Winter Driving Tips

Driving in the winter is different from driving during other times of the year. However, you can overcome these differences with our easy to follow twelve winter driving tips.

12 Winter Driving Tips

1. Increase Your Following Distance

As you would in any poor weather condition, the crucial first step is to reduce your speed and increase the following distance (i.e., the gap between your front bumper and rear bumper of the car ahead of you). This extra distance will give more time to break and make better decisions.

Generally, experts recommend drivers keep a following distance of three seconds. During the winter, AAA recommends increasing that time to five seconds or more.

2. Assign a Designated Driver

According to the NHTSA, over the past five years, every year, about 300 people die in drunk driving crashes between Christmas and New Year. In fact, 25% of all car crash deaths are because of drunk drivers.

3. Test Your Brakes

Another critical component of safe winter driving is to test your brakes while driving slowly on wet, icy, or snowy roads. Doing this test will give you a good indication of how your breaks handle the winter weather road conditions. Read more on how to check your breaks.

Remember that it is better to brake earlier and lighter than later and harder. It reduces the chances of your car skidding or you losing control of your vehicle.

4. Clean Your Car

Start by removing snow or ice from your windows, headlights, taillights, backup camera, or other cameras or sensors your car may have. Having these components free from obstruction or malfunction can save you a lot of trouble.

5. Be Cautious

Whenever changing lanes or making turns, help guide others to your intentions by giving them more than enough warning using your indicators. This often underutilized defensive driving technique is simple and life-saving. By doing this, you’re also helping other drivers reduce the likelihood of crashing into you.

6. Carry Supplies

You should carry some supplies in your car in case of an emergency. Things like:

  • Snow shovel, broom, and ice scraper.
  • Abrasive material such as sand or kitty litter in case your vehicle gets stuck in the snow.
  • Jumper cables, flashlights, and warning devices such as flares and emergency markers.
  • Blankets for protection from the cold.
  • A cell phone with charger, water, food, and any necessary medicine (for longer trips or when driving in lightly populated areas).

7. Check Your Car Battery

Get your battery and charging system checked out to confirm it is in proper condition – check your battery for sufficient voltage, amperage, and reserve capacity. During the winter, it takes more battery power to start your car than it usually does. Read this article on how to test your car battery.

Similarly, electric vehicles have a shorter driving range during the winter when the battery is not warmed up.

8. Cleck Your Cooling System

Clean, flush, and add new antifreeze into your cooling system. You should do this every two years.

9. Check Your Defrosters and Wipers

You will want to make sure that your defrosters, wiper blades, and the heater is working as expected.

10. Check Your Tires

Check your tire tread depth and tire pressure. Depending on the weather near you, you may want to consider buying special tires designed to grip slick roads. You should also check the tire pressure of the spare in the trunk.

11. Check Car Lights

Another critical thing to check is that your interior and exterior lights are working. Also, the headlights should be appropriately aimed (not too high or low).

12. Change Oil and Filter

Hopefully, you are changing your oil and filter as recommended by the manufacturer. You should also consider switching to winter-weight oil if you live in an exceptionally cold climate.

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