Winter can be a dreaded time for drivers with snowstorms, ice, and overall bad weather conditions but it doesn’t have to your worst nightmare.
There are many ways to be proactive about your safety and others by practicing safe driving habits and staying on top of your car maintenance.
Use these driving tips this winter to stay in control on the roads.
Winter Driving Strategies
First things first, don’t drive when you’re tired and it’s snowy or icy out. This is just a bad combination that could lead to an accident. If you don’t need to go anywhere and the roads are really bad, just stay home. Drive only if you have to.
The night before, check the weather report, especially if you’re going on a longer trip. If you’re planning on a long drive, let other people know where you’re going and the estimated time of arrival in case anything happens.
Clean off your car thoroughly. In some states, it’s illegal to drive without having all your windows cleared. In most newer cars, it’s not necessary to idle to warm up the engine; in fact, it’s more efficient to warm up your car by slowly driving around first if it is safe. If it’s dark or hard to see out, turn on your headlights.
As you are driving around, buckle up and keep an 8-10 second distance from the vehicle in front of you to have enough room to brake if it get slippery. Accelerate and brake slowly. Stepping on the gas or brake when it’s snowy works your transmission harder than is necessary and can cause a spinout. Don’t ever use cruise control on slippery surfaces.
If you skid on ice, rain, or snow, take your foot off the gas carefully until you regain control and point the car towards the direction you want to go. If you can’t get up a hill, use inertia to carry you back up. Back up the car and accelerate.
Put your car in second gear for more traction while going slower. It is also recommended to put your car in a lower gear when turning corners.
What to Do If You Get Stuck
It is possible that you may end up stuck on the side of the road or in a snow bank. There are some methods you can use to get unstuck from snow, ice, and mud. However, if you can’t get out, don’t try to walk home in a snow storm. Instead, call for help and tie a brightly colored cloth to the antennae or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress.
While you wait for help, declog the exhaust pipe if there’s any snow or mud in it to prevent carbon monoxide from leaking into the interior cabin and needing exhaust damage repair. Then insulate your body with whatever you have. It helps to keep a blanket and extra clothes in the car.
Winter Car Maintenance
Driving safely during winter includes taking good care of your car. It begins as easily as keeping your gas tank at least half full at all times to avoid moisture build up, which can freeze in the gas lines.
Many people run their engines for a while to warm up the car but in most new cars, it’s more efficient to drive it around gently if it’s safe and the windows are cleared—replace your windshield wipers if necessary.
It is also illegal in most places to idle your car, which is referred to as “puffing,” because it creates excess emissions and is susceptible to car theft. Lots of people turn on their cars and go back inside, which creates the perfect situation for someone to come by and steal your car.
Battery: Throughout the season, check on your battery. If it is dirty and caked in grime, disconnect the cables and scrub it with a mix of baking soda and water. When reconnecting, tighten it so the wires can’t wiggle. It’s also great to get your battery tested or get a new one if it’s been a couple years because batteries lose power as it gets colder.
Lights: Check that your brake lights and headlights are working and replace any light bulbs as necessary.
Fluids: Check the fluid levels under your hood and top off as necessary. Anti-freeze is a mix of 50-50 coolant to water. Don’t use 100% coolant because when it freezes, it expands and could damage the engine block.
Oil & Filter Change: Keep your car running smoothly by getting an oil change and filter change every 3,000 miles or as your owner’s manual recommends.
Brakes: You need your brakes more than ever during the winter to stop from sliding around. Get them checked especially if there’s any squeaking, squealing, or difficulty slowing down.
Tires: It’s helpful to switch out to snow tires during the winter for better traction. If you don’t have this option, then check your tire tread to see if they need replacing. It is especially important to check your tire pressure because cold air lowers air pressure, making your drive less optimal, drains the fuel, and causes uneven tread wear.
Wash & Wax: A lot of grime and dirt collects on the ground during winter and gets kicked up onto your car and in the undercarriage. Wash and wax your car frequently during this season to prevent salt from sticking to and rusting it.
Stay prepared for anything that could happen by keeping an emergency car kit. You should definitely keep the following in there:
- Ice Scraper
- First Aid Kit
- Jumper Cables/Portable Car Charger
- Phone Charger
Look here for a more extensive emergency car kit to assemble to keep in the trunk.
If you are in need of car maintenance, we offer a FREE Seasonal Safety Trip Check to make sure your car is safe and ready for the road ahead. Trust in AAMCO Colorado for your transmission repair, car repair, and total car care. Schedule an appointment with us today at one of our many AAMCO Colorado Locations.