[Editor’s note: These winter driving tips aren’t flashy. They just get the job done, preparing you with ways to winterize your car or truck for the months ahead.]
The holiday season has arrived and you don’t want to be the person who couldn’t get to grandma’s because of the weather.
Depending on where you live, winter can be brutally cold or simply uncomfortable. These winter driving tips are for those who experience all the hassles of winter weather—snow, sleet, and freezing rain.
Those of you lucky enough to live in places Northerners escape to during the winter can refer to our Fall Car Care Tips for practical advice to make it through the next four months.
Winterize Your Car Battery
Imagine leaving work. It’s cold and dark. You turn the ignition and nothing happens because your battery is dead. If you can’t remember the last time you tested your battery, go into a shop to make sure it’s charging at the correct rate.
To ensure the flow of current stays strong and even, you can also do some easy routine maintenance at home by scraping corrosion away from posts and cable connections and cleaning surfaces once a month.
Winterize Your Car Lights
Winter isn’t just cold. It’s dark too. So it’s essential that headlights, brake lights, and turn signals are all working properly.
If you find any that are burned out, replace them at home or take your car to a mechanic.
Also, don’t forget to clean road grime and salt from all lenses every week or so to make sure you’re visible to other drivers.
Keep the Tank Filled
You know what’s a pain? A frozen fuel line. That happens when moisture gets into the line and freezes.
So an ongoing way to winterize your car or truck is this: Keep your tank at least half full. Also, we suggest adding a bottle of fuel de-icer once a month to prevent moisture from freezing.
Here are the best de-icers available online AutoZone.
Consider Snow Tires
Winter tires have come a long way. Now they not only handle the snow and ice far better than OEM tires but also give a comfortable ride.
If you live in an area that typically receives months of snow and ice, the security they give on the road may be well-worth the investment.
Prepare for Ice
Trying to see through and around streaks of ice on your windshield during a blizzard endangers everyone on the road. Now’s the perfect time for changing windshield wipers so that they’re working at full capacity when the slush and ice hit your windshield.
Bonus advice: Always keep your ice scraper in the car since you never know when you might need it.
Check Your Brakes
Your brakes have to be at their best to handle whatever comes their way. Getting them checked is especially important if they’re squeaking or you’re experiencing any of these brake problems.
Even if you’re not currently experiencing problems but you’ve driven 35,000-45,000 miles, you should get your brake pads and hardware examined to make sure they’re working the way they should.
Check your Heater and Defroster
A properly working heater and defroster aren’t luxuries in the winter; they’re necessities. If you’re already experiencing problems with either, get your car into a shop before the weather gets worse.
Top Off Fluids
Low fluid levels are especially problematic in winter when there’s a chance they could freeze.
“Start by checking your anti-freeze.”
Start by checking your anti-freeze and then move on to the oil, windshield wiper fluid and all the others, transmission, brake and power steering.
Keep an Emergency Kit
If your car breaks down or you get stuck in the snow for an extended period of time, you need to stay warm and alert so you can get help.
Throw a bag of kitty litter and a small shovel in your trunk to help your tires gain traction. Then add a warm blanket, extra gloves, and boots.
“Keep a flashlight with extra batteries.”
You should also keep a flashlight with extra batteries, an extra car charger and a few protein-rich snacks. Flares are helpful if you live in a rural area and car chains are essential in the mountains.
Finally, make sure you have a set of jumper cables – or booster cables. Here are booster cables available online at AutoZone.
Winter Driving Tips
Give yourself extra time and slow down! Snow and ice-covered roads mean everything you do – from stopping to starting — will take longer.
Riding the bumper of the car in front of you will only cause tempers to flare and accidents to happen. Increase your following distance to eight to ten seconds so if you need to stop, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to.
If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS) and need to slow down quickly, press hard on the pedal. However, if you don’t have ABS brakes, you have to avoid locking the wheels. Use threshold braking to do that.
Threshold braking is used in auto racing and it’s also a great winter driving technique. You apply brakes until the threshold moment when the wheels begin to skid. Then you briefly let go and apply the brakes again. This keeps your car going straight and slows it as quickly as possible.
Here’s a video showing how threshold braking works.
Our last winter driving tip? If the roads are covered in snow, it’s best to keep moving whenever possible because starting from a standstill can cause your tires to spin out. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a light changes, do so.