With Accuweather predicting a cold, snowy winter in the Midwest and Northeast, forecasters say drivers should expect wet weather and low temperatures in the coming months.
The following winter driving tips will help prepare you for whatever Jack Frost throws your way this season:
It’s important to be prepared during this time of year, so be sure to keep an emergency kit in your car that contains such necessities as an ice pick; a snow shovel and brush; a basic tool kit with screwdrivers, pliers and a wrench; a bag of traction material like kitty litter or sand; a flashlight with extra batteries; and items to keep you warm, like extra clothes, gloves, hats and Mylar thermal blankets (known as “space blankets”).
Finally, make sure your emergency kit contains booster cables and is well stocked with first-aid essentials and nonperishable food items, like granola and energy bars, water, warning flares and reflective triangles. If you don’t want to assemble a kit from scratch, you can easily buy already assembled emergency kits online.
Your tires are your main connection to the road, so be sure they are inflated properly. Underinflated tires provide less traction, can reduce fuel mileage and can wear out prematurely, so check your pressure at least once a month to ensure you’re driving on properly inflated tires.
As temps drop, so does the pressure in your tires—typically 1 pound per square inch for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Look for your vehicle’s correct tire pressure on an informative tag within the driver’s doorjamb or in your owner’s manual.
Depending on the conditions in your area, you may want to swap into winter tires; if not, ensure you have a safe tread depth for your road conditions.
If rain and wet roads are a concern, you should consider replacing your tires when they reach about 4/32″ of remaining tread depth, according to Consumer Reports. Use a quarter to check several tread grooves across each tire. If part ofWashington’s head is always covered by the tread, you have more than 4/32″ of tread depth remaining.
If sleet, slush and snow-covered roads are in your future, replace tires when they reach approximately 6/32″ of remaining tread depth to maintain good mobility. To check, place a penny into several tread grooves across the tire. If the top of the Lincoln Memorial is always covered by the tread, you have more than 6/32″ of tread depth remaining and should be safe for any sort of winter road conditions.
Be sure to increase following distances on ice and snow so that you have at least eight to 10 seconds (if not more) between yourself and vehicle in front of you; this will give you ample time to respond to road and weather hazards. Practice gentle acceleration and braking to maintain consistent traction in snowy and icy conditions; if your wheels begin to spin, release the accelerator until traction returns.
If your vehicle begins to slide or skid, do not panic! Look down the road in the direction you want to go and gently steer in that direction. Do not slam on the brakes, as that will upset the vehicle’s balance and make it harder to gain control.
If the rear wheels lose traction, continue to steer gently in the direction in which you want to travel to avoid a rear-wheel skid further in the opposite direction. Over-correcting and panic maneuvers can hinder your ability to regain control.
If the front wheels lose traction, it will be much harder to steer the vehicle. (Front-wheel skids are most frequently caused by hard braking or acceleration in vehicles equipped with front-wheel drive.) Wait for the front wheels to grip the road again; when traction returns, steer the wheels gently in the desired direction of travel.
A strong and fully charged battery is an absolute necessity in cold weather. Extreme temperatures can take their toll on your battery’s power, so if your battery is more than 3 years old, it may be time to consider replacing it before Jack Frost sucks out the last of its life. Also, be sure the connections are clean, tight and corrosion-free to ensure full-strength winter starts. Some commercial auto care centers will test your current car battery for free and sell you a new battery, if you need one. Some will also check your vehicle’s electrical system to ensure everything is in working order to ensure you will get years of hassle-free starts from your new car battery.
Practically every automaker offers electronic traction and stability control systems that work along with the car’s anti-lock braking system to assist drivers in slippery road conditions. Though they all use different trade names, these safety systems all function to help the driver maintain control in curves and turns — especially in wet or slippery conditions — by detecting when the vehicle begins to slip and reducing the throttle and applying the brakes to individual wheels to help correct the vehicle’s orientation. Traction systems also prevent the vehicle’s drive wheels from spinning while accelerating under slippery conditions.
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