Driving on Snow and Ice 101

Driving on Snow and Ice 101

To get to the slopes, you have to drive through the snow

Most Southern Californians like to drive to the snow not on the snow.  It barely rains let alone snows, so we don’t get much of a chance to practice the art of plowing along a snow filled road.

Don’t over-steer

Technology cannot conquer the snow

All-wheel drive and electronic stability control can get you into trouble by offering a false sense of security. AWD can only help a vehicle accelerate or keep moving: It can’t help you go around a snow-covered turn, much less stop at an icy intersection. ESC can prevent a spin-out, but it can’t clear ice from the roads or give your tires more traction. Don’t let these lull you into overestimating the available traction. We’ve rounded up a few tips  to get you to and from the ski slopes safely.

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  • Get a grip – use chains if you have to
    In order to have adequate snow traction, a tire requires at least 6/32-inch deep tread, according to The Tire Rack. New passenger-car tires usually have 10/32-inch of tread. Ultrahigh-performance “summer” tires have little or no grip in snow. Even “all-season” tires don’t necessarily have great snow traction.  Since most of us do not have winter tires, then invest in a set of chains and learn how to use them.Note: as temperatures get colder, your tire’s air pressure can change. Check your tire pressure before heading to the snow and during the trip to make sure that they are at the proper inflation levels.  This helps optimize winter tire performance and can also help improve fuel efficiency.
  • Make sure you’ll be able to see
    • Check your windshield wipers.
    • Make sure your windshield wiper fluid is anti-icing.  If you’re driving in freezing temperatures, there is no point in dosing your windshield with water!  All you’re going to do is add a layer of ice to your windshield.
      Drain older fluid by running the washers until new fluid appears: Switching fluid colors makes this easy.

      Snow covered Car

      Hope you brought a scraper

    • Take a scraper – you don’t want to have to use a credit card to clean your windows.  (Although I must say credit cards work fairly well in light snow.)
    • Clear out the fog – use the defroster
      To remove the condensation and frost from the interior of windows, set your air-conditioner to defrost and select the fresh air option: It’s OK to set the temperature on “hot” to keep you warm as well.
    • Apply a water-shedding material (such as Rain-X) to the outside of all windows, including the mirrors.
  • Make sure others can see you
    • Drive with your lights on – AT ALL TIMES.
    • Keep your headlights, tail lights and turn signals clear of snow.
  • Watch out for black ice
    Black ice or glare ice  is very dangerous. It is a nearly transparent ice that often looks like a harmless puddle.  If you’re not sure of your surface, test the traction with a smooth brake application or very slight turn of the wheel. Black ice is commonly found on bridges & intersections, and wherever water crosses the road.
  • Brake differently on snow (ABS vehicles)
    If you drive on icy roads or roads that are covered with snow, modify your ABS technique: After you “Stomp” and the ABS begins cycling — you will feel pulses in the pedal or hear the system working — ease up slightly on the pedal until the pulsing happens only once a second.
  • Don’t pump your brakes on snow (non-ABS vehicles)
    For non-ABS vehicles on a mixed-surface road, push the brake pedal hard until the wheels stop rolling, then immediately release the brake enough to allow the wheels to begin turning again. Repeat this sequence rapidly. This is notthe same as “pumping the brake.” Your goal is to have the tires producing maximum grip regardless of whether the surface is snow, ice or damp pavement
  • Don’t over-steer
    If a slick section in a turn causes your front tires to lose grip, the common — but incorrect — reaction is to continue turning the steering wheel. This will only makes this worse.  Once the icy conditions end and the front tires regain grip, your car will dart whichever way the wheels are pointed. That may be into oncoming traffic or a telephone pole. Something very similar happens if you steer too much while braking with ABS. Sadly, there are situations where nothing will prevent a crash, but turning the steering too much never helps.

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Regardless of your driving skill or vehicle preparation, there are some winter conditions that can’t be conquered. But these tips may help prevent snowy and icy roads from ruining your ski trip.

Sources:  Mac Demere Edmonds.com,  & news.carjunky.com