Winter Driving Tips: Is My Car Safe in the Snow?

Jan 07, 2015 08:00 AM EST | Jordan Ecarma

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Winter came more slowly this year, but it seems to be upon us at last. Whether you're living in a colder climate for the first time or just need to brush up on safety tips, here is the AutoWorldNews guide to driving in wintry weather.

Can I drive in snow?

Short answer: yes. Snowy roads don't mean you have to be homebound; however, they do call for more cautious driving since slowing down a vehicle on icy roads takes longer. Drive under the normal speed limit, and remember to accelerate and decelerate slowly to regain traction and avoid skids.

Be ultra-cautious around other vehicles, keeping in mind that coming to a stop will take longer if the roads are icy. 

"The normal dry pavement following distance of 3 to 4 seconds should be increased to 8 to 10 seconds," the AAA advises. "This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop."

What should I avoid?

Don't stop if you don't absolutely have to; moving from a full stop versus a rolling stop will take more effort. And be careful going up hills since accelerating the gas too much will make your wheels spin--try to gain momentum before reaching the hill and then let that inertia help bring you to the top.

Watch your fuel levels as well: AAA recommends that the gas tank be kept at least half-full so the gas line doesn't freeze.

What should I do to prepare?

It's a good idea to take your car in for a checkup especially if you're planning a lengthy road trip this winter. Have a mechanic tune up your vehicle and check for any needed repairs. The battery, charging system and belts should all be inspected.

Clear windows are also vital for safe driving in snowy or icy weather. Replace any worn windshield wiper blades and make sure that the window defrosters in the front and back are in good working order.

If you're planning to get snow tires, think ahead and get them installed before the winter sets in, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Tires should be checked for wear and tear as well as proper pressure about once a month.

And of course, don't forget to prepare for worst-case scenarios by stocking your vehicle with necessities in case you get stuck in the snow.

How will driving in snow affect my car?

Only you can find out--test out your vehicle somewhere off the main roads to see how it handles in winter conditions. It's also important to know what type of brakes you have to work them properly: Antilock brakes generally require firm, steady pressure, while brakes that aren't antilock should be pumped gently.

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