In previous articles we’ve shared some tips on how to prepare your 4×4 for the cold weather, but it’s important to also discuss how to drive safely on icy roads this winter. We’re not always driving our offroad vehicles in 4 wheel drive, so it’s important to be safe and learn a few tips to help make winter driving easier when in 2 wheel drive or when the weather is poor.
Before attempting any sort of winter driving in icy conditions, it’s important that your vehicle is equipped with the proper winter/snow rated tires. Snow tires should be thinner in width than standard all-season tires so they help cut through the snow better. The proper tread pattern is important as well, so make sure to do your research first and ask your 4×4 mechanic or offroad shop for advice. It’s also important to make sure all fluids are topped off and clean, brake lines are in good condition, and other car parts are inspected. You can read more about your pre-winter checklist in our previous blog posts.
Before driving your car, truck or SUV, turn the vehicle on and let the motor warm up. Remove all snow and ice from the windows, lights and roof. Depress the brake pedal to make sure they are working properly and brake lines haven’t frozen. Once you’re warmed up and ready to go it’s important to take note of some important safety tips:
- Leave plenty of room for stopping: Ice, snow and other wet conditions significantly reduce traction, so you need almost twice as much room to stop a moving vehicle.
- Pay attention to the weather: Conditions can change significantly in the winter, so be mindful of what’s happening in your area. Posted speed limits are for dry weather, so you may have to lower your speed below what is allowed in dry conditions. For an update in weather you can call 511 or check online.
- Use your brakes carefully: Don’t slam on your brakes when you need to come to sudden stops. You should never have to rely on the ABS to stop your vehicle. In fact, you can get more braking efficiency without using them.
- Bridges freeze first: Be mindful that bridge decks freeze quicker than normal roads, so the pavement on a bridge can have significantly less traction and more ice early in the season. Due to the variance in exposure to air, temperatures differ.
- Be careful of offramps: Offramps often receive less attention than normal roads to snow clearing and defrosting, so take these passageways extra slow.
- Don’t use cruise control: Roads that appear clear can have sudden slippery spots and the slightest touch of your brakes to deactivate the cruise control can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Use the sensitivity in your foot to help aid how much brake or gas to use.
- Don’t be overconfident in your 4×4: Even though engaging 4wd helps significantly in the snow, you’re at a disadvantage to front wheel drive cars and all-wheel drive cars when in 2wd because your vehicle is being powered only by the rear wheels. Rear-wheel drive cars tend to slip more in icy conditions, so this means you have to be more cautious at higher speeds. Even if you’re in 4wd, this doesn’t mean your car will stop any quicker either.
- Look further ahead and traffic and leave more room: Keeping your eyes up and looking at the traffic ahead will help increase your reaction time in the event of an emergency. You also need to leave more room between the vehicle in front of you because of the increased time it takes to brake.
- Keep clear of snowplows: If you’re ever stuck behind a snowplow, make sure you give yourself plenty of room behind them. Visibility can be hindered greatly at any time by plowers kicking up snow. Snowplows usually travel at around 35 miles an hour, so be patient.
If your vehicle ever happens to break down or you get stuck, you can use these tips to help you better prepare yourself for a bad situation:
- Call 911: This should be the most obvious step to take if you’re in trouble. Make sure to describe the location you’re in, listen for questions, follow any instructions the operator may give you, and don’t hang up until you know what the next steps are to take.
- Stay in your vehicle: If there’s a bad storm or it’s very cold outside, staying in your vehicle is crucial. You can get lost or freeze, so it’s important to stay warm.
- Don’t run the engine unless you’re sure the intake and exhaust ports are free of snow or other debris.
- Keep fresh air in your vehicle
- Keep calm and assess the situation!