With winter upon us, it’s that time of year where you’ll just have to accept that your car won’t look very good for the next few months. Forget about driving a shiny, clean car. The best you can hope for is a wash here and there to get all that road salt off the body and chassis.
That said, a clean car shouldn't be the emphasis now anyway - good driving is where every driver's focus should be this time of year.
Everyone has seen the pile-ups on TV resulting from the past few snow storms. They are all due to driver error. You can blame the snow, ice and so forth but the reality is some drivers don't really know what they are doing on wintry roads.
The best thing you can do about winter driving is to avoid it all together, especially during storms. The less often you're on the road, the smaller the chance of getting into an accident. But if you are forced to go out, follow these simple winter driving tips and you’ll help reduce the risk of having an accident.
Keep your distance
The most basic problem is lack of anticipation. You can be driving along peacefully but hit a patch of ice and be done in a few seconds.
A lot of accidents could also be avoided if there was always enough distance maintained between cars. Too many people follow the guy in front as though the roads are still OK.
Keeping a greater than normal distance between you and the next car gives you more time to consider alternatives in case the car in front of you runs into trouble.
You can start to slow down sooner and more slowly, even if your car has ABS brakes, or you may be forced to pull off the road.
Driving up hills
One of the more frustrating things about driving in snow is how most people deliberately slow down when they approach going up a hill.
It doesn’t make it any safer to slow down in this situation because you need all the momentum you can get to go up some hills in winter.
Giving yourself extra space between you and the car in front allows you to at least maintain momentum, and if the car in front gets stuck you may still be able to drive around it.
Once over the brow of the hill and heading down the other side, take things dead slow, keeping in as low a gear as possible. Avoid heavy braking and steer into bends earlier than usual to give the front wheels plenty of time to find traction and take you where you need to go. That way you'll be able to bring things to a controlled halt before you get to the edge of the road.
Use your local knowledge
If you are driving over the same route, go over in your mind where the upcoming shoulders are and where the normally grassy, flat spots on the side of the road lie. Notice where water usually collects because these will probably be bad spots.
Remember how the road tilts and how it curves - it's all part of anticipating. Also be ready to do the opposite of what you'd normally do.
If a car is coming at you, out of control, concentrate on avoiding it by using whatever part of the road is available - and that may even mean speeding up. Just braking hard will probably get you in trouble.
Overconfidence affects some people. Just because they are driving a four-wheel-drive SUV with ABS is absolutely no guarantee they won't get stuck.
Too many Jeeps and Land Rovers and the like get stuck off the road - most likely because the drivers were going too fast.
Most people forget that four-wheel drive works only when you are accelerating. When you're off the accelerator, you're just like everybody else.
Finally, make sure you've got plenty of washer fluid in the reservoir, your wipers are in good shape and always make it a point to keep your fuel tank full.