Got snow tires? 5 tips on driving in snow
By Laurence MacNaughton
We’ve all seen cars blanketed in snow and ice, with only a tiny spot cleared off of the windshield. Don’t be that driver.
If you can’t see through all of the windows in your car, you can’t be fully aware of your surroundings, and that puts you in a dangerous position. Brush off the snow and completely scrape your windows before you hit the road.
Accelerate and brake gradually
On slick roads, use only one control at a time: gas, brakes or steering. That is, when you’re turning, keep your feet off the pedals. Sudden changes in speed or direction can make your tires spin and lead to a loss of control.
Accelerate slower than you normally would. If your wheels start to spin, ease off on the gas until you get traction again. Whatever you do, don’t gun it. That will only make things worse.
When you brake, start early and brake gradually. Leave plenty of distance (at least four seconds) between you and the car in front of you, in case you have to stop suddenly. If you don’t have anti-lock brakes, pump the pedal to avoid locking up and sliding.
Change lanes carefully
Changing lanes, especially on the highway, gets more dangerous as the weather gets worse. Lane markings can become obscured, visibility is limited, and you have less traction.
Change lanes as seldom as you can, and do it only when you have extra space in front and behind. Remember, no sudden movements.
Get snow tires
If you plan on driving in snow, consider getting snow tires. According to TireRack.com, most winter tires feature softer tread compounds that remain pliable in extreme cold temperatures.
But even if you don’t want to put dedicated snow tires on your car, you should still replace your tires if the tread is worn out. Here’s an easy way to tell: slip a quarter into your tread, upside down. If you can see the top of George Washington’s head, it’s time for new tires.
Find an empty parking lot and practice skidding
What’s the best way to prepare yourself for winter driving? Practice. Recovering from a skid is much easier, and much less scary, if you know how.
Find a completely empty lot near your home (one without light poles or other obstacles), and go there after the next snowfall. Drive in a tight figure-eight and hit the gas, deliberately putting yourself into a skid.
Then, steer in the direction you want the car to go, and gently apply the brakes (or pump them, if you don’t have anti-lock brakes). If the rear of the vehicle slides, gently accelerate until you regain control.
Once you’ve practiced this a few times, it becomes much easier, and you’ll be more prepared for the next winter storm.
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