Winter Driving Safety and Maintenance Tips

October 25th, 2019 by

A winter check sign is shown in front of a snow covered road in Albany, NY.

Driving in the winter is more hazardous than many people realize. During the cold winter months, the deadly combination of ice, sleet, wind, and snow makes it very difficult for tires to properly grip onto the roadways. Spinning out of your lane and getting stuck in snow banks may be all too familiar for drivers living in cold climates. Poor visibility, due to reflecting sun glare and snow-covered windshields, only work to compound the issue further. Next time you stop by our car dealership in Albany, NY, you might want to test drive some of the latest all-wheel-drive Chevy models. Here are some other ways you can make sure that you’ll be prepared for the most dangerous driving season of the year, wintertime.

Get Regular Car Washes & Keep Your Wiper Fluid Filled

Snowy roadways kick back a lot of debris that leave your windshield needing regular cleaning. It’s not just about looks. A dirty windshield can be a real safety hazard. Don’t get stuck with poor visibility because your wiper wasn’t replenished. This simple step can make the difference between being able to see ahead of you and getting into a dangerous accident. On the same note, get new wipers if you need them. Wipers wear out over time, becoming ragged and less effective. It’s not expensive to have your wipers replaced, so take the time and invest in your safety.

In addition to the dirty snow that’s being flicked onto your car by other drivers, salt chemical treatments are often part of the mix as well. Abrasive road treatments have the power to cut through ice and snow, but they can also damage your vehicle if left to sit on the surface for extended periods of time. If you’re in an area with frequent snowstorms, make a habit of getting to the car wash more often. While you’re there, be sure to pay a little extra for the undercarriage wash as well. Keeping your car clean of harsh chemicals will protect vital mechanics and frame underneath your car from accelerated wear, tear, and rust.

While on the topic of keeping your car clean, do yourself and everyone else a favor by removing snow from your parked vehicle before you start driving. If you’re in a rush, it can seem like a nuisance to have to brush inches (or sometimes feet) of snow off your car. In addition to a regular car scraper, a push broom can be helpful in getting heavy snow off the top of your car.  

Whichever method you use to clean it, make sure you don’t hit the road with a car loaded up with snow. Many states that get snow in the winters have laws against driving with snow or ice on the roof, as chunks can slide off and hit other vehicles, potentially leading to an accident. Driving without fully cleaning your car will impair your visibility and can cause you to bump into something as well. Be a good citizen and clear off your car before you drive it to help with everyone’s safety on the road.

Pack Your Car For the Worst

A storage compartment in a car is shown with important supplies needed incase your car breaks down.

Be sure to keep a reliable pair of polarized sunglasses in your car at all times to make sure you can still see if the sun glare hits your eyes. Sun glare can be particularly problematic in the winter months for a couple of different reasons. Between the days getting shorter and “falling back” with daylight savings, your once clear commute could now have you driving directly in view of the setting sun. Furthermore, icy snow banks reflect the sun like nothing else. Their white, shiny surface acts like a mirrored magnifying glass, blinding you with burning sun glare that can result in an accident.

It doesn’t hurt to keep other emergency supplies in your car as well. Accidents happen, and in the wintertime, they happen more frequently than anyone wants to admit. Never embark on a drive in wintry conditions without a fully charged cell phone and sufficient gas in your tank. Just in case help isn’t able to locate you or reach you in a timely manner, keep blankets, flashlights, jumper cables, and water bottles ready in your cargo space if needed.

Double-Check Your Insurance Policy

Winter is a good time to review your car insurance policy and make sure you are adequately covered in the event of an accident. Speak with a licensed insurance agent in your state to make sure that your coverage is comprehensive and includes important liability coverages, such as things like underinsured motorist coverage. 

Even if you do everything right, it’s always possible to get hit by someone else. If that other person doesn’t have proper coverage, you can be left out in the cold. Underinsured motorist coverage steps in to cover your costs when the other driver’s policy falls flat. When it comes time to tap into your car insurance, make sure you can get back out of it what you put in. After all, there’s no point in paying for poor coverage that won’t take care of you when you need it. Car accidents are statistically pretty common. It’s unrealistic to assume that it won’t happen to you.

Switch Out Those Snow or All-Season Tires

Snow tires can make all the difference in your ability to brake quickly when it counts the most. Although all-wheel-drive provides good traction and stability, snow tires take these benefits to another level. It may not be convenient to change and store tires throughout the year, but the payoff can be huge when you consider the safety benefits you stand to gain. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you’re safe just because you have an all-wheel-drive vehicle or a big four-wheel-drive truck. Snow tires can be just as important as your drivetrain for keeping you safe.

A mechanic is changing a customer's summer tires and putting winter tires on their vehicle, which can be done at any local car dealerships in Albany, NY.

In addition to using the best tires possible, it’s important to keep your tires up to the proper pressure at all times. If your vehicle doesn’t have a pressure monitoring system, you’ll want to keep an eye on the pressure level manually. Whenever there are sudden changes in temperature, tire pressure can fluctuate. Having under or overinflated tires can increase your risk of accidents, damage your vehicle’s suspension, and cause misalignment issues with time.

Don’t Forget the Basics

It should go without saying, but lots of injuries happen on the road due to drivers forgetting about their safety fundamentals. With holiday travel around the corner, it’s more important than ever to remember never to drink and drive. Give yourself extra time when traveling, so you don’t feel pressured to speed. Keeping a safe distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you is especially important in icy conditions. Never underestimate the power of wearing seatbelts and refusing to text and drive. Turn your phone volume off or set up a hands-free device to keep temptation at bay. These simple habits could save you from a life-threatening injury and costly repairs.