How to Drive a Car in Winter Weather

Driving in winter weather is stressful for everyone. Between cleaning the car off, navigating around other vehicles, and handling slippery conditions, it’s a time of year that many drivers would prefer to skip. Luckily, you don’t have to worry! While driving in winter weather can be tricky, you can still do it safely with some easy preparation tips. This way, you can reach your destination without any mishaps on the trip.

[Edit]Steps

[Edit]Driving Strategies

  1. Clean off your car before leaving. It feels inconvenient to clean off your car, but this is an important safety step. Snow on your windows and mirrors blocks your view and could cause an accident. Before leaving, use a snow brush and wipe away all the snow on your windows, mirrors, hood, trunk, and roof.[1]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 1 Version 2.jpg
    • If your car has backup sensors or cameras, clear these off as well.[2]
    • Clear all of your lights as well, including your headlights, brake lights, and tail lights.
    • Remember your roof! Snow piled on your roof can fly off while you’re driving and hit other cars. If you can’t reach up there with your snow brush, use a broom instead.
  2. Reduce your speed so you can stop in time. You may be stressed and running behind, but your safety comes first! Snowy weather isn’t the time to drive fast. Keep your speed well below the speed limit so you can stop without slipping or skidding.[3]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 2.jpg
    • Press the gas pedal gently to avoid sudden a jolt. This could make your car skid.
    • The exact speed you should go depends on the conditions. For snowy or icy conditions, it’s best to keep your speed below . If you’re still slipping or skidding to stop, then you definitely need to slow down.
  3. Leave 5-6 seconds of space behind other vehicles. Even if you’re going slow, it can still take some time to stop on an icy road. If you’re following other cars, leave at least 5-6 seconds of following distance. This gives you plenty of time to stop safely.[4]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 4.jpg
    • If you want to check how closely you’re following someone, look at something on the side of the road up ahead, like a telephone pole. Start counting when the car ahead of you passes it, and stop counting when you pass it. The number of seconds is how closely you’re following that car.
    • If you’re unable to count your following distance, a good general rule is doubling the amount of space you usually leave when you follow other cars.
  4. Drive smoothly so you don’t skid. Jerky movements can make your car skid out of control, so be very careful and drive as smoothly as possible. Press your brake and gas pedals gently to stop and accelerate smoothly and avoid skids. Turn your steering wheel slowly and smoothly as well.[5]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 4 Version 2.jpg
    • In a winter storm, conditions can change fast. If you weren’t slipping a few minutes ago but now you’re skidding around, adjust your driving and try to be as smooth as possible.
  5. Brake smoothly to come to a controlled stop. If the roads are icy, you could skid if you brake too hard. When you have to stop, apply gradual pressure to your brake pedal and slow to a complete stop. This should prevent you from slipping or losing control.[6]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 5 Version 3.jpg
    • This is another reason that driving slowly is so important. As long as you’re not going too fast, you should be able to brake smoothly.
    • Stay focused on the road ahead of you so you can spot any obstructions early. This is another good way to avoid stopping short.
  6. Avoid speeding up hills. When you approach a hill, don’t press the gas pedal hard to try and go up it. This can cause your tires to spin. Instead, build up a bit of speed leading up to the hill, then switch back to your normal speed when you’re going up the hill. Don’t stop on the hill if you can avoid it or you might get stuck.[7]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 5 Version 2.jpg
    • Tap the brakes smoothly when you reach the top of the hill so you don’t slip down the other side. This can be very dangerous.
  7. Ease off the gas if you skid. Skidding can be extremely scary, but it’s normal if you’re driving in a winter storm. Most skids are quick and all you have to do is let the gas pedal go until the tires regain traction. Once you have control again, turn your steering wheel in the direction you want to go and slowly press the gas again.[8]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 6.jpg
    • Never hit the brake while you’re skidding. This can make you lose control.
  8. Turn with the skid if you’re starting to spin. This is the scariest type of skid, so do your best to remain calm. If you’re actually starting to spin out, let go of the gas and turn your wheel in the direction you’re spinning. This prevents the car from skidding further. When the car stops or regains traction, then turn your wheel back in the direction you want to go and press the gas gently.[9]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 8 Version 2.jpg
    • Your natural reaction will be to turn in the opposite direction that you’re skidding, so it can be tough to overcome that urge. Try to pause for a second and remind yourself this you could lose control this way, and it’s much safer to turn into the skid.
    • Don’t hit the brake at any point during the skid. You could lose control of the car this way.
    • The only exception is if you’ve lost control of the skid and you have antilock brakes, which most modern cars do. If you’re out of control, press the brake pedal down as hard as you can to trigger the antilock brakes without losing control of the car. Keep the pedal pressed down hard and steer the car to a safe stop.[10]
  9. Avoid using cruise control. Cruise control can be a relaxing way to drive. However, during winter weather, you shouldn’t use the cruise control at all. This takes the acceleration and deceleration out of your control. On slippery surfaces that have snow, ice, or sand, this may cause you to slide or lose control of your car.[11]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 7.jpg
  10. Pull over and stop if the weather is getting worse. Winter conditions can change quickly, especially in a storm. If the weather is taking a turn for the worst, it’s best to stop driving and stay safe. Find a safe place to pull over, or consider stopping at a nearby motel to get off the road. Then, you can try again when the weather is better.[12]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 10 Version 2.jpg
    • Some signs that it’s time to stop are that you’re skidding a lot and can’t control the car, visibility is very bad, or you’re feeling panicked. These are all dangerous conditions, and you should stop before you get into an accident.
    • If you get trapped in your car, stay with the car. Turn your hazard lights on and call someone as soon as possible for help. Turn the car on for 10 minutes every hour to keep the car heated.

