Winter temperatures are projected to be colder than normal in the northern and eastern United States this year.
With cold temperatures, there’s bound to be more snowy and icy conditions on the road.
It creates a beautiful winter wonderland but also creates hazardous conditions.
Whether you’re new to winter driving or you’re a seasoned snow-champ, it’s important to remember these 7 essential winter road conditions tips.
1. Be Prepared
Before ever hitting the road, stock your car in case of an emergency.
It’s not paranoid thinking — it’s a safe way to make sure you have what you need in case something happens.
Keep these items in your trunk:
- Food and water
- Warm clothes
- A flashlight
- Snow shovel
- Sand and salt (in case you get stuck)
- Jumper cables
In your front seat, you may want:
- Phone charger
- Ice scraper
If you choose to keep some extra winter windshield wiper solution in your car for longer trips, keep it in a labeled bottle out of reach from passengers (especially children). It contains 30-50% methanol and is highly toxic.
Finally, keep important contact information in your glove box. This includes the number of roadside assistance as well as insurance information.
If you do get in an accident on the road, you’ll want to know this accident information ahead of time so you know what to do.
2. Winter Road Conditions Require Good Tires and Brakes
The main issue with winter conditions is that your vehicle tends to have trouble keeping traction, or grip, on the road.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to invest in all-season or snow tires and maintain your brakes.
Snow tires tend to be a better option for areas that are more icy and snowy in the winter. They have flexible rubber and unique tread patterns, allowing you to get better traction.
If you don’t get new tires this season, check your tread before hitting the road.
Throughout the season, you’ll want to regularly check your tire inflation. It’s said that air pressure drops 1-2 PSI for every 10-degree drop in temperature.
You should follow the inflation recommendation on the tire and your car manual. If the numbers are different, always follow your vehicle recommendation.
Winter isn’t the time to overlook your braking system.
Be familiar with the type of brakes your vehicle has. Listen to them with the window down to hear any squeaking.
When you apply pressure at slow and fast speeds, the brakes shouldn’t pulse or cause your car to shake. If they do, it’s time for new brake pads or rotors.
3. Professional Service and Self Service
You should make sure your car is “winterized” before the season starts.
To do this, you should go into a trusted mechanic shop.
Mechanics will check things like your:
- Ignition system
If your defroster or windshield wipers don’t work properly, get them serviced. These are essentials in keeping visibility on the road.
Additionally, ask them to check for any vehicle recalls that may have occurred in the past year.
After you get it all winterized with tires and services, you’ll want to do your own regular “servicing”.
Throughout winter you should regularly keep gas in your tank. At least half a tank is recommended.
Keep an eye on your wiper fluid and oil levels. Also, you should occasionally check to make sure all your lights are working.
These are good practices in general — not just in winter.
4. Plan Accordingly
Always give yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going.
It’s better to get there early than to be in a rush and drive recklessly.
Map your route and check the weather, road conditions, and traffic ahead of time. This will give you an idea of what you’re working with and what to expect.
5. Warm-Up Before You Hit the Road
Most people living in winter climates have heard that you need to warm your car up before you drive it.
It turns out that many experts are saying this is untrue for cars newer than 1995.
Still, you may want to start your car for a couple of minutes while you scrape ice and load things in. For the first few minutes of your drive, test out your brakes and steering while going slow to assess the road conditions.
6. Drive Cautiously
This may seem obvious in unfavorable conditions but it’s essential in ice and snow.
Of course, you always want to wear your seatbelt and refrain from dangerous activities like using your cell phone.
You should also accelerate and brake slowly and ahead of time. This will help you keep traction rather than losing it and skidding.
If you can avoid stopping, do it. This may mean slow-rolling towards a stoplight if you can time it right.
Whenever you do need to brake, make sure your foot is properly positioned. Your heel should be firm on the floor with no obstructions and the pad of your foot should press the brake.
Give yourself plenty of space between other vehicles — much more than when the roads are fine. This goes for snowplows, too.
Only pass when necessary and pass with care.
An important tip is to refrain from using cruise control. You want to pay attention and drive the road according to the conditions along the route.
7. The Right Way to Take On Hills
Going on hills may be the trickiest part of driving in winter conditions.
It’s difficult to accelerate up hills due to a lack of traction.
So, you’ll want to get some speed up before you reach the hill, cruise up to the top, and then begin carefully braking and decelerating down the hill.
Be Careful and Enjoy the Season
Winter road conditions can be daunting for some but don’t let it stop you from enjoying the beauty of winter.
Keep these tips in mind to stay safe this season and handle driving like a boss.
If you do happen to get stuck, stay calm and aware of your surroundings, stay with your vehicle, and save your energy and gas.
Also, put a signal on your car so others can see that you’re stuck. This can be an interior light or a bright-colored cloth on your antenna.
Keep reading our blog for more tips on living a safer and better life.