The balmy December temperatures may have given you hope, but don’t let them fool you—the snow is coming. It’s important that you brush up on the basics of winter driving now, before the snow hits. We’ve made it easy for you by compiling the five essentials of safe winter driving.
If you live in New England, you need snow tires. All season tires are a compromise of the best assets of each type of tire—while they are better than a standard road tire, only a snow tire is designed to excel in winter conditions for more than three months. Invest in a good pair of snow tires and (depending on your driving frequency) they could easily last you for several seasons. Trust us, it’s worth never getting stuck in the snow again.
Warm Up The Car
Taking the time to warm up your car isn’t just to make you comfortable; it’s integral to the performance of your vehicle in the cold. While engine stalls may not happen as much as they used to, it’s still important to let the engine idle for at least 30 seconds; longer if the temperature is below zero. The oil in your engine changes its viscosity the colder it gets, and if you don’t let the car idle, you’re putting a full load of work on an engine with no lubrication. Protip: remote car starters are cheap!
This winter driving rule cannot be overstated: always leave at least a quarter tank of gas in your car. Always. The less gas in your tank, the more cold air in your tank; eventually this will cause your tank to freeze and can even lead to ice on your fuel lines. It’s such an easy thing to do, but postponing a trip to the gas station during the winter can have disastrous consequences.
Take the time to familiarize yourself with your brakes before trying them out in the snow. It’s important to know whether you have anti-lock brakes or need to manually pump them. Remember, in the snow it’s always important to do everything more slowly. Give yourself plenty of room to come to a stop and avoid braking on corners if possible.
Have your car’s exhaust system checked for carbon monoxide leaks, which are particularly dangerous during the winter when you’re driving with your windows up. If you’re driving your car after a night of heavy snow, always unclog the snow from your exhaust before starting it!
The key to safe winter driving is preparation—before winter hits and before you start the car. Driving in the winter can be scary, but you can make sure you and your family are safe if you follow these basic tips. Enjoy the warm weather while you can, but don’t sleep on preparing for the snow that will eventually come.