[Edit]Safety Tips

  1. Stay home during winter storms if you can. While there are lots of safety tips for driving in the snow and ice, the safest option is actually not driving at all. If you can avoid it, stay put and avoid the roads in bad conditions. Wait until the storm passes and the roads improve to drive.[13]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 11 Version 2.jpg
    • Keep an eye on the weather forecasts if you’re decided whether or not it’s safe to drive. If there is a bad storm on the way, it’s best to hunker down until it passes.
    • Of course this isn’t always possible, especially if you have to get to work or reach someone in an emergency. In this case, be extra careful on the road.
  2. Keep your gas tank at least half-filled all the time. This is important to make sure you have enough gas during unexpected storms, and also to prevent your gas line from freezing. If your tank dips below half, top it off so you always have enough.[14]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 14 Version 2.jpg
    • If you’re going on a longer trip, it’s best to make sure you tank is full before leaving.
    • Keeping enough gas in your car is also very important if you get stranded during a storm. You’ll be able to run the car every so often to stay warm.
    • If you drive an electric or hybrid car, make sure you keep it plugged in so you always have a full charge.[15]
  3. Store emergency winter supplies in your car. It’s always a good idea to have an emergency kit in your car, but it’s especially important during the winter. Stock your car with the following items so you’ll always be ready for winter weather conditions:[16]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 17.jpg
    • Supplies to dig out your car like a small shovel, snow brush, kitty litter or sand, and ice scraper.
    • Things to keep warm like blankets, extra clothes, hats and gloves, and candles.
    • Non-perishable food and emergency water.
    • General items like flares, flashlights, a first-aid kit, jumper cables, maps, and extra oil, antifreeze, and washer fluid.
  4. Check the weather before you drive anywhere. If you’re planning on driving in the winter, especially a long distance away, check the weather. This way, you won’t get caught in an unexpected storm. If the weather looks very bad, it’s best to avoid driving if you can.[17]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 19.jpg
    • Remember that the weather can change very quickly in the winter, and it could start snowing even if this wasn’t in the forecast. That’s why having your car prepared is so important.
  5. Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to arrive. If you get caught in an unexpected storm that slows you down, it’s important for someone to know where you are. Tell someone when you’re leaving, where you’re going, the route you’re taking, and when you expect to arrive. That way, if they don’t hear from you, they can reach out to make sure you’re okay.[18]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 15 Version 2.jpg
    • It’s important to stick with the plan you told someone about, and let them know if you change it. If you told them you were taking one route, but then take a different one without telling them and get into an accident, they won’t know how to find you.
  6. Refrain from driving when you’re tired or distracted. You have to be extra alert when you’re driving in the winter. Driving when you’re tired slows your response time and concentration, which is extremely dangerous. Try not to drive in snow or ice when you are tired or haven’t had proper rest.[19]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 18.jpg
    • Texting or looking at your phone is always dangerous, but it’s especially dangerous in bad road conditions.
    • Never drive if you’ve been drinking, whether it’s snowing or not.
  7. Keep your cell phone charged at all times. This is very important if you break down or run into any problems on the road. Fully charge your phone before leaving so you have enough power to make any emergency phone calls.[20]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 20.jpg
    • It’s best to keep a car charger in your car at all times. This way, you can always recharge your phone if you have to.

[Edit]Car Prep and Servicing

  1. Have your car checked and serviced before the winter. Your car undergoes all kinds of wear and tear throughout the year, and you don’t want this to come crashing down in the winter. When winter is getting close, it’s best to take your car to a mechanic for a full checkup. This way, you can get any necessary repairs and prevent a breakdown on a snowy road.[21]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 8.jpg
    • Common things that break during the winter include hoses, belts, water pumps, and spark plug wires. You should also check the tire pressure.
  2. Get a new battery if yours is wearing out. Dead batteries are not a good thing to wake up to on a cold morning. Old batteries may give out in the cold, or the charging system may not be working correctly. Some signs that you might need a new battery include your engine cranking a few times to start, weak or dim lights, and failure to hold a charge. If you’re noticing these signs, then it’s probably time for a new battery.[22]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 9.jpg
    • In general, car batteries should be replaced every 4-5 years, but this depends on a lot of other conditions.
    • Your mechanic can measure your battery health during a tune-up.
  3. Top off your antifreeze. Antifreeze is important to keep your car running during the winter. Pop your hood and check the antifreeze tank. If the levels are low, add more until the antifreeze reaches the fill line in your tank.[23]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 10.jpg
    • Check your manual for specific antifreeze type recommendations.
  4. Replace your wipers if they’re worn-out. Worn-out wipers are a huge safety hazard in the winter. If your wipers leave any wet spots on your windshield, then it’s time to replace them.[24]

