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The Car Coach: Extreme Winter Driving Do’s and Don’ts

Written By | Feb 21, 2021
winter driving, dos and donts

The Car Coach

Don’t get iced by winter! As winter sets in, the roads can become a treacherous place for a vehicle. Heavy rain, snow, sleet, black ice, and ice can create a whole new world on the road than what most are used to driving on. Drivers ed didn’t teach you how to drive in this weather. These tips are important to know before you head out on those slippery roads.

The first and most important is to be proactive. 70% of the cars on the road aren’t prepared for winter.  If you have a 4-wheel drive and a heated seat, that’s not enough.

Many vehicles are designed for all-season driving but it is your job to get that auto ready for the extreme weather that you will experience.  I recommend the following tasks:

Engine oil can freeze

Have the oil changed according to your owner’s manual; consider changing to synthetic oil if you live in cold climates and pure synthetic oil doesn’t freeze, this type of oil really works best to protect that expensive engine.

Check the coolant or antifreeze

It should be flushed and refilled every two years in most vehicles unless you have a long-life coolant. This fluid is what helps your vehicle give you heat and not freeze the engine.

Check the battery

Cold temperatures do not like cold temperatures. If the engine starts slow that is a hint that the battery needs to be replaced. Also, carry a set of jumper cables or a self-enclosed battery jumper. It’s easier and safer to use!

Be certain the heater and defroster are working properly

Warmth is the key if you get stuck!

Keep the gas tank at least half full

This will decrease the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing.  Also, use fuel line antifreeze.

Check tire tread depth and tire pressure

Winter tires will give you the best braking, handling, and safety in cold temps.  If you find yourself sliding around more than usual, check your pressures,  for every 10 degrees of air pressure you will lose 1-2 pounds of pressure and give you poor handling, braking and wear out your tires quicker.

Check tire pressures against the number inside your driver’s door for the correct tire pressure for your auto.

Winter Wiper blades will keep the blade on the windshield and won’t freeze up and you will see where you are driving.

You can do-it-yourself or have a certified ASE auto technician do it for you.

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An Extreme Winter Prep Kit should include:
  • Jumper cables OR even BETTER – a battery starter
  • Ice scraper
  • Windshield de-icer fluid
  • Tire inflation product
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Aggressive snow brush
  • Many Blankets
  • Extra clothes (hats, winter jacket, scarf, gloves, and winter boots)
  • LED light source instead of flares (much safer)
  • Bottled water
  • Snacks (not sugary ones). High-fat foods like nuts, chocolate bars, protein bars, etc.
  • Necessary medications
  • First-aid kit
  • At least 4 hand warmers per person
Driving Tips

Few of us are educated and practiced in how to drive in heavy rain, snow or on slippery road surfaces.


When driving in challenging conditions, slow down. By decreasing your speed you will allow yourself more time to respond when a difficult situation occurs.


Many studies have shown that 80% of all accidents could be prevented with only 1 more second to react. This 1-second can be gained by looking far enough ahead of you to identify problems before you become a part of them.


When roads are slippery, always brake in a straight line before the curve in the road. Taking your foot off the brake before you steer into the corner allows you to use the entire grip available for steering. Don’t accelerate until the steering wheel is straight.


Whenever daytime visibility is less than clear, turn on your headlights, to be seen by other drivers. Remember this rule of thumb, Wipers On – Lights On. When traveling in snowy weather, remember to clear taillights, turn signal lights, and headlamps regularly.


ABS braking systems give you the ability to brake and steer, they are still limited by the grip available on the road, and the type of tires on your vehicle. If you’re driving too fast into a corner and then try to brake, even ABS won’t keep you on the road.


Leave your headlamps on a low beam when driving in snow or fog. This will minimize the reflection and glare, improve visibility, and will help reduce eye fatigue.


Good quality sunglasses help highlight changes in the terrain and road surface even in low visibility conditions. Polarized lenses are your best choice.

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Lauren Fix

Lauren Fix, The Car Coach®, is a nationally recognized automotive expert, analyst, author, and television host. A trusted car expert, Lauren provides an insider’s perspective on a wide range of automotive topics and aspects, energy, industry, consumer news and safety issues.