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Let's talk driving in winter

Posted on Tuesday, November 22, 2016 at 1:17:46 PM

Winter is likely the most dangerous season of the year on the roads, and is also the stretch of time that tends to be toughest on automobiles. Between the extreme cold temperatures and the snowy and icy precipitation that befalls much of the United States each year around this time, drivers need to be especially careful. There are two important matters that need to be covered when preparing to drive in winter: The car itself, and the driver behind the wheel. 

If one of those two is not properly prepared for the winter, there will be an inherently higher risk of experiencing major, costly issues. Let's talk about how you can ensure your car is ready for the hazards of winter, and then how you can prepare yourself. 

Precautionary measures
Edmunds suggested automobile owners take a top-to-bottom look at their vehicles ahead of winter, and make any and all repairs, upgrades or changes necessary to protect themselves during the cold season. This includes diagnostic checks for four-wheel drive systems when applicable, leveraging a more winter-oriented engine oil, replacing dull windshield wipers and using anti-freeze-based cleaner fluid, evaluating all of the belts and hoses, and inspecting the battery.

According to Edmunds, tires should be one of the highest priorities heading into this season, with drivers looking to change out their all-season boots with winter ones for better traction and handling. Additionally, the website urged drivers to keep a close eye on their tire pressure, as this can make all the difference when driving on slick roads, with proper inflation yielding the most thorough and reliable grip on the street. 

Finally, Edmunds noted that coolant and antifreeze should both be checked for the right levels and mixtures, as the engine will indeed have to work a bit harder in highly windy, damp conditions. Bring your vehicle into your trusted service center to ensure that all of these checks, improvements and repairs are made properly before you try to hit the road in the snow and cold. 

Preparing the driver
No matter how well the car has been prepared for winter, it will not matter should the driver not know how to properly drive in these conditions. AAA offers the following instructions to drivers who are traveling through inclement weather this winter:

  • Drive slowly and never rush when the roads get bad. Pay particular attention to accelerating and braking more slowly than in the warmer months.
  • Do not attempt to stop short on an icy street if it is possible to avoid such action. 
  • Increase your following distance to double what it would be in perfect weather. 
  • Do not try to accelerate quickly up a hill, but if you are on an incline, do not stop. 
  • Always steer in the direction of the skid when you lose control of the vehicle. 
  • Always maintain a half-full or greater level of fuel. 
  • Never drive fatigued through wintry conditions. 

Be safe out there this winter, and keep that car of yours secure!