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Winter driving survival guide

Lauren Fix, aka The Car Coach™, offers tips to tips to prepare your car so you won't be left out in the cold.
/ Source: TODAY

For many drivers winter is a cause for alarm. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were over 2 million crashes and 11,000 deaths nationally in 2002 during the winter months. This means we need to be more aware and more prepared for anything.Many parts of the country are experiencing severe winter weather, to be safer on the roads this winter, I have put together my “Winter Drive To Survive Guide” that everyone needs to consider before hitting the road.Check your vehicle Check all of your engines vital fluids including oil, coolant, and brakes. You need to “Be Car Care Aware” and always prepare your ride.Check your tire pressure. Ninety percent of all vehicles have at least 1 under-inflated tire. Properly inflated snow tires greatly improve your car’s traction, handling as well as fuel economy and the life of the tire.It’s time to make some changes
Icy and dirty windshields greatly reduce visibility. Replace your wiper blades every 6 months, and use winter wiper blades in the snow. Changing to winter wiper blades will greater improve your visibility and will keep the wipers on the windshield, because they have a winter coat to protect the moving pieces from clogging with snow and ice. Tip: Use de-icer washer fluid, it’s your best choice because it stops refreeze on your windshield. Refreeze is the haze that occurs when you use regular washer fluid, it makes it impossible to see where you are going. De-icer washer fluid will eliminate this problem. It doesn’t cost much more but the cost of a possible accident can exceed that extra dollar or two.Snow Tires -- all-season tires are a compromise, and will not perform as well as on snow and ice. To maximize safety and control, use the best snow and ice tires available. If the snow is deep, make sure to use snow chains for the ultimate safety. Tip: The capability of four-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicles are not all mighty. Many drivers mistakenly believe that four-wheel drive vehicles have the best traction in winter. Every type of vehicle depends on four small contact patches (these contact patches are the size of your fist), where the tire meets the road for traction. This small contact area is the limiting factor of any vehicle on a slippery surface. Four-wheel drive does not improve braking or cornering effectiveness. This is why snow tires offer the best traction and control. Check your battery, your favorite local mechanic can check or even replace it if necessary. You don’t want to get stuck with a dead battery. If you buy a new battery, make sure to get enough cold cranking amps and a warranty. This is why you will need to carry an extreme weather kit. This includes these required items:

  • Carry an all-weather power source. This will permit you to jump-start your vehicle without another vehicle. That can be comforting if you're by yourself.
  • Antifreeze
  • Snow brush with an aggressive ice scraper
  • First aid kit
  • Blankets for each person that regularly rides in the vehicle.
  • High protein, non-perishable foods such as protein bars, nuts, raisins, and water.
  • Cell Phone with a power cord for recharging
  • Shovel (preferable foldable)
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Flares or a red safety triangle
  • Work gloves
  • Snow chains
  • Hand warmers (I usually carry 8 packets- 2 for the hands and 2 for the feet for 2 people)
  • Extra warm cloths (scarves, gloves, hats, boots)
  • Contact information of people to be called in case of an emergency

Driving tipsFew of us are educated and practiced in how to drive in heavy rain, snow or on slippery road surfaces.Adjust your speed to the current conditionsWhen driving in challenging conditions, slow down. By decreasing your speed you will allow yourself more time to respond when a difficult situation occurs. Anticipate difficult situationsMany studies have shown that 80% of all accidents could be prevented with only 1 more second to react. This 1-second can be gained by looking far enough ahead of you to identify problems before you become a part of them.Use grip effectivelyWhen roads are slippery, always brake in a straight line before the curve in the road. Taking your foot off the brake before you steer into the corner allows you to use the entire grip available for steering. Don't accelerate until the steering wheel is straight. Drive with your head lights onWhenever daytime visibility is less than clear, turn on your head lights, to be seen by other drivers. Remember this rule of thumb, Wipers On - Lights On. When traveling in snowy weather, remember to clear tail lights, turn signal lights, and headlamps regularly.Anti-lock brakes can't perform miraclesABS braking systems give you the ability to brake and steer, they are still limited by the grip available on the road, and the type of tires on your vehicle. If you’re driving to fast into a corner and then try to brake, even ABS won't keep you on the road. When driving at nightLeave your headlamps on low beam when driving in snow or fog. This will minimizes the reflection and glare, improve visibility, and will help reduce eye fatigue. Wear quality sunglassesGood quality sunglasses help highlight changes in the terrain and road surface even in low visibility conditions. Polarized lenses are your best choice.When driving up a steep hillGain speed and momentum on the flat before starting uphill. When the car begins to slow part way up the hill ease off the accelerator, and allow the car to slow down and crest the hill slowly. If you try and accelerate too hard the results are spinning the wheels, you may lose momentum and not make the top. It’s better to make the top at a slower speed than to not make it at all.

Copyright © 2004 by Lauren Fix.