Home       |       Bookmark We Love Cars       |       Contact Me

Monday, November 27, 2006

How to Drive a Car in Winter Weather

Driving your car while the roads are snowy and icy can be a stressful ordeal. While some vehicles are well-suited for the snow, some are not and require preparation and know-how to keep the car under control.


  1. Get your car serviced regularly. Preventative maintenance is key. Make sure your battery, cooling system, and windshield wipers are in tip-top shape. You will spend less money servicing your car than you'll spend towing and fixing it if your car gives out while you're on a dark, snowy road.
  2. Buy snow tires or add chains to your existing tires if you live in a very snowy climate. Snow tires have special treads that dig through the snow and allow the vehicle to have better traction. It is best to get snow tires for all 4 wheels, but if you're running on a tight budget and your car is front-wheel drive, you may be able to get away with just adding snow tires to the front.
  3. Put a few sandbags directly over the rear axle if--and only if--you have a rear-drive vehicle. Tie them down if they're in the passenger area so that they don't move of fly around if you do end up swerving.
  4. Look ahead and keep a very safe distance from the vehicles in front of you. Keep scanning the vehicles in front of you and look out for brake lights. If you've kept your distance you should be able to bring your vehicle to a stop with distance to spar, instead of having to slam on your brakes and sliding into the vehicles in front of you.
  5. Stop slamming your foot on the gas if your car starts to slip in place while you are trying to accelerate from a standstill. Let go of the gas, wait until the wheels stop or roll normally, and then re-apply the gas slowly. Remember, the wheels have better traction when they are not slipping.
  6. Drive slowly and carefully. No matter how much preparation and experience you might have, the way your car will move on snow or ice always has a big element of unpredictability. Anticipate turns and stops so you can approach them gently. Keep your car in the lowest gear you can.
  7. Release the brake if you find yourself slipping when you really want the car to stop. It might sound counterintuitive, but the same rule applies. Spinning wheels have poor traction. Stop them from spinning by releasing the brake and then re-applying gently. If you're slipping while braking, the same rule applies. Release the brake and re-apply gently. Sometimes repeatedly tapping the brakes has good results. Even if there is an obstacle in your path, it is best to accept the fact that you are going to collide and try to reduce the impact by following these rules, rather than slam the brakes and lose all your stopping power altogether. If your car is equipped with ABS brakes, it may be better for you to not tap on the brake pedal. In some cars it will cause the ABS system to malfunction. Check your car manual for such a notice.
  8. Respond to fishtailing (when your car rotates against the direction of travel), by turning your wheels in the direction of travel. For example, if your car starts spinning to the left, turn your wheels to the left. Take care not to oversteer or else you will just fishtail in the other direction. Don't slam the brakes!