Road Test Special, Tips & Advice, Winter Driving

Road Test Special: Winter Reminders & Tips

We’ve already covered Is Your Car Ready For Winter? Winter Tires Vs. Summer/All-season Tires, but what about just the day-to-day winter driving?

Here are a few tips and reminders for this winter season.

Remove snow from your ENTIRE vehicle before setting out. This includes snow and frost on your windows, mirrors, headlights, and tail lights. Don’t forget the snow on your roof and bumpers also! Every year I watch people clear just enough of the front windshield to barely see through – like a porthole in a submarine. THINK PEOPLE! How can you possibly see anything past the hood of your car by doing that? Anyone following the idiot that didn’t properly clear his car can’t see either, thanks to all of the snow flying off the roof of his car is landing on their windshield! Here are a few tips and reminders for this winter.

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Here’s a tip for clearing your car very quickly and easily. Go to the dollar store and buy a soft broom – one like you’d use for sweeping the floor – they have very soft bristles. The nice long handle lets you sweep off the entire car in seconds. Just remember to use the broom only for cleaning off the car. If you use it for sweeping the floor, you’ll have dirt and grime to contend with, and you’ll end up marking the paint on your car. Be sure to buy a very good, strong snow brush to keep in your car, and leave the broom at home where you park the car (this also means you can brush your car off without having to open the door to get your snow brush from inside the car … that means less snow joins you behind the wheel).

Make sure your windshield washer fluid is always topped up, and keep a spare jug in your trunk. I’ve tried the RainX stuff and didn’t find it any better than the cheap stuff. As long as you have some with you, that’s all that matters.

Use your headlights. It’s important to be seen – they’re not just for you to see. This is a habit you should employ every time you step behind the wheel. Greyhound bus line tried an experiment back in the 1980’s and found a reduction of head-on accidents by 40% in the first year. As for the old wives’ tale that you’ll kill your battery – that’s exactly what it is – an old wives’ tale. And no you won’t be burning through light bulbs either … unless you’re driving a Volvo.

At traffic lights: When roads are icy, stop and leave a full car-length between you and the vehicle in front. This gives you two advantages; 1) If the guy behind you needs some additional stopping distance, you can move forward and avoid getting rear-ended (hopefully) and 2) If the person in front of you stalls or has hit the person in front of them, you can just turn your wheel and there’s plenty of room to go around them.

Do not use cruise control. This applies all year round in rainy or damp conditions, but even more so during winter. If you use your cruise control, you eliminate the benefit of feeling road and vehicle response through the accelerator and you become ignorant to the conditions of the road. Remember, it only takes a fraction of a second to lose control of your car in the rain or snow, so leave nothing to chance … save the cruise control for the nice weather.

Reduce your speed. When turning, accelerating, or stopping – slow down to maintain control of your vehicle. Check out my article on Skid Control School to learn how much a tiny increase in speed, also increases the traveling distance before you actually stop – scary stuff.

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Maintenance. Make sure your vehicle is maintained and serviced at regular intervals to avoid potential problems. How are your tires for this winter – should you get new ones? How’s the antifreeze in your radiator? If it’s not up to winter conditions it could freeze and then blow a nice big hole in your radiator. While you’re at it, check out your battery cable connections and those hoses too – I’ve had a couple of them blow apart on me in the winter – always at the most inconvenient time!

Safety/Emergency Kit. Prepare and keep a safety kit in your vehicle – it won’t cost you much at all, but you’ll be glad you did if you ever happen to need it. Have a look at my article on this subject for some specifics to include in your Emergency Safety Kit.

Spare Tire. Make sure your spare tire is inflated. This is one of the most overlooked aspects of car ownership. The spare tire is out of sight, out of mind. I keep a can of tire inflator with my spare tire – just in case I need it. I also have a pair of cotton gloves and a bright orange safety vest there too – just in case. And don’t forget that jack … make sure you know where it is, how to operate it, and how to safely jack up your car.

Mobile Phone. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged. Take the in-car charger plug with you just in case. If you don’t have a cell phone – get one! You don’t need a mobile phone plan to use 911 – any phone with power can be used! There are plenty of good pay-as-you-go plans out there that won’t cost you a fortune to maintain.

Copyright © 2011 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland
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