Driving Safely in Winter

Nov 18, 2020 11:04 PM EST | Staff Reporter

Driving Safely in Winter

(Photo : Driving Safely in Winter)

You always want to avoid being in a car accident, whether it involves another driver or just you. Many car accidents and subsequent personal injury cases center around the legal concept of negligenceIf you're in a car accident and your vehicle isn't properly maintained, for example, you might be negligent in the accident. That's why every winter you should "winterize" your vehicle and also follow certain safe driving recommendations. 

The Right Kind of Oil Change

If you're getting close to the time when your vehicle is due for a full service, make sure you do that before the winter weather becomes more severe. You need a seasonally-appropriate service as well. 

You want to get an oil change, and the oil used should have the right viscosity, meaning thickness, for the winter months. Oil usually gets thicker as the weather gets colder. If your oil is too thick, it won't be as good at lubricating your engine. Your owner's manual will tell you the right type of oil to use depending on the climate where you live and the temperatures. 

Your winter car service should also include

  • Your battery may require more power in the winter because battery power goes down when the temperatures drop. Ask your auto service provider to install a battery at or above 600 CCA to optimize winter performance. 

  • You should maintain a ratio between 50/50 and 70/30 of antifreeze to water in your car. Speak to your auto technician about the antifreeze that should be used for your vehicle and the right ratio to avoid possible freezing and corrosion. 

  • Cold weather doesn't cause harm to your brakes, but you should still get an inspection to make sure they're in optimal condition before the winter weather hits. 

  • Your auto technician should check out your hoses, belts, spark plugs, cables, and wires. If they go bad in winter, you could be stranded, although the weather itself doesn't necessarily affect these components' integrity. 

Winter Tires

You may be able to use all-season tires during winter, but depending on the climate where you live, this might not be enough. If you live in a place with very cold temperatures and extreme winter weather, you should probably get winter tires as part of the process to winterize your vehicle. 

If the temperature is consistently around or below freezing where you live, the rubber of non-winter tires can harden. That reduces the tire's ability to grip the road, putting you at risk. Winter tires use certain compounds that resist hardening when it's cold, so you get better traction. 

If you live somewhere with mild winters, you probably will be fine with all-season tires. Along with making sure you have the right kind of tires, you also need to maintain the proper tire pressure. Each ten-degree change in temperature can cause a gain or loss of 1 PSI. Check your pressure regularly during the winter, and make sure you refill your tires when needed. 

If you're going for a long drive or road trip, you should check to see how the temperatures could shift while you're gone. If there's a big change in temperatures, it can impact driving ability and traction. 

Winter Wipers

Winter wipers have rubber that prevents ice collection on the blades. They're helpful to have in winter, and they're heavier than regular wipers. You will need to take them off when it's spring. 

Fill Your Washer Fluid

You should regularly replace your windshield wiper fluid. Even one snowstorm can eliminate a lot of your fluid, so refill the reservoir regularly. 

Keep Your Gas Tank at Least ½ Full

Keeping your tank full is important in winter. When your tank is full, or at least ½ full, it reduces condensation. Condensation can cause the gas line to freeze up. Also, if you ever get stranded in the winter, you may need your engine to keep you warm until someone comes to help. 

Lubricate Window Tracks

Freezing water can get into the window tracks and lead to drag when you open your window. That can damage what are called your window regulator cables. You can avoid this by using silicone spray or dry Teflon spray lubricant to lubricate the window tracks. 

Safe Driving Tips

Once you've winterized your car, remember the following tips to drive safely in winter:

  • Have an emergency kit in your vehicle at all times. Your emergency car kit should include a snow shovel, ice scraper, and broom. You should also have something like kitty litter or sand that's abrasive if you get stuck in the snow. Include a flashlight, jumper cables, and either emergency markers or flares, and blankets to protect you from the cold. Have non-perishable food, water, and a cell phone with a charger. 

  • Check the weather before you go anywhere. If it looks too intense, avoid driving if possible. 

  • If your car is stalled or stopped, don't overexert it. Shine your dome light, and clear your exhaust pipe and just run it enough to stay warm while you wait for help. 

  • When you're driving in winter, make sure you're going at a safe speed and give yourself plenty of space from other vehicles in case you lose control. Reducing your speed and adding following distance can significantly reduce the risk of being in an accident when driving in winter. This will help you be prepared for all the wintertime roadway hazards like snow, curves, and ice. 

  • While driving at a safe speed is important, you want to make sure you aren't going too slow because that can also be dangerous. If you go too slow, you might be at risk of being rear-ended or you could create a swerve hazard for other drivers. 

Finally, if your vehicle slides in winter, don't panic. Steer toward an escape route and focus your eyes there rather than what you're trying to avoid. Aim to steer your way out of trouble. 

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