So last week, to the dismay of many a Bostonian, we got our first snowfall of the year. The temperatures have already been steadily dropping in the last couple weeks (despite the warm weekend), and finally Mother Nature decided it was time for the rain to freeze and the snow to stick, at least for a little while. In what's looking to be a tough winter (at least compared to last year), we've put together some tips and tricks on how you and your vehicle can make it through these cold winter months. We've got tips on maintaining your vehicle as well as some nice tips about staying safe when you do have to venture out and drive through the snow.
1. Check Your Windshield Wiper Fluid
You want to not only make sure your windshield wiper fluid is topped off, but also make sure the concentration isn't watered down, which reduces its effectiveness. You'll want to add more concentrate to lower the freezing point of the wiper fluid, especially when it starts getting EXTRA cold in the dead of winter.
2. Make Sure Your Wiper Blades Are Working
One of the most important things about winter driving is being able to SEE. When you're driving through a blizzard, you really don't want to make things worse by not being able to see out your car because of old or worn down windshield wipers.
3. Heat Up Your Car In The Morning!
Before you leave for work or school in the morning, give your car a couple minutes to just run and heat up before you get going, then drive away gently. My family always used to just turn the car on right before we were done with breakfast to make sure the car had ample time to warm up before we left. You need to let your engine heat up before you start revving it at high RPM's to keep your engine in good shape!
4. Buy A Remote Starter
Although this isn't completely essential, there's no greater feeling than jumping into a warm car after venturing through the parking lot and all of nature's fury :). Keep in mind, it's a good idea to buy a factory approved remote starter through your local dealership to make sure everything works right and is fully compatible.
5. Do NOT use plastic ice scrapers on your car's paint.
If you're wiping snow and ice from your car, be sure not to use your plastic ice scraper on your car's paint. It's fine to scrape ice off the windshield, but the plastic scrapers will scratch your car. All you want to do is lightly brush the snow off your car with a sponge-like mop (or something similar), and then let the ice and hard packed snow melt off as you're heating your car up and driving around.
6. Consider Snow Tires, or at least All Season Tires, but definitely NOT Summer Tires!
In terms of traction, Snowtires > All Season Tires > Summer Tires. Think of your shoes. Try wearing sandals in the snow - that's like driving on summer tires in the winter. Summer tires and performance tires use a softer compound rubber that is more likely to harden in cold temperaures, meaning less friction and less traction in the winter.
All-season tires would be like wearing sneakers in the snow - you get some grip, but not as much as you would prefer. Ever tried running around in the snow in sneakers? Not ideal.
Snow tires are like a pair of rugged winter boots from Timberland, they'll give you all the traction you need through the snow. However, you don't want to drive on winter tires above freezing because the rubber will degrade at a much higher rate than summer tires will from driving on the warm pavement. It's kind of like how you don't want to wear winter boots in the midle of July!
7. Make Sure Your Tires Are Inflated Properly
This is here for the same reason you ALWAYS want your tires to be inflated properly. Having less or more than the ideal amount of air in your tires makes your car handle poorly, can result in tire stress due to overheating, or tire failure.
8. Tire Tread
Any tire with little to no tread will not perform well in the rain or snow at any temperature, so tread depth is VERY IMPORTANT. Most tires come from the factory with between 8-12mm of tread depth depending on the performance of the tire. Massachusetts requires that you replace the tire when the tread depth is 2mm or less, or else you won't pass your yearly inspection. At 0mm, you're driving on slicks.
9. Tire Pressure Monitoring Lights
Due to rapidly changing temperatures, some people may experience TPM, or tire pressure monitoring lights. This doesn't mean you have a flat necessarily, it just means the tires have dropped below the minimum pressure. Sometimes, if you drive with the TPM light on, the air molecules in the tires will warm up and increase the presure, and the light will go off. But of course, it's always a good idea to manually check the tire pressure. Sometimes the TPM light will go off as a result of low pressure in the spare tire, so it's important to check that as well.
10. In Falling Snow, Turn On Your Lights!
Even if it's the middle of the day, turn your head lights on when you're driving through falling snow. If there are gusty winds, it's really hard to see and having your lights on will make sure the drivers around you know where you are, making the chances of a crash or collision much less.
11. Keep Your Distance And Don't Slam Your Brakes
I'm sure we've all experienced it, but you're driving down a snow covered street and you need to make a sudden stop so you SLAM the brakes, thinking your car's going to stop normally. Instead, you feel the brake vibrating and the car start to slide forward, and the panic sets in.
When driving in the snow or in slippery conditions, it is extremely important to make sure you have plenty of space to stop when you need to. You can't tailgate the guy in front of you thinking you'll be able to stop suddenly. Instead, when you need to stop or slow down, you want to gradually pump the brake letting the car eventually come to a stop.
Another good technique is engine braking, which is something that manual transmission drivers do a lot. It basically involves downshifting so that the car is rolling at a faster speed than the engine's RPM's are turning. This slows you down as the car needs to slow itself down to match with the engine's RPM's, thus saving your brakes from having to do the work!
12. DRIVE SLOW!
When there's snow on the roads, the best thing you can possibly do is to drive slow. Your max speed before you start sliding around should be MUCH LESS when there's some snow on the ground.
13. Download our FREE Checklist
To keep yourself organized, download our free Boston winter driving checklist by clicking below!