Winter driving conditions are here, and there are some things you should review before you head out on those snowy, icy roads.
We have all heard that “four wheel drive does not mean four wheel stop!” This is a very true statement; even though you can maneuver better in the snow with a four- or all-wheel drive vehicle, stopping is a different story. Here are a few common sense tips to make your winter driving – and stopping - safer.
First – Slow down
Ignore the posted speed limit signs and just SLOW DOWN. Slower speeds will not only give you more control of your truck, SUV or automobile, it will give you more time to react to other drivers that aren’t as “educated” about winter driving.
But at this time of year, S&%$* (skids) Happens!
If you do happen to skid, remember – take your foot off the accelerator. Steer away from the skid and don’t over steer.
Second – Increase your distance from the car in front of you
Following the car in front of you too closely is a recipe for disaster even in perfect driving conditions. In snow and ice, you need more time should you need to come to a complete stop.
In normal driving conditions, it is recommended that you leave at least two seconds between your car and the car you are following. In bad winter conditions, that distance should increase to at least 5 to 6 seconds. Conditions should tell you how much room you need to give the guy in front of you.
Third – Have proper tires with adequate tread
There’s nothing scarier than losing control on an icy road. Loss of traction can occur because of under or over inflated tires, balding tire surfaces, sudden movements to brake or accelerate, slick uphill or down hill travel, etc. Snow and ice tires were designed to minimize this problem. Snow tires are manufactured out of cold-performance materials and with an aggressive tread.
These large groves on the tire can help to displace snow and slush allowing for better control and improved traction for starts and stops.
In the harshest of driving environments, “all-season” tires can lose flexibility as the temperature drops. When flexibility is diminished, so goes traction. So, when shopping for a winter season tire, talk to an experienced tire sales rep about how you’ll be using your winter tires and what types of conditions you may encounter. It should make a difference on the tire(s) they show you.
And one last thing on tires, it’s best not to mix and match your tire types and brands. It will affect handling and wear. Trent Picking, co-owner of Pickering’s Auto Service in the Denver area knows a lot about winter driving conditions and how tires can affect your safety. “On a 4x4 vehicle, you may cause stress on your vehicle’s differential if you don’t have four identical tires installed.”
Another hint Pickering gave, “Demand for snow tires goes up as soon as the first major snowfall occurs. It’s best to beat the crowds, especially if you want a lesson on what you need and how different tires perform. There is no such thing as a perfect tire – there are compromises you’ll learn about when you compare brands, treads and materials. Often that “great sale” is not so great. Comparing tires can be confusing to the average consumer and there’s a lot to consider when purchasing snow or ice tires; like did you realize that smaller, narrower tires can generally improve traction? Or that if you’re going to be keeping your car for awhile, it makes sense to have a set of rims for your winter tires to make it easier and less expensive to do yearly installations. ”
Fourth – Accelerate and decelerate slowly
Sometimes the best way to brake on a slippery, icy road is to not touch your brakes at all. Gradually allowing your car to slow down is usually the best way to stop in snowy conditions. Same goes with your start; slow and easy will get you headed in the right direction. Smooth driving – from start to stop – is the name of the game.
Fifth – Make sure your brakes are in good working order
When you are trying to stop on a slick surface, you should apply a firm, steady pressure to your brakes. DO NOT SLAM on your brakes, you may throw your ride into a spin. You should not need to pump your brakes unless you are driving an older model vehicle that does not have anti-lock brakes.
Sixth – Don’t stop if you don’t have to
When you are coming to an intersection, slow down. Take your foot off of the gas pedal well ahead of the stop sign and just coast to a stop. Avoiding the use of your brakes can often save you from rear-ending a vehicle in front of you or sliding into oncoming traffic when driving on icy roads.
Some of the best advise on winter driving was given by Brandon Pickering, General Manager of Pickering’s Auto Center in Lakewood and Arvada Colorado. He said, “The best winter driving tip I can give folks is to ensure your vehicle is in good enough condition to handle the harsh conditions ahead. Make sure your battery is in good shape. Make sure your tires have a good amount of tread. Make sure your defrost and heater works. Check your antifreeze level and freeze point. It makes sense that if you’re heading out on a road trip, schedule a service appointment to check everything out, just to be sure. It’s the best money you can spend for peace or mind.”
He continued, “There’s a reason Colorado has a tire tread law. Traveling on worn tires is not only unsafe for you, it’s unsafe for everyone on the road with you. But, regardless of your tires’ condition, it’s always good to “Know before you go” and sometimes it’s best to just STAY HOME!”
If you’re in the Denver area, Pickering’s Auto Service is offering a special on a winter inspection for only $79.95 (that’s a $30 savings just in time for holiday travels!)
Contact either location to find out more.