8 Tips for Driving in the Snow

It’s no question that winter weather creates some hazardous driving conditions. Although it is recommended to stay off the roads when snow or ice hits, there will always be situations when not driving is not an option. In those times when winter driving is necessary, it’s important to take the necessary steps and precautions to ensure you can do so safely – and are prepared for almost any situation. From having the right items in your vehicle to ensuring all necessary maintenance is up-to-date on your vehicle and everything in between, make sure you’re ready to drive safely all winter long.

Ensure Vehicle and Roadway Safety

To make sure you have the safest driving experience over snow-covered roads, there are several steps you should take with your vehicle as well as things that will help you stay more aware of your surroundings. Be prepared, keep yourself safe, and even help protect those around you with these winter driving tips.

1. Remove Any Snow and Ice from Your Vehicle

If your vehicle is regularly parked outside, it’s essential to make sure all snow and ice is removed before driving anywhere. Yes, it is important to be able to see out of your windows, but leaving snow piled on the hood, top, or trunk of your vehicle can lead to problems for you and other drivers. The excess snow and ice can blow off your vehicle and into the roadway, fly off in frozen chunks and damage other vehicles, or blow up into your windshield, lowering visibility. In fact, in some states and locations, leaving excess snow and ice left on your vehicle could be considered negligent driving, so its always best to remove as much as possible.

2. Drive Slow and Minimize Distractions

Driving slow on icy roads or in any less-than-ideal weather conditions is essential. Your vehicle will handle differently in inclement weather – visibility may be lower, your braking distance will be longer, tire traction will be lower, and more. Because of these more dangerous driving conditions, you’ll want to minimize or remove any driving distractions. Keeping both hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road is necessary any time you drive a vehicle, and it becomes even more important on snowy roads.

3. Keep Your Gas Tank Full

Throughout the year, you may feel comfortable driving until your gas gauge gets near the E, but in winter, you’ll want to keep your tank a bit more full at all times. In inclement weather, traffic will be moving slower, meaning it’s going to take longer to reach your destination. If you don’t have enough gas, you run the risk of emptying the tank, leaving you stranded on the side of the road in dangerous conditions.

4. Respect the Snowplows

If you find yourself on the road at the same time as the snowplows, you need to give them the respect and space they need to get their job done. It can be frustrating when you get behind them, especially on a highway, but they are doing what’s necessary to get the roads cleared safely and completely. Keep your distance so any salt or road treatments do not spray up on your vehicle. If necessary, move out of the way or move over to allow extra room for them to work. Also, never try to pass snowplows, particularly when there are several staggered across a highway; this puts you and the plow drivers at risk of an accident, causing further road delays and potentially serious injury.

5. Get New Windshield Wipers and Top-Off the Wiper Fluid

Vehicle windows often become quite messy during winter as water from melting snow and ice mixed with salt or other treatments sprays up from vehicles in front of you as well as from your own tires. Old windshield wipers can end up making this mess worse, lowering your ability to see clearly. Plus, because of this mess, chances are you’re using your wiper fluid more to help clear the windshield. Ensure you have less chance of losing visibility by replacing your old or worn wipers and topping off the wiper fluid for the season (and regularly check the fluid levels depending on use).

6. Keep the Cruise Control Off

Cruise control works to keep you at a constant speed, which is great for highway driving, but was designed to be used in better driving conditions. In inclement weather conditions, it could be dangerous. If your vehicle begins to lose traction and slip, a point in which you should be releasing the gas, your vehicle may end up trying to speed up. Sticking with just your foot on the gas will help you regulate the speed for the conditions, giving you better control if you hit a slick spot or tighter curve.

7. Carry Emergency Supplies

We don’t ever want to think about getting stranded on the road, but its always a very real possibility, especially in winter. There should always be an emergency first-aid kit and roadside safety kit in your vehicle, but during winter, you should keep items that could help you stay warm and comfortable while you wait for assistance, such as a warm blanket, gloves, hat, hand warmers, and more. You may even consider packing some snacks if traffic gets particularly backed up in your area.

8. Check Tire Treads and Pressure

Ensuring your tires have a good level of tread and the right tire pressure will help provide better traction in wintery driving conditions. For those who find themselves driving quite often on snowy or icy roads, you may want to consider investing in winter tires for your vehicle. These are specifically designed to provide better traction on winter roads than traditional and all-weather tires. An expert technician like ours at Telle Tire can help you find and install the correct winter tires to fit your vehicle.

Additional Tips For Driving In The Snow

There’s more to know about how winter affects your vehicle than just making it more dangerous to drive. Below, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions drivers have when it comes to driving in below-freezing temperatures.

When is it Too Cold to Drive?

In general, vehicles are built to withstand extreme temperatures. However, the engine, battery, and fuel lines will take the most damage from bitter cold weather. Granted, things aren’t going to freeze solid unless you’re driving around in -100 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, but you may start noticing vehicle performance issues in just 32 degrees Farenheit depending on your vehicle’s age and condition. Ensure your vehicle is prepared to handle the cold weather with our winter maintenance checklist.

Do Freezing Temperatures Hurt Engine Performance?

Yes; freezing temperatures can end up hurting engine performance. When the vehicle battery becomes cold, it is unable to produce the same level of power as it does when warmer. This will make it more difficult for the vehicle’s electrical system to get the power it needs to turn on. The frigid temperatures may also cause engine oil to become thicker, resulting in a lower ability to move around as needed. In some rare cases, moisture can get into the fuel lines. If that does occur, the cold temperatures can result in the moisture freezing and blocking the flow of fuel to the engine.

How Long Should I Have My Car Run Before Driving in Cold Weather?

People generally like to go out to the car before driving anywhere in winter and letting it warm up. However, contrary to popular belief, the only thing this is good for is warming up the interior – it does not really help the engine run any better. Your vehicle’s engine will actually perform better when driving as opposed to sitting idle ahead of time.

How Do You Safely Navigate Icy Roads?

Ice can quickly accumulate on roads, so if you’re caught in it while out and about, it’s important to understand how to stay as safe as possible. First and foremost, if your vehicle has the capability, shift into four-wheel drive as it will help improve your traction and control. Whether all-wheel-drive or not, take your time; arriving a little late to your destination is better than getting into an accident or worse. Driving on ice is tricky because you can be moving without issue one minute and the next feel your vehicle sliding off the road. Keep your distance behind and around any other vehicles. If anyone brakes or begins sliding, you give yourself more time to react and remain in control if your vehicle begins sliding, as well.

Stay Safe in All Winter Driving Conditions with Telle Tire

Our goal is to keep your vehicle safe throughout the winter and all year long. Using these tips for driving in the snow and winter weather conditions will ensure you and others arrive at your destinations safely. Come to Telle Tire to check your engine health, the condition of your tires, and more. Visit your local auto service shop today, or contact an expert to answer any of your vehicle maintenance needs.