A few years back a question like that wouldn’t have even crossed my mind! But moving to the east coast, I’ve learn’t a few tricks on driving in snow without getting myself killed!
Prior to moving to the east coast, I had never driven in snow. I was blissfully unaware of what it takes to drive in snow. I still remember that day. A cold wintery morning, no snow, but icy conditions and I had to attend an interview. I turned on my gps, put on some music and hit the gas!
The GPS told me to take a steep, cobble-stoned road that was covered with ice. And I did. The car went up a bit and then got all floaty and started slipping! Lights I’ve never seen in my car started flashing (stability assist)!
My first instinct was to hit the breaks and park the car. Luckily I didn’t, I was halfway there, and even though the car was slipping, it was moving forward. But I did make it!
So what went wrong? I wasn’t speeding, the tires were new, the car had traction control and stability assist and yet it was a struggle and potentially dangerous to go up that road. How do you climb up a steep road covered with ice?
Winter tires. That’s what was missing. My tires were actually pretty new, but they were sporty, summer tires meant for California roads. Winter tires make a huge difference. A lot of science goes behind the materials used and the treads for better traction and grip on icy roads. This one thing will make a huge difference on how your car performs in slippery conditions. Get your tires changed before the start of winter and change all four tires. (I know this post is a little late for that!)
Climbing up a steep, slippery road
If you are climbing up a steep slippery road and your car starts slipping but keeps moving forward, don’t hit the breaks! Once the car stops, you will start slipping backwards with pretty much no control. For me, I kept going till the road started leveling again. Of course, avoid steep roads if possible, but if you do have to take them, keep this in mind.
Climbing down a steep, slippery road
Going downhill is always harder than climbing uphill when roads are slippery. Breaking may or may not work depending upon how good your tires are how slippery the road is. If you break too hard, your car has the potential to skid, if you break too slow, it may or may not stop. Once again, a good set of winter tires helps a lot.
Negotiating a turn when roads are wet
When you make a turn, your car is pulled towards the edge of the turn by what’s called the centrifugal force. Slushy and wet roads magnify this effect. Slow down! That’s the best advice I can give (and it works)!
Saving money on tires
Now tires are not cheap and prices vary greatly between retailers for the exact same set of tires. Here’s how you can get a good deal on a tire:
- Never buy tires from a dealership. The quote I got for a set was somewhere in 4 figures. Got the same set of tires for 30% less including labor at a local auto shop
- If you have a Costco membership, that is a good place to get tires
- You can order tires online and get it shipped either to you or to a auto shop near you. You cut the middleman and the savings are significant and worth your effort. Amazon has a limited selection, Tirerack and Discount tires are other well known tire dealers
- Once you purchase the tires, go to the manufacturer’s website and look for rebate forms. A number of tire manufacturers provide significant cash backs in the form of mail-in-rebates
- Haggle! When getting your tires installed, haggle on the price. These costs are not set in stone!
- PRO-TIP: When you are getting your tires changed, ask the mechanic to check your brakes as well. Usually, there is no additional charge for this
If you own a 4WD/AWD, you may think you are covered. But remember, a four wheel drive provides control and stability but your tires provide traction. Go with a good set of tires because no 4WD can defy laws of physics!
Share your winter driving stories, tips and tricks!