How To Drive In The Snow
The Best Tips For Winter Driving
Driving in the winter means snow, sleet, and ice that can lead to slower traffic, hazardous road conditions, hot tempers and unforeseen dangers. Following the tips for winter driving below will help you navigate the roads safely.
KNOW THE WEATHER BEFORE YOU GO
Weather affects driving conditions whether it is 20 degrees below, over 100 degrees out, raining, windy, sleeting, snowing, or there is ice on the road. Knowing the weather forecast before you hit the road is extremely important.
Lookup the latest weather reports, listen to forecasts on radio, TV, for the forecasts of the local forecasts, along the route you are traveling, and in your final destination.
CHECK YOUR CAR
It is highly recommended that you give your car a thorough check over before you venture out in the harsh winter conditions. Making sure that your car is prepared for the journey can truly be the difference between a safe traveling experience and a dangerous one. Prepare your car for winter yourself or stop at a gas station and have the service station help you:
- Make sure you have a full tank of gas
- Make sure your car is fully charged (electric vehicles)
- Check the ignition, brakes, wiring, hoses and fan belts
- Change and adjust the spark plugs
- Checking the air, fuel and emission filters, and the PCV valve
- Inspect the distributor
- Check the battery
- Check the tires for air, sidewall wear and tread depth
- Check all fluids, antifreeze level and the freeze line
BASIC TOOLS TO KEEP IN YOUR VEHICLE FOR WINTER DRIVING
Having these tools in your car can really help you out of a jam if you find yourself stranded on the side of the road in harsh winter conditions.
- A properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and tripod-type jack
- A folding shovel
- Air compressor or fix-a-flat for your tires
- Heavy gloves
- Basic tool wrap
- Jumper cables or a Portable Jump Starter
- Tow and tire chains
- A bag of salt or cat litter
CAR EMERGENCY KIT LIST FOR WINTER
In addition to keeping the tools above in your car throughout the winter season, having an emergency kit with essential supplies can be really be a life saver. You never know when the weather may turn for the worse, or you when you may get in an accident, or breakdown and be stuck for a period of time in cold weather. Be prepared for the worse case scenario and have these items readily available with you.
- Working flashlight and extra batteries
- Reflective triangles, flares and brightly-colored cloth
- First Aid Kit with a variety of bandages
- Exterior windshield cleaner
- Ice scraper and snow brush
- Small candles
- Wooden stick matches in a waterproof container
- Scissors and string/cord
- Non-perishable, high energy foods like unsalted canned nuts, dried fruits, and hard candy
- Water - keep fresh drinking water in your car
When driving long distances in winter conditions carry supplies to keep you warm such as heavy woolen mittens, socks, a cap, and blankets.
TIPS FOR WINTER DRIVING: HOW TO DRIVE IN SNOW
Snow, sleet, rain, and ice combined with cold conditions can make the roads very dangerous. If you absolutely do not have to be somewhere, think about staying in place instead of getting on the road until conditions improve. If you must get on the road then follow these tips for winter driving and how to drive in snow.
- Go slow - slowing down, give yourself more time to react and adapt to the conditions.
- Go easy on the gas and brakes - avoid hitting the gas pedal or brake too quickly, ease into both so the tires can gain traction in snow or ice.
- Keep your distance - increase the distance between you and the drivers ahead of you. As you approach traffic lights and stops signs, begin braking early and slowly come to a rest/stop. Do not travel close behind snow plows or next to them.
- Avoid distractions - keep your attention on the road, be on the look out for potential hazards, and pay attention to how your car is responding to the road and the conditions. Keep music low or off. Avoid using your phone.
- Be aware of potential hazards - take extra precautions near bridges and going up and down hills.
- Do not drive impaired - do not drive under the influence
- Do not use cruise control
- Wear your seatbelt
IF YOU GET STRANDED
- Do not leave your car unless you know exactly where you are, how far it is to possible help, and are certain you will improve your situation
- To attract attention, light two flares and place one at each end of the car a safe distance away. Hang a brightly colored cloth from your antenna
- If you are sure the car's exhaust pipe is not blocked, run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour or so depending upon the amount of gas in the tank
- To protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia use the woolen items and blankets to keep warm
- Keep at least one window open slightly, heavy snow and ice can seal a car shut
- Eat a hard candy to keep your mouth moist
EMERGENCY CAR KITS FOR WINTER
It is a very good idea to have an emergency car kit for winter in all your family's vehicles. These kits include many of the items listed above that are essential to have in your car in case of an emergency situation or even a simple breakdown on the road during the winter months.
Great car safety kits for winter may include: shovel, windshield scrapper, flashlight, batteries, battery or hand powered radio, water pouches, food bars, waterproof matches, extra hats, gloves, scarfs, emergency blankets, a good first aid kit, jumper cables and safety triangles.
While getting a great emergency kit such as the ones below, it is also highly recommended that you supplement and beef up your kits and supplies with items that you and your family could possibly need in an emergency situation.
ADDITIONAL CAR PREPARATIONS AND MAINTENANCE
Check or have a mechanic check the following items on your car:
- Antifreeze levels - ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
- Battery and ignition system - should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.
- Brakes - check for wear and fluid levels.
- Exhaust system - check for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
- Fuel and air filters - replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
- Heater and defroster - ensure they work properly.
- Lights and flashing hazard lights - check for serviceability.
- Oil - check for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
- Thermostat - ensure it works properly.
- Windshield wiper equipment - repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level.
- Install good winter tires - Make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
For even more information about how to drive in the snow and in winter conditions refer to NHTSA.gov.
MORE WAYS TO GET PREPARED