5 Ways To…Survive Winter Driving
These handy tips will make navigating through the cold temps a breeze—and not a white-knuckle experience.
If there’s a silver lining to your new work-from-home lifestyle, it’s the time and headaches saved from the daily commute. And, boy, WFH is coming in handy lately, as Bergen County has seen nearly two feet of snow this month—and that’s not counting the most recent storm. Sure, most of us stay safe indoors during a blizzard (unless you’re an essential worker, of course), but that doesn’t mean we’re living on easy street when we hit the road after the storm.
Operating a car safely during winter requires more than activating four-wheel drive, avoiding snowy patches and black ice and clearing car windshields and roofs. There are other basic know-hows that are often overlooked or forgotten—until it’s too late. Here are five tips to help you survive a winter drive:
- Half Empty or Half Full. Maintain a positive attitude when you drive, and keep your car’s gas tank half full during cold months, recommend the folks at Mazda of Lodi. Having enough gas will allow you to keep the vehicle running for warmth in the event you get stranded. Gas in the tank also prevents the build-up of condensation, which can cause fuel lines to freeze when temps dip.
- Straddle, Don’t Swerve. Repairing damage caused by potholes can cost a New Jersey driver thousands of dollars—no wonder why we go to great lengths to avoid hitting one. Swerving, however, isn’t the recommended maneuver, as it can cause collision with other vehicles. If possible, steer the wheels so they straddle the pothole and maintain your lane. When a pothole is too big to avoid, hit it straight on and don’t slam on your brakes, a move that can force the front tire down into the pothole.
- Right the Wrong. Steering into the skid is one of winter’s most shared tips, but it can confuse inexperienced drivers, especially when they fishtail on dangerous road conditions. A simple way to remember where to steer is to turn the wheel in the direction you want to go. In other words, if the rear of the car skids to the right, the driver should steer to the right.
- You Cruise, You Lose. Long summer road trips are ideal for cruise control—slick roads not so much. A car in cruise control tries to maintain a constant speed, meaning the wheels will spin and attempt to accelerate if they hit ice or start to hydroplane, according to AAA Northeast. The increased speed can cause you to lose control of the vehicle.
- Under Pressure. Here’s a quick science lesson for you: Every 10-degree drop in temperature can result in a loss of one to two pounds per square inch (PSI) of tire pressure. Underinflated tires are more prone to skids and decrease a car’s fuel economy, according to Firestone Complete Auto Care in Elmwood Park. Not sure what your vehicle’s PSI is? You can find the numbers on the driver’s side door jamb.