Important notes about driving in winter conditions

Updated: Mar 7

Here are a few notes we want drivers to be aware of during the winter months:

1. Being prepared for roadside emergencies is more important than ever in the winter time.

There are two main reasons for this:

  1. getting stuck on the side of the road is more likely, and

  2. getting stuck on the side of the road can be dangerous. Not only do you run the risk of freezing, you also have to worry about another driver losing control on sketchy roads (perhaps exactly the way you did).

We recommend having an emergency kit in your car for winter driving, which we’ve covered in this article.

2. No heat or low heat? Check your radiator.

Your car’s heater works by transferring heat from the engine to the heater core, via the coolant circulating through your cooling system. Even a small drop in your coolant level can mess with the functioning of your cooling system, and make your car blow luke-warm air.

3. Tire tips

  • Tire pressure drops when the temp does, os check the PSI and inflate as necessary

  • Use all-weather tires in the winter

  • Make sure your tread is good, as low tread = low traction in snow and rain

4. For driving in snow, you want weight over the drive wheels.

In general, this means choose a FWD vehicle over a RWD. The only exception is when you have one of the rare vehicles when the motor is mounted in the rear.

If your only option is a RWD, you can get better traction with by putting extra weight over the rear axle. Sandbags are a cheap option.

5. A word about rocksalt

Rocksalt is one of those things that’s cheap to purchase, and priceless to have at home when there’s ice or snow. The roads could be plowed and sanded, but that’s not going to do you much good if you can’t get up and down your own driveway.

However, it’s important to know that rocksalt can harm or kill trees, shrubs and gardens (rocksalt is actually a go-to method for killing stumps and trees). This happens when the salt is still present after a thaw, and the moisture washes it down into the soil. The roots get dehydrated, and water is already scarce for plants when temps are below freezing.

Be conscientious about where you apply rocksalt, so it doesn’t wash off your driveway and onto plant roots.

6. Windshield washer fluid is essential on winter roads

Snow usually means sand on the roads, which makes for dirty windshields. Of course, your windshield washer fluid won’t do you much good if it’s frozen. Make sure you get the kind with antifreeze in it, and keep it topped off in freezing conditions.

7. You might want to run a different oil in the winter, particularly in extreme climates.

Oil can gel up in extreme cold. Even in milder climates like Western Washington, thicker oils can fail to lubricate your engine components thoroughly, causing extra wear and tear.

Learn more about choosing the right viscosity in this article. If you’re uncertain about the oil to put in your motor, consult a professional.

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