for snow. In slippery conditions, momentum is everything. Accelerate slowly to avoid spinning out. Break softly and early. With old breaking systems, when you start to slide you have to negotiate between breaking and steering. The more you apply to the breaks, the less control you have in the steering wheel.
Luckily, most cars have anti-lock brakes which help to take care of this problem. If you have anti-lock brakes, remember to apply pressure evenly. If you begin to skid, turn your car in the direction you are skidding to avoid turning sideways and losing control.
If you get stuck, flooring the engine and spinning your tires for too long can cause your tires to overheat and explode. Instead, apply the gas softly and rock from side to side.
Here’s one last winter driving strategy. To avoid condensation and freezing in your engine, don’t let your car sit for too long on less than half a tank of gas.
Hope this helps, and good luck driving this winter.