11 Tips for Driving on Snow and Ice
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11 Tips for Driving on Snow and Ice

No one wants to drive in winter weather, but it’s almost a given that you’ll have to at some point, especially here in Wisconsin. These tips will make your next ice-covered drive a little bit easier and a whole lot safer.

1. Check the Road Conditions

Before you head out, check the state Department of Transportation website to see current road conditions and plan accordingly. Most state DOT offices offer apps that let you look up current road conditions on your smartphone so you’ll always know what to expect on longer trips. For Wisconsin, there’s the WI 511 app, available for both Android and Apple phones.

2. Just Don’t Drive

Sometimes the best solution is the simplest: if you don’t have to get out, wait until the roads clear up. It’s hard to get into a car accident when you’re at home, and it means one less obstacle for other drivers.

3. Get Some Winter Tires

Winter tires use special tread compounds that stay pliable at low temperatures and wick away moisture to maintain contact with the road surface. Tall tread blocks complete the package, pushing away snow for maximum traction.

4. Put Together a Winter Road Kit

Carrying a few extra items can make it a lot easier to both stay on the road and stay safe while you wait for a rescue. Have blankets, gloves, and extra winter clothing on hand to keep you warm, food and water to help you endure long waits, and any medications you require so you aren’t stranded without them. Keep a phone charger handy, and if you have a spare cell phone, keep it in the glove box: even if it isn’t connected to a plan, it will still be able to dial 911.

Emergency flares and reflectors will make it easier for your vehicle to be seen both by passing vehicles and rescuers, and a set of jumper cables will get your car started if the temperatures are too cold for your battery. A first aid kit is handy for minor injuries, and a tow strap and some sand may be enough to get your car out of a rut and back on its way.

Keep these items inside the cab of your car: they won’t do much good in the trunk if it’s frozen shut.

5. Don’t Idle

Modern cars are designed to be driven gently when cold, warming up both the engine and transmission. If you want your car to be warmer before heading out, use an electric block heater.

6. Keep Your Gas Tank At Least Half Full

If you end up stranded or stuck in a long traffic jam due to an accident, that extra fuel can mean the difference between freezing and staying warm. The added weight can also keep the rear of the vehicle stay planted, especially on front-heavy vehicles like mini-vans.

7. Be Gentle on Steering, Braking, and Accelerator Inputs

Limited grip means it’s easy to break traction when maneuvering your vehicle. Using your car’s controls as gently as possible and avoiding acceleration and braking in turns can help maintain this grip. If your car starts fishtailing or sliding, slow down. If you lose grip when the car starts moving, go easier on the throttle: spinning the tires won’t let them grip, and it can cause them to heat up to a point that they can catch fire.

8. Don’t Depend on the Parking Brake

On slick surfaces, your tires can turn into skis, letting your vehicle slide down hills even if they aren’t turning. When parking, try to find a spot on level ground.

9. Clear the Exhaust

If you do slide off the road, you may want to run the engine to keep warm. Before you start the car, make sure there isn’t any snow or ice around the exhaust: this can trap exiting gasses, exposing you to carbon monoxide.

10. Don’t Stop to Help Stranded Motorists

If you try to get near a stranded car, you’ll probably drive over the same slick spot and could end up hitting the people you’re trying to help. Instead, contact emergency services: they’ll be able to block off the road to redirect traffic and work safely around the area to rescue the motorists.

11. Get Your Car Fixed Right the First Time

Even a minor accident can compromise your car’s safety structure, whether you slid into a ditch or another vehicle. Merton Auto Body has the equipment and expertise to make your car perform like new again so you’ll be safer when you have to brave the winter weather.

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