Guide To Safe Driving During Winter – PART 2

Winter Driving

If you haven’t read the first part of our article now would be a good time to do it. If you are planning to take out the car during winter and you obviously will otherwise you wouldn’t read this article, top off the windshield-wiper fluid and replace it with de-icing fluid which will protect your windshield even at temperatures below -30 degrees Celsius.  Some people recommend that the gas tank of the car should be filled as this extra weight will offer additional traction especially on slippery roads. The full tank gas will also come in handy if you get stuck somewhere and you will definitely want to keep the car running to provide the necessary heat. Check the tires before taking the car and fill them to the recommended PSI level. If the pressure is low, it will lower the car’s reaction to steering.

If you happen to live in an area where you rarely need studded snow tires, you might as well mount normal tires with chains in advance of the snow storm. Try to get some cheap steel rims from a salvage yard or any other place where you can get them and purchase also two used tires to match, make sure they fit the wheel! Once you got the tires, chain them up. Go to a tire shop so that the guys over there will remove the excess chain links. After that, inflate the tires you’ve got to the recommended PSI level. Drive slowly and carefully on these chained tires in order to minimize the risk of broken cross-links.

The vast majority of the new chain models can be fitted on the car even if you are already stuck in a pile of snow as you won’t need to remove the wheel or drive on them. It is advisable to practice mounting them on a dry environment and warm weather to get the hang of it. For people living outside the US, with other words, people that use a manual gearbox, it is highly recommended to park the vehicle in reverse of first gear, not on the handbrake as the brake has the tendency to freeze up and on brined roads it tends to rust stuck. If the brake of your car gets stuck because of frost or rust, gently tap it by using a hammer, don’t overdo it! If this won’t work, try to find the car’s parking brake cable housing and give it a yank or two, this should do it.

Once you get down the road make sure that you wear your seatbelt at all times and take it easy. When driving on difficult snowy roads, it is crucial to move slowly and be very attentive at what is going on around you. One of the most important causes of accidents during winter is high speed. For this reason, it is recommended to accelerate and brake in a gentle manner and evenly. Try to look ahead of obstacles, intersections and turns before you encounter them. Avoid making sudden movements which will most likely cause your vehicle to lose traction and fishtail or slide.

The lights of the car should be on at all times. Most of the new models (2009 and forward) are equipped as standard with DRL – day-time running lights, which are very useful during the day, improving the driver’s visibility. The high beam lights should be used only during the night for extended vision when necessary. Once a vehicle approaches, dim them immediately.

Especially on downhills, it is advisable to downshift if you want to decelerate, instead of using the car’s brakes. When climbing up a hill, use a low gear to have more power. When you are downshifting be very attentive because if you have too much speed and shift into an inferior gear, the transmission will force the wheels to skid some while the wheel-speed will reduce in order to match the gear ratio. In order to avoid this situation it is advisable to release the clutch in a slowly and gentle matter.

Be very attentive on those roads that are more apt to be icy, like on lightly-traveled roads and especially when you are crossing bridges. While you are driving and you happen to notice a truck that is dumping salt on the road, it is best to not overtake it and stay well back from the equipment. It is best to use a higher gear if possible and shift in a smooth matter with low rpms. If possible, set your automatic transmission in the winter-setting mode. Some people say that the best gear to drive off the car is the second one, give it a try.

If you have a front-wheel drive car and you use chains make sure that you are very careful when decelerating. The vehicle will have the tendency to break out from the back due to the fact that the braking force on the front wheels is considerably bigger in comparison to the one for the back wheels. A standard modern car is most likely equipped with ABS – anti-lock braking system and drive stability systems like ESP – electronic stability program, which work like a charm during these harsh conditions. This anti-spin control system should be turned off in special occasions when it detects wheel spin and will refuse to give power to the car’s drive wheels.

If the car starts to slide it is advisable to avoid hitting the brake. You should however take the foot off the accelerator pedal and if you are driving a car with a manual gearbox, fully depress the clutch pedal, without hitting the brakes. You should steer the vehicle in the direction you plan on going. In most cases, this is the direction of the skid so if the tail end of your car is skidding left, steer left.

Join us tomorrow for the third and final part of our article where we will be offering useful info for when you get stuck on the road.

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