As a new transplant from the cozy South to the frozen North, winter is hitting me kind of hard. Back home, if snow or ice were predicted, we all just hunkered down until it was over. Even a mention was enough to send us scrambling for groceries. I have discovered that here in the North, people don’t seem to accept that because it snowed, I can’t drive. They’re all out, zipping around, getting on with life. Got any winter driving tips for this sun lover?
Frozen in Philly
I just might. When I was a teenager, every time I’d leave my grandparents’ house to get in my car, my grandpa would say, “Keep ‘er in the road!” That’s my first advice. But let’s see if I can help you figure out how to do that.
- If you want to get the best grip on a snowy road, you’ll need at least 6/32-inch deep tread (most new passenger-car tires have 10/32-inch of tread). Basically, you need good tires with adequate tread or you just won’t get any traction. If you’re trying to cruise around with summer or high-performance tires, forget it. You’re not going anywhere. Since you’re not living in say, Minnesota, you may not need snow/winter tires (look for the snowflake/mountain symbol), but you’ll still need tires with plenty of tread left. Make sure your rear tires have as much tread as the front, and if you’re going to buy snow tires, buy four.
- You’re not getting anywhere safely if you can’t see, so make you sure your windshield wipers are still good and replace them, if necessary. Windshield wiper replacements are pretty inexpensive and easy to install, so don’t sweat doing this one yourself. You might consider applying some Rain-X to the outside of all your windows and mirrors as well. Also, give the insides of your windows a good cleaning to remove any filminess that might have built up. Fill your windshield washer system with anti-icing fluid, and if you get ice or condensation on the inside of your windows, run the air conditioner to get rid of it and sit patiently until the job is done.
- Make sure your lights are working correctly, not covered in snow, and are on when you’re driving in snowy and icy conditions.
- Be careful of “black ice.” It’s called “black ice” because you can’t really see it, so when the temperatures are at freezing or below (and remember that bridges freeze faster than other roads), take your time, be careful and if you think you see a potentially hazardous section of road, decelerate slowly before you reach it (if possible) or use a smooth brake application if needed.
- Speaking of brakes…most of you probably have anti-lock brakes, and they’ll do most of the work for you, so here’s a rule of thumb: stomp, stay and steer. Stomp on the brake pedal, ease up slightly as you hear the ABS system working and continue until you only hear that pulsing sound about once/second. About the steering—keep your head. When we’re talking about icy conditions, even a small turn can grow bigger. Don’t panic and over-correct. Keep your head and keep your eyes on the road and your hands steady.
Robert Burns said (and I paraphrase), the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. The lesson here is this: Cars and trucks today are built with all sorts of safety features to help you control your car (ABS (anti-lock brake system), ESC (electronic stability control, and AWD (all-wheel drive)), but there’s no better safety feature than a careful driver. If the weather is bad and local government is urging drivers to stay off the road, then stay home, if at all possible. If you do have to go out, be careful. Use your lights, have proper tires, drive slowly and keep your wits about you if something goes wrong. Good luck up there, Frozen, and keep ‘er in the road!