Winter Driving Tips
During the Winter, whether you’re driving in the city or heading out on the highway it’s important to be prepared for an emergency.
Similar to what we advised in our post on preparing yourself and your vehicle for Winter weather, here are some suggestions on things you need to consider when you’re heading out on the road in the cold and snow, in case of an accident, breakdown or getting stuck in the snow.
Of course, there are times when you just need to stay off the road, like during a blizzard or power outage. But even if it’s a clear day and road conditions and visibility are good, the potential to slide off the road, have a mechanical breakdown, or even an accident that strands you is much higher and will have more dire consequences if you are not prepared for an emergency.
7 items to take in your vehicle in case of an emergency in cold and inclement weather
- Snow shovel, so if you do happen to get stuck in the snow and can’t get traction, shoveling a path may be enough to get you moving again. Or, if you can’t get the car in motion, having the snow cleared away from the exhaust and tailpipe will allow you to run the vehicle intermittently so you can stay warm and not be choked by exhaust fumes and carbon monoxide.
- Candles, matches and a blanket, just in case you do get stranded for any length of time. Even a couple of “tea light” candles will provide enough heat to keep a car somewhat warm for a short time, and the blanket will only help the cause. Store the candles and matches in a metal coffee can, which will double as a safe place to keep the lit candles as they burn.
- Sand or kitty litter, to help gain a bit of traction on ice or hard packed snow.
- Booster cables, to get some help starting your frozen vehicle, or to give someone else a boost if they’re in need.
- Flashlight and extra batteries, to see or be seen. Even more critical in Winter months when it gets dark earlier and stays dark longer.
- Emergency flares, in case you and your vehicle are in a dangerous location on the road or in the ditch and not visible at all.
- Water and snacks, such as chocolate and granola bars, to give you some energy and help you stay warm
Getting Stuck in Deep Snow or Slush
Now you’re driving and, despite your caution, you end up getting stuck in deep snow or slush.
At least you’re somewhat comforted by the fact that in your trunk you wisely packed those 7 suggested items on that handy list above. Hopefully, this is just a temporary inconvenience and you won’t be needing the blankets and candles, but that means you will need to get yourself unstuck and back on solid ground.
12 excellent tips when your vehicle is stuck in the snow
- Dig yourself out, using that handy snow shovel you’re wisely packing in the trunk. Start by digging around the driving wheels and clearing a path in front and behind, if possible.
- Chip ice or hard packed snow in your path, to give you a rougher surface on which to gain traction.
- Toss a bit of sand or kitty in your path, yet another wise choice to carry in your trunk for just this reason.
- Stay straight. Unless it’s necessary to turn your wheels, you’ll have better luck if you keep your wheels lined up and drive as straight as possible to gain momentum.
- Turn off traction control, which controls wheel spin. It’s good to have when driving but if stuck in the snow it can prevent you from gaining any motion at all.
- Use low gear. On an automatic, choose the low gear setting for better torque. However, if you do have a manual transmission, choose a higher gear, like 3rd or 4th, and use the clutch to control spin. Reversing is also a better torque option if it’s possible to back out of a sticky situation.
- Don’t spin your tires! All you will end up doing is making super slick ice if you spin the tires.
- Apply controlled power. Easy on the gas pedal, to avoid spinning the tires.
- Rock and Roll. Not so easy to do in a vehicle with automatic transmission but getting a back and forth rocking motion will help build some momentum.
- Get some help. Enlist a body or two to help give you a push or aid in getting the vehicle rocking back and forth.
- Deflate. As a last resort, letting a bit of air out of your tires will give you a wider contact patch and a bit more grip.
- Call for a tow truck. When all else fails, get professional help and wait it out in your vehicle, provided you’re in a safe spot and won’t be hit by another vehicle. Also, ensure you’ve cleaned snow away from your exhaust so if you do run your engine occasionally you won’t have fumes backing up into your vehicle.
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