Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Winter weather driving safety tips

Follow these winter weather driving safety tips to arrive safe and sound

Late model cars and trucks are loading with new traction and stability control features that can affect vehicle handling on wet and icy roads. I’ve compiled a list of the top winter weather driving safety tips to help you interact with these new features and drive safely in winter weather driving conditions.

Traction control tip

Traction control is designed to detect wheel slip and apply corrective measures traction control iconlike braking and RPM reduction. That’s great if you’re clipping along the road and hit an icy spot. But traction control can actually work against you when you’re stuck or trying to accelerate from a dead stop at an icy intersection. The traction control detects the spinning wheel and cuts engine power or applies the brakes, so you can’t accelerate. If you’re stuck in mud or a rut or doing lots of city stop-and-go-driving at low speeds on icy or snow-packed roads you can’t accelerate from a stop, turn off the traction control system in your vehicle.

How to turn off traction control

To turn off traction control, most vehicles must be in PARK before you press the traction control button for a few seconds. Traction control will automatically turn on the next time you start the vehicle.

Shift out of overdrive

Overdrive is great for getting the best gas mileage, but it can get you into overdrive transmission lighttrouble in winter weather. When a transmission is in overdrive, you lose the advantages of engine braking. When you take your foot off the gas, your car or truck coasts for a while. That may be counterproductive on icy roads where actually want to slow down as you head into a curve. You’ll find you have much more control over your vehicle in winter weather icy road conditions if you turn off the overdrive feature.

Kill the cruise control

Cruise control, high speeds and icy roads don’t mix. Even if the highway pavement appears dry, bridges and low spots can be slick. If you hit one of those spots when your cruise control is calling for more power, you can lose control and land in a ditch.

Don’t get overconfident because you’re driving a 4WD or AWD

AWD and 4WD definitely provides more traction when accelerating from a dead stop, and they provide a bit more stability on slippery roads. But they also give drivers a false sense of security. You can’t drive any faster on icy roads simply because your vehicle has AWD or 4WD. AWD and 4WD vehicles can’t stop any faster or handle turns any better than a 2WD vehicle—inertia and centrifugal force affect all vehicles equally. Next time you’re on icy roads, pay attention to which vehicles are in the ditch…..yup, they’ll be ones with 4WD and AWD.

It’s all about tire tread depth

Tirerack.com conducted tests comparing stopping and turning distances of winter tires and all season tires. Here’s what they found. Winter tires stop your vehicle 66% faster on snow (an amazing 30-ft shorter) than all season tires and 44% faster on ice.

Tirerack.com also conducted stopping distance tests at different tread depths of all season tires. New tires have about 10/32” of tread. But once that tire wears down 4/32”, you need an additional 125-feet to stop on wet pavement. By the time your tires wear down to the legal limit of 2/32” your stopping distance increases by up to 250 additional feet on wet pavement (compared to a new tire).

Based on those results, you can see why it’s so important to drive on good tires. Yes, new tires are expensive. But a single slide into a curb, even at slow speeds, can cause upwards of $1,200 damage to your front end (see this post). Your insurance deductible for a single accident will be more than a new set of tires!

The right way to get unstuck in winter

Everyone knows you want to rock your car or truck to get unstuck. But most drivers do it the wrong way, by shifting back and forth between drive and reverse and gunning the gas. Yes, that’ll get you unstuck, but it can also destroy your automatic transmission. Here’s how that happens. You shift into drive and give it gas. The transmission performs the 1-2 and 2-3 shift by applying and releasing pressure to different clutch packs and bands. Then you slam it into reverse and apply and release different bands and clutches. By repeating that maneuver over and over, you overheat the clutch discs and bands.

You can rock the car and get unstuck without shifting between drive and reverse. Here’s how. Shift the transmission into low gear (1) and leave it there. Feather the gas pedal until the gas moves forward a bit, then release the gas until the car begins to roll back into the rut. Then feather the pedal again to create the rock. Repeat this procedure until you gain enough momentum to free yourself. Don’t overdo the gas—spinning your wheels just melts the ice/snow and makes it even harder to break free.

©, 2016 Rick Muscoplat




Posted on by Rick Muscoplat


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