Driving Safely Through a White Winter

winter driving through the snow and icy roadsRooting for global warming won't make the winters any less cold or the roads less icy, so it's best you learn how to properly—and safely—tackle wintry roads behind the wheel. The humid, below-freezing winters of Spokane create dangerous road conditions for commuters to traverse. If you must brave the snowy terrain, follow these words of wisdom for safe winter travels.

Tried and True Tires

Since it isn't rare to encounter the roadways of Spokane strewn with snow, slush and ice, equipping your cars with winter tires is a necessity. These tires are composed of special rubber compounds and treads to improve traction, steering control and braking when you need it most. By installing Michelin tires optimized for winter such as the X-ice or other winter-ready brands, you'll gain a significant advantage in slippery conditions. To further arm tires against Old Man Winter, many drivers opt for tire chains or metal-studded tires (where legal) to improve friction between tire and road. Look for tires branded with the severe winter traction icon—a snowflake centered in a three-peaked mountain—that meets the stringent requirements set forth by the U.S. Rubber Manufacturers Association and the tire industry at large. To adhere to these standards, tires must achieve a traction index equal to or greater than 110.

Steering Clear

Drive as if you're walking over a frozen lake and the thin ice begins to crack beneath your feet. Winter driving is precarious at best, and you'll need to know proper steering and braking techniques to recover from losing control. Should your car begin skidding, steer in the direction you want to go and maintain light pressure on the gas pedal. When skidding sideways, keep your foot off the brake to avoid upgrading this situation from bad to worse. If your car is sliding straight ahead, stomp on the brake with all the strength your leg can muster. This only applies to anti-lock brakes—you'll know they're doing their best to bring your car to a screeching halt when you hear a staccato thumping sound. For those without the luxury of anti-lock brakes, enact the following sequence—contrary to the common misperception of pumping your brakes. Forcefully push the brake pedal until the tires stop spinning, then instantly release the brake until the wheels roll again. Hastily repeat these steps.

Eyes on the Road

Car windows must be free and clear of any wintry impediments. Windshield wiper blades are rapidly worn down by the accumulation of ice. When parking outside, many drivers extend their wipers so they protrude outward. This technique prevents wipers from freezing to the windshield. Frozen wipers can prevent effective functioning and quickly wear out the motor. Consider replacing those icicle-susceptible wipers in lieu of heavy duty winter windshield wiper blades—they're more adept at snow removal to make winter driving a little more bearable.

Take a few minutes to ensure further visibility while driving in the cold clime. Apply a water-repelling fluid to all outside windows and mirrors and fill your windshield washing reservoir with anti-icing fluid.

Bonus Advice; You're Welcome

  • The weight of a full tank of gas will act as a ballast for your car. A nearly-depleted gas tank is at risk for condensation that can freeze in your fuel lines. Fill up frequently.
  • Your tires' pressure requires unremitting attention when the Fahrenheit drops. Tires lose about one p.s.i. each time the temperature falls 10 degrees, so check the gauge often.
  • Keep the traction and stability controls on during the long winters—except when stuck in the snow.
  • For the engine to work at prime efficiency, allow your car sufficient time to warm up.

Authored by: Gerry Borgata
Originally from Hermosillo, Gerry has been working on sports cars and trucks for the past 20 years. After moving to the U.S. five years ago, he started writing reviews and sharing tips on how to care for Porches. He has a strong appreciation for AP style now that he's a freelance writer.