Friday, December 2, 2011

A Tale of Winter's Past: Safe Driving Tips for the Cold Season

As winter quickly approaches, many of us are reminded of the annoyances and dangers of getting behind the wheel when there is snow or ice on the ground. This past December, I was driving on Hwy 40 (interstate 64 for those of you not from St. Louis!) and took the exit ramp for Hampton Avenue. I thought that I had slowed my car down sufficiently as I was traveling up the ramp. However, I ended up driving onto a patch of black ice. My car spun out of control, and within seconds it smashed into the barrier, wrecking the rear panel.
Fortunately, my insurance covered the repairs, but since then I've been reminded of just how important it is to drive with extra caution during the winter.
That being said, here are some tips to keep you and your car happier this season:

1. No covered parking? Get yourself some cardboard boxes.

Cardboard boxes

Nothing is quite as aggravating as having to wake up 20 minutes earlier than usual to scrape snow and ice off your windshield. One trick you can do is to place a cardboard box on your windshield to prevent ice and moisture from accumulating. Just make sure your windshield wipers are in the up position and you place the cardboard under them so that they stay secure. Alternatively, if you don't have any boxes laying around, you can use a towel. It's funny to lift one up after it's been frozen!

2. Maneuver like you're Neo from The Matrix

Neo Matrix

In this case, the bullets you'll be dodging are other drivers and slick road conditions! When the ground is treacherous, you're not going to be able to come to an instant stop. You need to perceive things in advance, so that you can give yourself enough time and distance to compensate for the reduced friction on the ground. That means applying the brakes earlier than you normally would, driving slower overall, and being extra cautious when making turns, or in my case, going up exit ramps.

3. Winterize your ride

Lou Fusz Service Repair

Most auto repair centers and dealers (such as us!) offer packages that will give your car the once over - making sure you have plenty of anti-freeze, wind shield wiper fluid, checking tire tread, battery life, etc. It's also a good idea to switch over to a winter oil. In newer vehicles, that is typically the 5W30 blend, though you will want to check your car's manual or ask a professional to determine exactly what will suit you best. Having a thinner oil in the winter allows the oil to get to the engine faster, which can make the difference in determining whether or not your car will start on a freezing morning!
4. Stock up on supplies

Winter driving supplies

The old saying goes, "better safe than sorry!". Use the following checklist and make sure you keep these items in your vehicle for the winter:
  • Flashlight
  • Ice scraper
  • Salt (in case your car gets stuck on ice)
  • Blanket/Towel
  • Jumper cables
  • Lip balm
  • Dried snacks

5. Know how to react when you start to slide

Braking on ice

When you car seems to lose control and you start sliding or skidding, it's entirely too easy to get that deer-in-headlights look where you freak out and have no idea what to do. However, there is hope! The trick that most people don't realize is you have to turn into the direction the back end of your car is skidding in order to regain control. Thus, if the rear of your car is veering to the left, you need to steer left, and don't touch the brakes! Lift off the gas as you are skidding, and as you come out of the skid, apply some gentle acceleration.

What other tips and tricks do you use to prepare for winter driving?


  1. During the winter season, it becomes harder to drive because the road can be slippery and it is pretty much difficult to see what is ahead clearly. With this, we are reminded with the help of blog posts such as this to be careful and alert for potential car problems. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wear your seatbelt, everyone inside the vehicle must wear a safety belt, especially you. Additionally, wear the belt correctly. The belt must go over your shoulder and across your lap.

  3. Always important! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Dangerous conditions become more obvious in the winter. The winter weather produces slippery roadways, and poor visibility. So, one should be well-trained to drive in winter season. Your blog provides lots of information and safety tips regarding this. Thanks for sharing such a marvelous posting. Driving Classes

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  6. Reduce your speed. The chances of skidding are much greater and your stopping distance will increase massively.