10 Tips for Driving in Snow
Years of driving and testing cars in Colorado’s winter conditions have shown us that adhering to these ten easy winter-driving guidelines will considerably increase your chances of arriving at your destination calm, collected, comfortable, and, most importantly, safe.
1. Drive as Smoothly as Possible
Smooth steering, acceleration, and braking are essential for safe driving in the snow. Why? Jerky control motions quickly unstick tires that have a tenuous hold on the slick road, thus every wheel rotation, brake application, and throttle movement must be careful, smooth, and slow. Pretend like you're driving with a cup of scorching tea in your lap and try not to spill it.
2. Look Far Ahead
The slicker the road becomes, the further down you should look and have consideration for other drivers. Always think and plan to see what you'll have to do next and remember to take turns slowly. When the road is wet, allow twice the stopping distance between other vehicles.
3. Take Note of the Flashing Lights
On a snowy road, how much traction do you really have? Understanding what one small, amber, flashing light in the instrument cluster represents is one way to know before you go into danger.
If this light blinks while you're accelerating in a straight line, it's the stability-control system notifying you that the car's drive wheels are slipping. Pay attention to this closely and take it easy on the gas pedal so that the tires can regain their grip.
If you see a blinking amber light while turning, it's the stability-control system warning you that the automobile is starting to swerve away from its intended course. Allow for the automobile to regain grip by easing off the accelerator until you are no longer exerting any throttle.
4. Look Where You Want to Go
If your automobile starts to skid, always gaze in the direction you want to drive, not where the car is now going. Allow your peripheral vision to handle whatever it is you're attempting to avoid. One of the reasons racing drivers are so effective at recovering from skids is that they know you almost always end up where you're looking.
5. How to Deal with Skids
You'll hit a slippery patch sooner or later, and you'll get a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach as your automobile begins to slide away from the direction you want to go. Even large skids can be controlled, and the car can be brought back under full control quickly. First and foremost, don't freak out, and never slam on the brakes!
Make sure your wheels are headed in the direction you want to go, regardless of the type of skid you're in. You can also use your brakes softly (remember tip number one) if you believe you can recover without striking anything. If you're about to collide with something, don't be scared to step on the brake pedal to avoid a collision.
6. Constantly Assess Your Traction
Your available traction will ebb and flow as road and weather conditions vary along the way on practically any snowy journey. In addition to the traction-control and stability-control warning lights, your anti-lock brake system can assist you in determining how much grip you have on the snow-covered roads. Here's how to do it: Make sure there are no cars approaching you, then gently apply the brakes while driving in a straight path for a second or two.
If the brake pedal chatters underfoot but there is no discernible deceleration, the ABS system has engaged, and the road beneath your tires is extremely slick. You're on a more grippy surface if you can slow down at a fair rate without ABS activating. Make sure there are no other automobiles around you who will be inconvenienced by your sudden slowing. While ABS is active, certain anti-lock braking systems can flash a small amber light in the instrument cluster, which can be another indicator of insufficient traction when brake-testing for grip.
7. Be Cautious with All-Wheel Drive
On slick roads, vehicles with all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive can give you a false sense of confidence. They deliver power to all four wheels rather than just two, which allows for amazing, slip-free acceleration on slippery conditions, especially from a stop— making it feel like you have far more traction than you actually do.
Don't be fooled: these systems have no effect on your car's ability to turn or stop in icy circumstances, so expect it to react similarly to any other "regular" vehicle when you apply the brakes or turn the steering wheel. You can use the technique mentioned in the previous step to determine how much traction you have.
8. Get Fitted for Winter Tires
This is more of a survival tip than a driving tip. That's because installing a set of four winter tires (also known as "snow tires") is the most effective way to increase your safety margin and lessen your worry on those treacherous snow-covered roads. Winter tires, even the best pair of all-season tires, provide significantly more traction in snow, slush, and on ice.
9. Really Read the Road
Is the surface gleaming or dingy? In the shade, is there a homogenous coating of powder or are there bare places intermingled with snow? Is it cold enough to ensure crunchy, light snow, or is it warm enough to result in a mushy mess? While you can stop the car and analyze the surface if you're unsure (which is a good idea), knowing what you're looking at can teach you a lot about potential traction. Shiny, in general, is a terrible thing since it denotes either ice or water. Dry pavement ahead of you can give you a false sense of security, so be wary of shady corners. Also note that dry snow is preferable to mushy slop.
10. Carry the Right Winter Supplies
We've declared that we'd pay $500 for a snow shovel at times—usually while we're halfway through shifting a snowbank with our hands. A better solution is to pack one in your car with a bag of salt and a tow strap before you go. If you're really worried about your winter excursion, you can also prepare your tow eye.
Check out more tips from the professionals at Express Auto Repair in Colorado Springs about how to best prepare your car for winter. Then schedule a vehicle winter checkup soon before the harsh weather sets in for the season.