5 Tips for Winter Weather Driving
While heavier snowfalls are not a common occurrence in Greenville, it is a good idea to review some basic winter driving safety measures, particularly if you plan on traveling out of the region during the winter months. Here are five things that you can do to keep you and your family safe in the car this winter.
1. Clear off your car … entirely
By now, we’ve probably all seen those online videos of cars having their windshields smashed by flying snow and ice breaking off from the vehicles in front of them. So yes, this means you should clean off the entirety of your car before hitting the road. That includes the front hood, the top, and the trunk area as well.
Also, turn your headlights on, regardless of the time of day in which you’re driving. The added visibility will be helpful to both you and other drivers, especially if a quick, unexpected snow squall happens while you’re on the road.
And be sure to allow your car windows to fully defrost, even when there’s no snow or ice outside. It is not safe to drive with your visibility impaired by frosty windows, regardless of how late you are for your meeting or appointment!
2. Know your brakes
In bad weather, braking gently will help you avoid skidding. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you to brake safely. If your vehicle is equipped with an anti-lock brake system (ABS), press the pedal down firmly and hold it. If you don’t have anti-lock brakes, gently pump the pedal to avoid wheel lock-up. While ABS brakes are pretty common these days, the time to decide how to safely apply your brakes is not while your skidding on black ice!
If you hear an unusual noise when you brake, you should have them checked. Watch our Driving Line video to learn more about possibly dangerous brake conditions.
3. Slow down
Speaking of being late … one of the best tips for winter driving is to simply slow down. Allow for extra space between vehicles and do not speed. If something happens in front of you, you will be grateful for the additional reaction time. No amount of traction control can help you if you’re traveling too fast. Black ice can slicken bridges, intersections, and off-ramps, especially at night. Even thunderstorms can limit visibility and make roads dangerous.
Also, as much as you love your cruise control on your vehicle, don’t use it in wintry conditions … even if you set it at a slow speed.
And if conditions are especially slick, try driving in a lower gear. Yes, this works even if you have an automatic transition. Lower gears provide greater traction; this can be incredibly helpful if you need to traverse a slight downhill grade with a stop sign at the bottom. Simply shift into your lower gear at the top of the hill and take it easy. You’ll find it much easier to come to a stop.
4. No sudden moves
If you happen to start sliding, regardless of whether your front or rear wheels are the ones locking up, remember that the best thing you can do is not make any sudden maneuvers. If your car has Electronic-Stability Control (ESC), make sure it’s turned on. ESC will help you maintain control if your vehicle loses traction.
If your front wheels are skidding
- Take your foot off the gas
- Shift into neutral and let your steering wheel turn
- As your car slows down, you can again begin steering.
If your back wheels are skidding (which is more common in these days of front-wheel drive vehicles)
- Again, take your foot off the gas
- Turn your steering wheel in the direction you want to go.
5. Don’t rely on four-wheel drive
Yes, driving a four-wheel drive vehicle helps to improve your traction in wintry conditions. This gain, however, is truly only beneficial in times of snow and slush. When roads are icy, four-wheel drive can help, but it will not make you invincible. You still need to slow down and leave extra space between you and other vehicles.
The best advice for driving in wintry conditions may be this — if you don’t have to drive, don’t! The safest place for you, your family, and other drivers during winter weather is at home. If it is essential for you to be on the road, remember to:
- clear off your car
- know your brakes
- allow for extra time
- turn on your headlights
- slow down
- no sudden maneuvers …
From the South Carolina Highway Patrol: “Winter conditions call for a different kind of driving than normal weather - slower speed, slower acceleration, slower steering, and slower braking.” Remember these tips and you’ll have a much better chance of making it safely to your destination.
Preparation for winter weather driving begins before you even get into your vehicle. Refer to our Winter Car Maintenance article and remember that North Hills Auto is here to make sure your vehicle is in top form this winter.