To wrap this Winter Prep series up, let’s go over a few winter driving tips. I’m not trying to teach you how to drive, but just some good techniques to use while driving in snow and ice conditions.
- Always keep at least half a tank of gas in your car. If you become stuck or stranded in the middle of nowhere, or if your car slips down an embankment where it can’t be seen easily, you could end up being stuck in your car for a while. You want to make sure you can run that heater (assuming your car will run), you don’t want to find yourself in that situation and be almost out of gas!
- When you go to stop in icy conditions, don’t slam, ride, or lockup your brakes! I know this is common sense but I see people do it all the time. Tap your breaks. The worse thing you can do in a slide caused by slowing is to slam on your brakes.
- If you are sliding, continually point your wheels where you want to go! No matter where the slide takes you, you should always point your wheels where you want go. If you suddenly get traction, you’ll lurch forward in whatever direction your wheels are pointing – you don’t want that to be the car next to you, or the ditch!
- Don’t follow other cars too closely. Again, seems like common sense, but I constantly see cars nearly tailgating other drivers, giving themselves a face full of slush and gunk. Not only that but you may need a lot more room than you think you do in order to come to a full stop.
- Take turns wider than you normally would, and slower. I see people all the time in icy conditions turning sharply on a left hand turn, then they do a spinout in the middle of oncoming traffic! Slow it down, don’t goose the engine, and turn wider than you normally would. You have a better chance of not sliding this way.
- If you get stuck, turn your wheels side to side as far as you can to try to clear some snow out. Lightly tap your gas to go forward but back off if they start to spin (you make it worse if you spin your wheels). If you feel the vehicle go slightly up and then stop, let it rock back and do it again. Let a rocking motion build up as you pack and move the snow you’ll often be able to work your way out.
- If number 6 doesn’t work, next try going in reverse. Back up slightly until you start to spin or are stopped. Try rocking again. If you can make some progress backwards – back on out. If you can only back a short way, change and drive forward – but turn the wheels in a different direction. You can sometimes work your way out by going back and forth on #6 and #7. If these don’t work, use the shovel, sand and icemelt that you packed from our second post!
- While driving, watch for telltale signs on the road ahead of you so you know what your coming into. Watch especially for patches of ice. During the nighttime you can recognize these by their dark, wet appearance in your headlight. If you are driving on clear pavement and you notice a patch of ice coming up, get prepared. Slow down before you get to the ice, you do not want to try to brake on it! If you need to change lanes or turn, try to do it before or after you hit the ice. Always be aware of the road ahead!
- Be aware of the terrain ahead as well. Bridges, ramps and overpasses freeze sooner and longer than regular road due to the exposure to the cold beneath the asphalt. By monitoring the upcoming terrain you can make defensive decisions about your vehicle position when you hit these potentially icy spots.
- Watch out for stupid people. Drive defensively. Big trucks, little trucks and dumb people will often, out of necessity, barrel down the highway, throwing turbulence, ice and slush all over you. If you’re driving in a precarious situation, this can be dangerous! Be aware of them and know what they’re going to do to you BEFORE they do it! Always be thinking ahead to know what you need to do to get yourself out of a sticky situation. Watch close for potential hazards and have a plan of what you will do if the hazard becomes real. By doing this, you’ll react better and won’t panic or be startled into a bad reaction.
There are lots of other things we could cover in this series, but that’s it for now! Is there something else you consider really important to do in winter with your vehicle? Let us know!