10 Pointers for Navigating With Your Vehicle in Ice and Snow

Kathy Steinemann

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Even so-called ‘hot’ areas of the world like Florida can be hit with sudden cold temperatures which result in frost and black ice on highways. Wherever you live or travel, you should be aware of how to cope with snow and icy driving conditions. The 10 tips in this article will help.


1. Make sure that you can see in all directions.

Before setting out on your trip, scrape all ice and frost off windows and brush snow away from the hood, roof, headlights, and taillights. Idling your car for about 5 minutes with front and rear-window defrosters engaged will make this job easier. Pay special attention to headlights and signal lights.

2. Inspect your tires.

You should have good all-season or winter tires. If they don't have sufficient tread, replace them. Check the air pressure of all tires, including your spare. You may need to consult your driver's manual. In many cars, recommended tire inflation pressure is printed on the driver's-side door post. Properly-inflated tires in good condition will give you better control and traction on the road.

3. Fill the gas tank before you leave.

A full or nearly-full gas tank will make your vehicle heavier. This promotes better handling on ice and snow. Frequent refueling stops may seem like a nuisance, but they will allow you to get out of the car and stretch - and help to prevent road-hypnosis and fatigue.

While You Travel

4. Never tailgate!

It is normally recommended that you stay 2 seconds behind the vehicle in front of you *-in good weather conditions on dry roads-*. If you are driving through slush, snow, or ice, you should at least quadruple the safety margin. A safer distance would be 10 seconds. Take note of a tree, fencepost, or other prominent item right beside the vehicle in front of you. Then begin to count slowly: 1001 - 1002 - 1003 - and so on - up to 1010. If you pass the reference item before you reach 1010, you are driving too fast. Gently ease off the accelerator until you are 10 seconds away.

5. Perform gradual steering and speed corrections.

Never make sudden lane changes - and always brake gently. A car can become an out-of-control missile if you ignore this rule. Turn your steering wheel slowly and pump brakes lightly. ABS brakes will automatically do the pumping for you if you apply soft, continuous pressure. If you decide to pass another vehicle, be sure that you have more room than usual, then edge out into the passing lane and gradually back into yours when safe to do so.

6. Front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles are superior.

Front-wheel drive vehicles are assisted by engine weight to naturally increase their traction and efficiency in snow. All-wheel drive systems automatically sense when one wheel doesn't have the same traction as the others, and will adjust torque accordingly. Rear-wheel drive vehicles don't have a lot of weight where you need it - above the rear wheels. To compensate for this, you can load sandbags or heavy luggage in your trunk. If possible, heavier passengers should travel in the back seat.

7. Skids don't have to scare you!

When in a skid immediately take your foot off the accelerator and DO NOT USE THE BRAKES! Steer gently in the direction of travel once you feel that the vehicle is back in control. Advance practice in an icy or snowy vacant lot may help you to become more proficient at steering out of skids.

8. Don't use high-beam headlights in a snow storm.

High beams reflect off snowflakes in the air. Use your low-beam headlights instead. They are directed down onto the road in front of your vehicle, providing much better visibility.

9. Entering a curve?

If you have to slow down for a curve, do so before you enter it. Speed changes while navigating a bend in the highway can throw your vehicle into a spin. If you accelerate or decelerate while navigating a curve, do so very gradually.

10. Adjust your speed for road conditions.

Posted speed limits are based on optimal conditions during dry weather and good visibility. Slow down! If you feel that you don't have full control of your vehicle, you are driving too quickly.

Advance preparation and reviewing these tips before you travel can make the difference between an enjoyable trip - and a disastrous one.

©Copyright Kathy Steinemann: This article is free to publish only if this copyright notice, the byline, and the author's note below (with active links) are included.

Author's Note:

If you're looking for accommodations for a ski getaway, check 111 Travel Directory . . . Planning a romantic couple's escape? Try Adult Escapes . . . More articles by Kathy are available at 1st Rate Articles .


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