Driving a car under the best of weather conditions is inherently risky. When adverse weather conditions, such as rain or snow occur, road conditions become even more hazardous and the risk of accidents and injuries increase. The primary problems that drivers face during bad weather are reduced visibility, which makes it hard to see potential dangers ahead, and slick roads, which make it harder to stop and can result in the loss of control of one's car. Bad weather can occur any time of the year, but these common winter conditions can be most dangerous. To reduce the likelihood of accidents or spin-outs, drivers need to know how to adapt to seasonal road conditions; this involves not only a variety of defensive driving techniques, but also various automobile maintenance tips.
Vehicle maintenance is critical to the continued performance of one's car. This is particularly true when it comes to a car's wintertime care and protection. In general, tires should be checked for adequate pressure, tread, and any damage. For people living in areas that experience snow and ice conditions, changing all-season tires to winter tires is ideal. Winter tires provide a number of benefits over all-season or performance tires, such as treads that are deeper and designed for winter road conditions. As a result, winter tires perform and grip the road better to allow drivers better control. In addition to tires, drivers will want to ensure that winter weight oil is being used during oil changes. Because rain and winter often go hand in hand, drivers will also need to check and replace windshield wipers if necessary. The expert recommendation is to replace wiper blades after six months. If snow and ice is a problem then winter windshield wiper blades will be a useful option.
Ensuring that your vehicle has enough gas is a very basic, but very important measure you can take to protect your car and yourself from unforeseen issues. Most drivers recommend keeping at least a quarter tank of gas in your car at all times during colder months; this helps avoid freezing. Moisture in gas tanks can be a problem and may freeze in extreme cold conditions. This can be prevented by keeping the tank full to reduce moisture formation and adding a fuel de-icer monthly. Dry gas is also a popular choice for drivers.
Winter is especially harsh on batteries and is often worse when cars are routinely parked outdoors. For this reason drivers should have their batteries checked and replaced if needed. The car's coolant system may need to be flushed and filled. The frequency will depend on the model and year of one's car; however, every two years is a good general rule of thumb. In addition, if a person has moved from a warmer location to an area that is significantly colder, the antifreeze should be checked to ensure that it is adequate for the new conditions.
- CYN Winter Car Care
- Nine Winter Car Maintenance Tips
- Are You Prepared for Winter? Winter Car Care Tips
- Getting Your Vehicle Ready for Winter
- Winter Weather Car Prep Tips
Snow/Icy Weather Conditions
Winter weather conditions affect the way that people drive and vehicles respond to the road. Rain and snow can diminish a driver's ability to see the road clearly. This can result in a driver not seeing a hazard until it is too late. Rain, snow, and ice create slick road surfaces that can cause tires to lose their grip and slide. In the case of rain, a thin layer of water can build beneath tires and cause a vehicle to hydroplane. When this happens the tires are no longer touching the road and the driver can lose control.
If heavy rains have caused flooding, it may stall the vehicle and make it inoperable. Rapidly moving floodwaters can even carry a vehicle away. In addition to causing tires to lose control and vehicles to slide, snow and ice increase the distance needed to safely break, and in some instances, a car may need up to ten times as much distance in order to come to a complete stop.
- Foul Weather Driving (PDF)
- Winter Weather Impacts
- Black Ice = Danger
- Driving Hazards
- Winter Driving Safety
- Driving in the Rain (PDF)
Driving Safety Tips
Regardless of adverse weather conditions, there are steps that drivers can take to ensure their safety and the safety of their passengers. As always, drivers should be alert when behind the wheel; this means not taking any mood or mind altering substances, including alcohol or drugs. If a person has consumed alcohol he or she should stay home or ride with someone who is sober.
Distracted driving is also a problem when driving in rain or in snowy or icy conditions. A person who is distracted by phone, text or passengers is less likely to notice icy patches on the road or cars braking ahead. Distraction may also cause a driver to go faster than weather conditions dictate. Speed is an important factor when it comes to winter driving. Driving slower on wet roads or in low visibility can help reduce the chances of tires slipping.
To reduce the likelihood of a rear-end collision, it is also important to leave additional space, up to three car lengths, between the driver and the cars ahead. Driving with headlights on can help make one's vehicle more visible during a storm. When driving on bridges or roads that are not often traveled, be aware of the potential for black ice. This is previously melted snow or ice that has frozen over and can be difficult to see.
Avoid cruise control when driving on icy or potentially ice surfaces and shift to lower gears for the best traction, particularly on roads leading uphill. Keep a bag of kitty litter or gravel in the car. This can be helpful if the car becomes stuck in snow. To also avoid skidding or sliding, brake lightly and cautiously.
Keeping one's cell phone charged can be a life-saver if he or she becomes stranded or stuck while traveling. If this should happen, it is also smart to keep an emergency kit in the car that contains supplies such as blankets, non-perishable food items and bottled water, and safety flares. A first-aid kit, flashlight with extra batteries, ice scraper, cord and scissors, and matches, should also be kept in the car's emergency kit.