Experienced drivers know that driving in the winter, especially in areas with heavy snow and harsh winter conditions, is a challenging task, and needs special attention and precautions to be taken. This is essential for the safety and comfort of the driver, the passengers, as well as for the rest of the drivers on the road. If you are a new driver or haven’t really done any driving in winter conditions, we have prepared a summary of tips, precautions and other facts which you should keep in mind, so that you ensure that your driving experience doesn’t go wrong and turn into a nightmare.
- Buy good quality reliable winter tires for your vehicle. They will ensure you get proper traction on icy and snowy roads, plus their special rubber compound will keep your tires fully functional and away from damage even in very low temperatures. This is not the case for the all season tires, which can become brittle once the temperatures drop. Being able to drive, maneuver and stop successfully on snow and ice will keep you and everybody else on the road with you safe and sound.
- You may want to buy special winter wiper blades, which like the winter tires are more resilient and can function properly even in low conditions. Good quality winter wipes should have sheathed frames which will help prevent the ice and snow buildup on your windshield while driving. Plus, they will not cause streaking which can be quite dangerous as your visibility can decrease significantly if your windshield is smeared with ice and snow, especially if it is dark. Another important tip to remember is to always turn off your wipers before you turn off the engine of your car, as they may freeze to the windshield and then the next time you turn the car on it could lead to your wiper motor burning when attempting to turn the wipers on while they are frozen on the windshield.
- Get a good winter rated windshield washed fluid, empty your reservoir and pour it in. You should carry an extra bottle with you when you are on the road in the winter just in case. Once again, this is crucial to keep your visibility good and reliable even in the chilliest of days and nights.
- Make sure your headlights are working properly. Always replace burned out headlight bulbs, and ensure that your rear lit up works properly as well. Often ice and snow can accumulate on your headlights which will reduce your visibility to others on the road, so clean them when you are going driving in winter conditions too.
- Make sure that your car battery and its charging system are functioning properly and that you can rely on them during the winter. Usually, a normal lifespan of a car battery is about 5 years, so make sure you replace it in time for the cold winter months. If you are not sure about your battery, you can easily get it tested for dead cells at your car service. If your battery needs replacement, make sure you buy one which is powerful enough to resist the power drop resulting from the low temperatures, and one which you can rely to power up your car and keep it working even in the harshest winter conditions.
- Driving shoes. Make sure you purchase and wear proper shoes for driving in the winter, in order to stay comfortable, warm and at the same time be able to drive safely without pressing two of the car pedals simultaneously because they are too big, or without the risk of your foot becoming jammed underneath the pedals while you are driving. This can happen if you are wearing really heavy duty snow boots which have such wide toe boxes or outsoles that your foot can easily cover two pedals at the same time. It is a good idea to look for hiking shoes or winter work boots which are cold rated and yet are relatively narrower.
- Always load more fuel when you are travelling in the cold winter than you would do in the warmer seasons. It is a matter of security and in some cases can save your health and life if you get stranded in the snow and need to keep warm while waiting for help.
- If you live in areas with extreme weather conditions, you may want to pack a special winter emergency kit for your car, including things like: a shovel, jumper cables or jump starter, a tire sealant, snow brush, a flashlight, a first aid kit, a bad of sand, snow shoes, a blanket and why not some snacks and chocolate.
- Make sure that your car gets the service it need in time. The best way to prevent your car from breaking down in the middle of a freezing, snowy road is to make sure that everything is OK with your car. It is a good idea to take your car to the service in the autumn, so that it is professionally checked for any faults, and any parts and consumables which need to be replaced are replaced. Of course, it is advisable to always make sure your car is functioning properly, but this can save you from quite an unpleasant experience of being stranded in the cold. Don’t forget to ask your mechanics to check and regulate the tire pressure, as it tends to drop as the temperature drops, and this can be dangerous for your driving.
- Making sure that the antifreeze you add will keep your car engine from freezing is crucial, but make sure you add as much antifreeze and water as the conditions in your area require. It is a fact that a 50:50 coolant and water mix actually has a lower freezing point, plus it will keep your engine from overheating and causing engine failure, melted spark plugs and other malfunctions when on the road in the winter. Antifreeze keeps your engine safe and also helps prevent the coolant system of your car from rusting.
- Ensure that your rear defroster is functioning properly to keep your rear window clean and allow for better visibility when driving in the winter.
- If you do happen to get stranded in the winter, remember to periodically get out and remove the snow from the car tailpipe to keep it clear and unobstructed.
- If you are new to driving in winter conditions or you have a new car and winter is here, you may want to do a little test driving at an empty parking lot or other safe empty space just to get the feeling of the steering, braking, traction in snowy or icy conditions before hitting the road.
- Always clean your car from the snow and ice meticulously and completely. Make sure all windows and mirrors are clean, and that you are not driving around with a pile of snow on top of the car, which could be dangerous for you and other people on the road.
- Remember to do everything slower and gentler when driving in the snow. This includes slow and gentle acceleration, turning and braking. This, as well as ensuring that there is sufficient distance between you and the other cars will help you keep from losing control, skidding and crashing your car.
Overall, driving in the winter may sound scary, but all you really need to do is to take the necessary precautions to ensure your car is functioning properly, and that you will be able to manage driving it, as well as surviving being stranded in the snowy or icy conditions. With some practice, you will find that driving in the snow can be an easy to master task.