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12 Winter Driving Tips and Myths

I though I would take this opportunity, in the midst of the pounding much of the Country is taking from mother nature, to write about winter weather driving. Living in the northeast, winter weather driving is something that I’m all too familiar with, and happen to actually enjoy. It’s not for everyone, but with some advice and some practice, you can do it, and hopefully get to your destination with no problem at all.

wheel and tire

1. Tip. Regardless of what anyone tells you, inflate your tires to your vehicle manufacturers specifications. Some people over inflate for one reason or another, and some people under inflate. Whatever their logic is, for normal winter driving, ignore it. Follow the your vehicle’s specifications. Oh, and while we’re on it, the pressure you should inflate your tires to is NOT the number stamped on the tire that says ‘Max PSI’. That is simply the maximum amount of air that your tire can take before it’s unsafe to be near. It’s also not the number that says ‘xxxx lbs load at xx PSI’. That’s simply the maximum weight load the tire can handle and the pressure it needs to be filled to in order to carry that load. What you’re looking for is the label usually found inside the driver’s side door jamb with all the relevant tire information you will need to inflate your tires to the proper amount. Sometimes that label is found in the glove box, usually on older cars. While you’re at it, please remember not to ignore your spare tire.


2. Tip. Common sense dictates that the slower you drive in bad weather, the safer you will be. So please slow down when the roads are wet, snowy, icy, or anywhere in between. If you feel unsafe, or are unsure of just how bad the conditions are, pull off the road. Stop at a rest stop or diner or anywhere safe and wait it out a little while. The plows and salt trucks will be out soon. It’s better to be stuck in a warm rest stop or diner than in your car on the side of the road. Speaking of the side of the road, obviously if you have an emergency and need to do so, pull over to the side of the road. But if you can get off the highway and into a safe place, please do that. The side of the road isn’t very safe under normal circumstances let alone in a snowstorm. It also needs to be said, if for any reason you are ever stranded in a snowstorm, stay with your car! Do not go for help. The safest place to be is with your car because that is where other people will look for you. Don’t underestimate the elements. Your car can provide shelter for you and that should be your priority. Assess the situation, start the car and use the heat when you need to, and always keep the exhaust pipe clear of any snow accumulation. Help will come soon.

All Wheel Drive

3. Myth. All Wheel Drive or Four Wheel Drive will turn your car into the ultimate traction machine. Not even a tank can corner like your SUV can in the snow. Yea, you’re dreaming. While AWD and 4WD are excellent options to have in the snow, they’re not magic. Your tires are still fully capable of slipping and sliding in the snow, regardless of how many of them are capable of putting power to the road. You’ll certainly have an easier time creating the traction you need to get going, but you’ll certainly slip and slide like the rest of them when you’re braking.

Winter Tire

4. Myth. Somewhat related to number three; your choice of tires matters! Winter tires are one of the most misunderstood products available for your car. Instead of a lengthy discussion, here’s the short version. If you drive in the snow, and you can afford a set of winter tires, BUY THEM. They will not only greatly improve your starting traction; they will greatly improve your cornering and braking traction! There is no other single product that will improve your winter driving like snow tires will. Yea, AWD and 4WD are great; to get your going. Winter tires are the only option you have to get you STOPPING. I know, studs in your tires, but those aren’t allowed on most roads.

Ice And Snow

5. Tip. Ice is not snow. Ice is ice. Black ice, white ice, yellow ice, pink ice, whatever you want to call it. Ice is slippery. Snow is less slippery. You will slide on ice. Unless your tires are studded or chained, you have no chance on ice. Be aware of it, look out for it, and stay off of it!

Tire Tracks

6. Tip. When you’re driving in snow, try to keep your car tracking in the tire prints of the car in front of you. By design, tires pick up and disperse snow and rain. When they do, they leave those familiar track marks you see on the road. The traction is better there.

Stop Sign

7. Tip. Plan your stop four times ahead of where you would usually stop. It may seem excessive, but it could mean the difference between an accident and a safe stop, or even worse, potentially sliding into an intersection.

Snow Road

8. Tip. When climbing a hill in the snow keep going. Albeit safely, but keep going. The lost momentum from slowing down or stopping is something that is extremely hard to recover. Please however, do not speed, do not tailgate, and do not drive faster than conditions call for just so you can make it up a hill. Find another way if you need to.

Slow Sign

9. Tip. The opposite. When descending a hill, you need to CRAWL. This is most important when the hill ends at a stop sign or intersection. Cars are heavy and even when you’re fully on the brake, they can certainly slide as far as physics will allow them to. This is where those snow tires we talked about could give you an edge.

SUV Snow Stuck

10. Myth. I drive a truck or SUV, I wont get stuck. Hmm, yea. BS. You’re quite capable of getting stuck.

Snow Tires Clogged

11. Myth. I drive a truck, SUV, have AWD, 4WD, I can drive as fast as I want! Again, BS! The faster you go, the faster your tires have to ‘process’ the snow they pick up. A little too much wear or a little bit of snow that clogs your tires treads and you can end up in a ditch like the rest of them. Slow down. You’ll make it home eventually, but if you slow down, it’s more likely that you will be in one piece.

Fireplace Cocoa

12. Tip. If you don’t absolutely have to go, don’t go. Enjoy a day in your nice warm house watching the snow fall with a cup of hot chocolate. Don’t run out to the grocery store or to a friend’s house just because you can, or you think you can. Stay safe and warm and go out when the roads are clear. Even if you’re fully prepared and drive perfectly safely, that doesn’t mean that the idiot next to you is too.

Enjoy the winter and happy driving in it!

When it’s necessary.

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