Is your vehicle road ready for winter? Some of the things to have inspected is; that your coolant/antifreeze is at the proper protection level and there are no leaks in the system, the windshield washer fluid is at the proper mix for freezing temperatures, the washer fluid system and wipers are operational, and your heater and defroster are operating properly.
Tires and the condition of your tires are very important during winter driving conditions. Let’s talk tires the winter you should at minimum have a good all season tire on your vehicle, with a tread depth of more than 5/32. If your tread depth is lower than that, the tires should be replaced. They do not have enough tread to safely operate during any type of wet or hazardous condition.
Of course, the safest thing to do is stay home when the weather is severe.
Even when you are an experienced driver you cannot foresee the experience, ability or condition of the other drivers and their vehicles. If you are not experienced in these types of driving conditions, please do not use public roads to gain your experience. However, if you need to go out or have a trip going over a mountain pass planned we will go over a few basics.
Winter snow or studded tires can be a good idea if you plan on trips over mountain passes or if the area you live in is high enough elevation to get snow each winter. All manufacturers’ have designed “good” snow tires. There are different characteristics for these tires, some may offer added traction in heavy snow but can be noisy on dry pavement. Snow tires can have deeper tread depths or tread patterns and can be made with a softer composition for better road gripping. Make sure and talk to the tire dealer for the right size and style of tire for your vehicle and the type of driving you intend to do. Studs can be added to most any snow tires to help aid with traction.
Chains can also be purchased and installed on your tires in a very snowy condition. Keep in mind you should check your owners’ manual and make sure that chains can be used on your vehicle. Make sure to follow the directions for installation or have them installed professionally. They are designed to be used to aid with traction only on snow and/or ice, they need to be removed immediately when you hit wet or dry pavement. Lastly, they are designed to be used at a slower speed of travel. Chains can cause damage to your vehicle if they break so proceed cautiously if they are on your tires.
The driver is the most important piece of safe winter driving. Experience, skill and caution are needed to maneuver through slick, and/or snowy roads with poor visibility conditions. That experience can take years to develop, there are good training programs like Pro Drive at Portland International Raceway, and safely practicing in vacant areas where there are no people or cars around can help to learn how long a distance it takes to stop a car and how to handle a vehicle that is sliding out of control.
The basic rules for driving in more severe weather conditions are: Drive at a slower steady speed; drive with a much greater distance between you and the vehicle ahead; then start, stop and turn earlier; overall handle the vehicle more gently. Having studded tires, four-wheel drive and anti-lock brakes will not make the vehicle stop in a shorter distance. These options can just assist with traction and helping to reduce sliding in slick conditions. Always carry an emergency kit equipped with basic needs.
Drive safe this winter season! Happy Motoring!