Tips For Driving In The Winter

Bob Bondurant

Despite record-breaking warm temperatures in much of the country the past week or so, winter is coming, accompanied by the usual arrival of onslaught of snow, ice and the hazardous roads such weather produces.

Many of us will be heading to the mountains to take advantage of winter sports, or visiting the resorts. While winter and the holiday season can be an enjoyable time of year, we must take special care of our vehicles and pay particular attention to our driving during these colder months.

One of the simplest tips to keep in mind is to make sure that the windows and mirrors are always clean. Good visibility is always important, but even more so during the winter months when road conditions can make driving extremely hazardous. Scraping a small patch to see through the windshield isn't good enough. Before you drive, remove ice and snow from all of your vehicle's windows and mirrors.

Be sure that your windshield wipers are in good condition and working properly. The summer has a tendency to dry-out wiper blades, making them brittle enough to crack and come apart. Now is the time to change your windshield wipers before you get caught in the rain or in a snowstorm.

Be sure to check the fluid levels, tires, hoses and belts at least once a month. The transition from summer to winter places a large strain on many parts of your vehicle. Be sure that the radiator is properly filled with an anti-freeze solution. If you are not certain of the level of antifreeze left from the previous winter, play it safe and have it changed.

Also be aware of the tire wear and amount of pressure that you maintain in your tires. If your tires are worn and low on tread, this is the time to replace them. If you are uncertain as to the condition of your tires, again play it safe, drive to your local tire center and have them examined by a professional.

Once you have readied your vehicle for winter, keep in mind a few basic driving tips to help keep your driving excursions safe. One of the most basic tips is to sit properly in the seat. Sit up straight with a nice bend in your arm, and hold the steering wheel at the three o'clock and nine o'clock hand positions. Sitting upright helps you to be more alert, and ready to respond to any type of driving situation.

Once you are behind the wheel, RELAX. You will have better control of your vehicle with smooth steering, gradual acceleration, and by squeezing gently on the brakes. Smooth application of the brakes is especially important while driving on slick surfaces. Be consistent with all the controls, the vehicle will tend to respond more predictably.

Although driving in the winter can sometimes be hazardous, it can be made safer if we follow these simple pointers. As a general rule of thumb, if something doesn't appear correct with your vehicle, have it checked out by a professional. Likewise with your driving -- if you're going to be rushed or in a hurry, you're better off not driving at all. Better to be safe than sorry.

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