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Winter Driving Tips

Winter Driving Tips

It’s pretty much inevitable – if you live in Canada, chances are you will encounter snow at one time or another. As beautiful as the snow can be, it also means more dangerous road conditions for drivers. This can be stressful and overwhelming, especially during a blizzard or cold snap. It’s much easier for your cars tires to lose traction and spin out, get stuck in the snow, or certain components to malfunction.

Learning the best techniques, and having a good idea of what to do, in the event of an emergency can help to increase your confidence and give you peace of mind. Drive safer and more aware with these winter driving tips!

Driving in a Snow Storm

Driving conditions can go from moderate to extreme in the blink of an eye, especially when a blizzard hits. Within minutes a blizzard can make it nearly impossible for you to see what lies ahead, with blinding whiteout conditions. This kind of road-burying snowfall can make it extremely dangerous to drive in, which is why it’s recommended that you don’t. Check in with your local weather forecast and wait until the storm has ended, and the streets have been plowed and salted. If you can’t wait it out, there are some steps you can take to enhance your safety on the road.

First things first, always drive slowly and proceed with caution. Stay alert and aware, keep an eye on road conditions and the cars around you. It’s important that you maintain a safe distance from other vehicles so that you have ideal reaction time if you begin to slide. If your car starts sliding, take your foot off the gas and allow your vehicle to slow down naturally. Slamming on the brakes can cause you to lose complete control and risk an accident. While driving, if you feel that you might need to brake soon, lightly tap on the brake pedal and gradually slow down your car so that you don’t lose traction.

While driving in whiteout conditions, it’s important that you:

  • Don’t use high beams
  • Use fog lights
  • Pull off the road and use hazard lights if the conditions are too dangerous

Maintaining momentum while driving can be beneficial, as sometimes it can be difficult to accelerate with snow on the ground. If you’re approaching a hill, accelerate before you approach it and allow the motion to help carry you up.

How to Get Your Car Out of the Snow

If your vehicle gets stuck in the snow, it’s important that you remain calm and do your best not to panic. Getting your car out is a strategic process that requires a clear mind for tactical thinking.

Try to avoid spinning your tires, as doing so can dig your vehicle deeper into the snow. Instead, shift your vehicle into the lowest gear and move forward until your tires slip. Then, shift in reverse and back out slowly. Keep repeating this process until you dislodge your vehicle from the snow.

If this technique is unsuccessful, sprinkle kitty litter or salt to give your tires more traction. As a last resort, extra coolant or windshield wiper fluid can help to melt the snow. If these techniques are unsuccessful, it’s important that you stay put, and stay calm. Take this time to call a tow truck or service centre, or 911 if you’re having an emergency. Make yourself visible by tying a bright cloth to your antennae or place safety cones with reflectors around your vehicle. Clear any snow from your exhaust pipe so that carbon monoxide doesn’t get trapped in the cabin of your car. Stay inside your vehicle and wait for assistance, turning your car on every 10 minutes for warmth.

Preparing Yourself for Cold Weather

As a result of freezing temperatures, your car battery is more likely to drain. You should have a service technician inspect your battery for any problem areas and take preventative measures to keep the cold from permanently damaging it. Always check your tire pressure and ensure they are filled accordingly, as the cold weather can deflate them. Cold temperatures can also cause your oil to thicken, which makes it difficult to flow to your engine. This can result in a break down or severe damage to your system. Make sure to check your oil on a regular basis and change accordingly.

Other components and fluids you should keep an eye on are:

  • Belts
  • Hoses
  • Coolant
  • Anti-freeze
  • Windshield washer fluid
  • Windshield wipers
  • Windshield

Keeping your gas tank at least half full at all times can help to avoid a gas line freeze-up. Keeping a road-side emergency kit can prove to be very helpful in the case of an emergency. Your kit should include:

  • Jumper cables
  • Charged jump starter
  • Charged cell phone
  • Cell phone charger
  • Tire chains
  • Sand/kitty litter/salt
  • Bottled water
  • Small shovel
  • Flashlight
  • Ice scraper
  • Rag/paper towels
  • Blanket
  • Flare
  • Snacks (energy bars)

Although these tips and tricks can help you to drive more carefully, and troubleshoot in the case of an emergency, they can’t prevent all accidents from happening. If road conditions appear dangerous, or you feel uncomfortable driving, it’s important that you stay home and wait until the bad weather has passed.

Ensure that your vehicle is in the best condition for winter driving by scheduling a servicing appointment. Our experts at Meadowvale Ford are happy to help prepare your vehicle for the winter weather.

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