Winter brings many exciting things to life: holidays spent with family and friends, nights filled with bundling up by warm fires, and snow days. Though, when it comes to driving in the powdery white stuff, things can get intimidating. In this article, we’re going to discuss how to drive in the snow so that you have the tools you need to get to Grandma’s house safely (fruitcake and all). Read on to get our expert tips and tricks that’ll last all season long.
Clear off your car
If you expect to have to drive in the snow, be sure to check the weather forecast. Even if things look like they’re calming down, the last thing you want to do is hit the road and get stuck halfway to a destination due to a sudden shift in conditions. Once you find that the forecast is something you’re comfortable handling, we suggest cleaning off your car to maximize visibility.
Use your defrosters, an automotive-safe scraper, and a brush to remove as much ice and snow from your vehicle as possible. Pay special attention to areas that you use to check your blind spot and areas that your wiper blades travel (don’t forget the rear window!). Don’t just scrape off enough so that you can see. As your car heats up while you drive, it will loosen and melt anything that’s left and create a hazard for other drivers.
Check your tires
Once you’re done scraping, take a good look at your tires! Tires are the key component that’ll make or break whether you can drive in the snow. Bald, summer tires certainly aren’t going to do you any favors. In fact, they can put you at a significant risk. Make sure you have all-season or winter tires on your vehicle with a good tread pattern. Their rubber compounds are specifically crafted for colder weather, and they’ll give you much better traction on slick, icy roads. In addition to that, AWD and 4WD vehicles are going to be the safest and most reliable options. If you’re in the market for a new ride this winter, browse through the inventory of fully-inspected vehicles at TRED.com.
Test your car’s handling
If you’ve never taken your vehicle for a drive in the snow (or it’s been awhile since you’ve had to drive in snowy conditions), it can be worth it to get a feel for how your car handles before you make your trip. After you’ve prepped the vehicle, drive your car slowly around your neighborhood, a nearby parking lot, or some low-traffic side roads. Ideally, you’re looking for a clear, open space with plenty of room to slide, if needed.
Start out at about 5-10 MPH and practice gently accelerating and braking. Get a sense of how long it takes you to stop and whether you have trouble gaining traction when you accelerate. Practice a couple of turns in each direction to get a feel for any changes in handling that the snow and ice may cause.
Turn on your headlights
No matter how bright it is outside, drive with your headlights on at all times in inclement weather. Stopping distances and maneuverability are greatly diminished in these situations, so it’s best to increase visibility to other drivers as much as possible. In addition, be sure to increase the distance between yourself and the car in front of you. This will help you avoid an accident in the event of a skid or if you need to stop suddenly.
What to do in case of a skid
Understanding skids and how to correct them when you (inevitably) get into one is a great skill for driving in the snow or in any other weather condition. This is something that takes confidence and practice, but there are some basic principles to keep in mind. First, throw instinct out the window and avoid slamming on the brakes. When there is little traction, slamming on the brakes can make the skid worse. Instead, try gently braking in a pulsing motion. If that doesn’t offer relief, you can try to regain traction by using the gas pedal to your advantage. Again, it’s better to practice these skills before you get on the highway. (We recommend heading to your nearest go-kart track for some skills training.)
Overall, keep your unique skill level in mind and know when to call it quits and avoid the roads. Freeways in the Pacific Northwest generally stay open no matter what the weather brings, so it’s up to you to gauge what you and your vehicle are capable of handling. If you commute daily and find yourself driving in the snow often, it’s definitely worth browsing the inventory on TRED.com. There are hundreds of used AWD and 4WD vehicles to choose from. As always, every vehicle is backed by our 140-point inspection and hassle-free warranties.
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