    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 11.jpg
    • Sometimes, wipers leave wet spots when they’re dirty. Try wiping yours down with alcohol and see if that helps. If not, then get new ones.
    • If you live an an icy area, get heavy-duty wipers that can handle ice without breaking.
  5. Put snow tires on your car if you live in a snowy area. These tires are designed for extra traction during snow and ice storms. They’re definitely worth it if you do a lot of driving in snowy weather. You can buy a set from any tire shop and have the mechanics install them for you.[25]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 12.jpg
    • It can be tough to put snow tires on yourself, so it’s best to let a mechanic do this for you.
    • Depending on the type, snow tires can cost $100-200 each.
    • You can store the tires during the winter, or many tire shops will store the tires and rims for you.
  6. Fill up your windshield washer fluid. Snow and icy conditions can make seeing out of your windshield difficult. If you drive behind a car, you may also get salt and road grime sprayed on your windshield. Fill your washer tank with washer fluid that is made for snow and freezing temperatures.[26]
    Drive a Car in Winter Weather Step 13.jpg
    • Winter formulas of washer fluid help remove snow and ice without freezing.

[Edit]Tips

  • If you run into any trouble on the road, the most important thing to do is keep your cool and don’t panic. With a clear head, you’ll be able to make the right decisions.[27]
  • You can practice driving in the snow if you aren’t sure if you can handle it. Start by driving around your block or in an empty parking lot to get used to it.

[Edit]Warnings

  • If you don’t feel safe driving, then it’s best not to drive. Trust your gut to avoid accidents in winter weather.
  • Never speed while you’re driving in the snow. This is extremely dangerous.

[Edit]References

[Edit]Quick Summary

  1. https://www.weather.gov/wrn/getting-traction
  2. https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/tools-resources/seasonal-safety/winter/driving
  3. https://exchange.aaa.com/safety/driving-advice/winter-driving-tips/#.X4bbM9BKiUk
  4. https://exchange.aaa.com/safety/driving-advice/winter-driving-tips/#.X4be0NBKiUl
  5. https://www.caranddriver.com/features/a25350719/how-to-drive-in-winter-snow-safely/
  6. https://exchange.aaa.com/safety/driving-advice/winter-driving-tips/#.X4dIwtBKiUl
  7. http://exchange.aaa.com/safety/driving-advice/winter-driving-tips/#.WTAbnGjyu00
  8. https://www.caranddriver.com/features/a25350719/how-to-drive-in-winter-snow-safely/
  9. https://www.caranddriver.com/features/a25350719/how-to-drive-in-winter-snow-safely/
  10. https://www.caranddriver.com/features/a25350719/how-to-drive-in-winter-snow-safely/
  11. http://www.nsc.org/learn/safety-knowledge/Pages/news-and-resources-winter-your-car-and-you.aspx
  12. https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/safety_haz/icesnow.html
  13. https://exchange.aaa.com/safety/driving-advice/winter-driving-tips/#.X4be0NBKiUl
  14. http://www.nsc.org/learn/safety-knowledge/Pages/news-and-resources-winter-your-car-and-you.aspx
  15. https://www.nhtsa.gov/winter-driving-tips
  16. https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/safety_haz/icesnow.html
  17. http://exchange.aaa.com/safety/driving-advice/winter-driving-tips/#.WTAbnGjyu00
  18. https://exchange.aaa.com/safety/driving-advice/winter-driving-tips/#.X4be0NBKiUl
  19. http://exchange.aaa.com/safety/driving-advice/winter-driving-tips/#.WTAbnGjyu00
  20. http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/highway/Departments/SnowIce/SafeWinterDrivingTips.aspx
  21. https://www.nhtsa.gov/winter-driving-tips
  22. https://www.aaa.com/autorepair/articles/when-to-replace-your-cars-battery
  23. https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/safety_haz/icesnow.html
  24. http://www.roads.nebraska.gov/safety/driving/winter/
  25. http://www.roads.nebraska.gov/safety/driving/winter/
  26. http://www.cartalk.com/content/winter-driving-tips-7
  27. https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/safety_haz/icesnow.html

Source: https://www.wikihow.com/Drive-a-Car-in-Winter-Weather
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