The best way to stay safe during winter driving conditions is to avoid them altogether. If it’s possible for you to avoid driving in the snow and ice, stay put. But hunkering down isn’t always an option. If you have to hit the road when it’s snowy, icy, or wet, make sure both you and your car are prepared for safe winter driving.
Start with simple checkpoints like oil and antifreeze levels. And make it a habit to top off your gas every time you reach halfway. This way you won’t get caught near empty when bad weather causes delays.
Check the tread on your tires. Worn tires are more likely to slip and slide in slushy and icy winter conditions. Invest in all-season tires or winter tires for maximum traction. The softer rubber on winter tires allows them to maintain a better grip in slippery situations.
Also check your tire pressure regularly, as tire pressure drops by 1 to 2 lbs. for every 10°F that the temperature declines. Inflate your tires to the recommended level for your vehicle.
Request a brake check every time you get an oil change. If you hear a squeak when you hit the brake pedal, take your car in as soon as possible.
Your brakes need more than maintenance upkeep—using them correctly on the road is crucial to retaining control on wet, icy, or snowy roads. Practice slow, steady braking that allows you plenty of time to come to a stop before a light or stop sign.
If you hit a slippery patch of road, the best way to slow down is to ease off the accelerator and downshift before applying the brakes. When you do step on the brakes, slowly apply firm, steady pressure to keep your wheels from locking up.
If you feel the brake pedal drop and hear grinding as the pedal pumps on its own, your anti-lock brakes (ABS) are likely kicking in. Keep your foot firmly on the pedal and focus on steering.
Make sure your windshield wipers are in proper working order for clearing rain, snow, and ice. Check fluids and top them off if needed. But remember that windshield wipers can’t do all the work for you.
It’s tempting to do the minimum when clearing off your car before winter driving. However, lingering snow and ice pose a hazard to you and other drivers. Before driving, brush snow off the roof, hood, windows, mirrors, and trunk of your vehicle.
On the flip side, watch for snow spray from other vehicles. If the roads are wet, there will be some amount of spray from all vehicles; however, if it’s starting to ice, you’ll no longer see spray.