Winter Driving Tips


It’s Thursday night and the weather man is calling for snow from NYC to Burlington for the next 2 days.  The mountains are calling and waiting is not option.  If you’re a snowboarder and in the constant hunt for powder it’s a fact that you’re going to have some grippy, white knuckle drives in your future.  With that in mind, as they say in the Boy Scouts, it’s always best to be prepared.

Driving a car in bad weather is much like venturing into the backcountry, with proper preparation, confidence and the right moves, there’s nothing to fear.  We’ll almost nothing, there is always that chance you could die, but no risk no reward right?  Anyway, here are some tips to keep you safe and get you to and from the white room in one piece.

An ounce of preparation – Preparation is key.  Take care of your vehicle and it will take care of you.  At all times you want to keep your vehicle in good repair, regular oil changes, proper brake maintenance and fluid replacement are all a must.  You’ll also want to make sure you have a good set of wipers, plenty of washer fluid, proper anti-freeze/coolant levels and a good ice scraper.   Good tires are also crucial.  I’ll take an 84 civic with snow tires over an awd audi with bad tires any day.  The cold also does a number on your cars battery, so be sure to check your battery periodically to make sure it’s holding its charge.  If you’re driving out west or in really deep snow, you might have to deal with tire chains.  If they’re required make sure you have them with you.  More importantly, make sure you are well practiced in attaching them before you need to use them for the first time.  Lastly, there is a real possibility that you might get stuck or stranded in your car.  Consider keeping the following in your car for just such occasions: blanket, food, water, shovel, sand or kitty litter, matches, flares, first aid kit and other basic survival supplies.

Micro Adjustments – Driving your car on snow covered or icy roads is like navigating your snowboard down an icy slope of slick fun box.  It’s all about small calculated adjustments.  No big, grand movements.  Most spinouts and slides are caused by over-steering or paniced reactions.  If you feel your car starting to lose traction let up on the gas and loosen up on your steering.  Trust that your car will find traction on it’s own.  If you do find your self going into a prolonged skid, slowly turn your wheels into the direction of the skid until you regain traction and right yourself.

The same goes for braking.  When possible try to give yourself ample time to slow to a stop.  Never jam on the brakes, especially when going into turns.  When you do brake, pump your brakes.  If you do go into a skid and the anti-lock brakes kick in, don’t panic.

What are those numbers for?Better than braking, when going into turns or down steep downhills, downshift.  Downshifting isn’t just for stick vehicles.  There is a reason why you have those numbered gears under the “D” on your automatic cars.  Use downshifting to control your speed instead of braking, it works.

Doughnuts are more than just fun – The best way to learn how to drive in bad weather is to practice.  Take some time to find an empty parking lot and practice driving in the snow.  Make doughnuts, put yourself into slides.  Get a sense of your vehicle and what it takes to make it loose traction and what it takes to correct it.  Besides, doughnuts are just plain fun.


Remember it’s not a race and driving in bad weather is serious business.  Always use good defensive driving techniques as sometimes, the greatest hazard out there isn’t the snow or ice.  Now get out there and get some freshies!


~ by hrocker on December 23, 2008.

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