Snow, sleet, ice and below freezing temperatures all have an effect on driving conditions. During winter, safety depends on driver performance in winter hazards, good vehicle maintenance—and common sense. These tips will help you and your car weather the winter.
Prepare your car—and yourself—for winter driving conditions.
Be prepared for driving in inclement and freezing weather. Start with these suggestions.
- Understand how your car behaves in the snow. While features like anti-lock brakes and all-weather tires can be advantageous, every car performs differently. If possible, practice stopping, starting and turning in a big, empty, snowy parking lot to get the feel of your wheels in the snow.
- Make sure your battery is charged and working optimally. Cold weather adversely affects battery performance, so check it before the temperature drops.
- Be sure to keep your gas tank full. Stormy weather or traffic delays may force you to change routes or turn back. A fuller gas tank will also prevent your car's gas-line from freezing.
- Change your oil filter and maybe your oil. The oil in your car thickens in cold weather and (depending on the manufacturer's recommendations for your vehicle) a thinner grade of oil will help your car run more smoothly in the winter.
- Make sure your wiper fluid contains anti-freeze, so the spray doesn't freeze up in cold weather. Consider buying winter wiper blades, which prevent ice and snow from hardening on the wiper.
- Keep windshield and windows clear. Keep a snowbrush and scraper in your vehicle at all times. Your car's defroster can be supplemented by wiping the windows with a clean cloth to improve visibility.
- Make sure that your tires have good tread and keep them properly inflated—both are essential to safe winter driving. And while all-weather tires are sufficient for some, if the conditions in your area tend towards snow and ice, consider winterizing your car with snow tires.
- Check your exhaust pipe to make sure it is clear. A blocked pipe could cause a leakage of carbon monoxide gas into your car when the engine is running.
- Pack your trunk for emergencies. A snow shovel and a bag of salt (or kitty litter) will help you dig your wheels out of a ditch and give them traction on snow or ice; a blanket will keep you warm and bottles of water will keep you hydrated in case you get stuck.