Winter Weather Driving
Driving during severe winter weather conditions can be demanding.
And how you handle your vehicle in those conditions could be the
difference between a safe trip and serious trouble.
Not all cars are alike. To become familiar with your vehicle's
winter weather operating characteristics, AAA-Chicago Motor Club
recommends practicing slow-speed maneuvers on an empty snow or ice-covered
parking lot. The Club also suggests reading your owner's manual
for information on equipment and handling characteristics.
The following are things to consider while driving in winter weather
Front, rear, four or all-wheel drive
Become familiar with what wheels are given power in your vehicle.
Front-wheel-drive vehicles generally handle better than rear-wheel-drive
vehicles on slippery roads because the weight of the engine is on
the drive wheels. The back end of rear-wheel-drive cars tends to
lose traction and slide side-to-side during turns on icy roads because
there is little weight on the drive wheels.
Many vehicles today are equipped with four, or all-wheel drive,
which helps maintain traction in difficult conditions. However,
drivers of four-wheel-drive vehicles should avoid becoming over
confident. Four-wheel-drive does not make the car brake any better.
A vehicle's braking system also determines how motorists should
operate their cars in winter weather. Anti-lock braking systems
(ABS) provide significant stopping advantages on slick roads, but
are only effective if properly used. When stopping a vehicle with
ABS in slippery conditions, motorists should apply steady pressure
to the brake pedal. The ABS automatically pumps the brakes to keep
the wheels from locking up, preventing skids and loss of control.
Do not take your foot off the brake pedal if you hear or feel it
chatter. That means that the ABS system is working properly and
you should continue to steer the car normally.
If you don't have ABS, gently pump the brakes during slippery conditions
to avoid locking the wheels and losing control.
Recognize Danger Zones
Intersections - Slow down before reaching an intersection. Scan
left and right for cars and pedestrians. If you are having trouble
stopping, they most likely are too. After a stop, press the accelerator
slowly to get moving again. If you have a manual transmission, try
starting in second gear to avoid wheel spin.
Hills - When approaching an icy hill pick a path that will allow
you the most traction. Head for unpacked snow or powder where you'll
get a better grip. Build your speed gradually before you reach the
hill and if you have switch-on-the-fly four-wheel drive, shift before
you reach the hill.
Curves - Reduce your speed before you enter an icy curve. Any sudden
acceleration or deceleration while turning could send you into a
skid. Controlled speed, smooth steering and braking will help prevent
from skidding on an icy turn. If your wheels lose grip, gradually
release the pressure from whichever pedal you're using and smoothly
steer in the direction you want the car to go.
The simplest thing to remember when extricating your vehicle from
snow and ice is to use finesse rather than power. Hard acceleration
is likely to worsen the situation by causing the tires to dig the
car deeper into the snow.
AAA-Chicago Motor Club recommends first, clearing away the snow.
To improve traction, spread sand, cat litter or some kind of abrasive
material around the tires containing power. Then, shift the car
into low gear (or second gear in a manual transmission) and slowly
apply pressure to the accelerator.
If that doesn't work, try rocking the car back and forth by easing
forward and then releasing the accelerator.
If you are unable to free your vehicle, carefully assess the weather
conditions before abandoning it. In extreme cold or heavy snow,
stay with your vehicle and wait until you can be rescued.