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10 Best Practices for Cold Weather and Winter Driving

When cold weather approaches, prepare yourself for cold weather and winter driving with some of these tips.

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Check the Driving SurfaceFamily Handyman

Check the Driving Surface

Don’t wait until you’re skidding to find out the roads are slick during winter driving. If you suspect icy conditions, tap the brakes to see how much traction you have. But first make sure no one is directly behind you. If the roads are slick, slow down, increase the distance between you and the car ahead, and keep your eye on the third or fourth car ahead of you to anticipate problems. Follow our tips to stay out of the ditch this winter.
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Check to See if you Need to Pump the Brakes

Check to See if you Need to Pump the Brakes


Most new cars have antilock brakes that don’t require pumping. In fact, you’ll stop quicker and more safely if you just put steady pressure on the brake and let the antilock mechanism work. Make sure your brakes are in shape with our DIY brake tips.
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Shift into Extra Stopping PowerFamily Handyman

Shift into Extra Stopping Power


Shift your car or truck out of overdrive or economy mode into “drive.” In “drive,” when you let off on the gas, the engine slowdown will act as a brake and help slow the car safely in slippery conditions. Figure out how to use four-wheel drive in winter.
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Cruise out of Cruise ControlFamily Handyman

Cruise out of Cruise Control


Don’t use cruise control. You never know when you’re going to hit a patch of ice, especially on bridges. With cruise on, hitting a patch of ice can throw you into a ditch. Get your car ready for winter by knowing how to winterize your car.
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Switch to Snow TiresFamily Handyman

Switch to Snow Tires


Buy winter tires for winter driving. They’re designed for better traction on ice and snow. With snow tires, you can stop faster and accelerate more easily, and you won’t get stuck as often. This even applies to you four-wheel-drive owners.
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Replace your Wiper Blades

Replace your Wiper Blades


Replace your wiper blades with winter wiper blades. The entire blade is wrapped in a rubber boot that prevents ice and snow from sticking and packing, providing a clearer windshield and better visibility.
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Go Slow on the GasFamily Handyman

Go Slow on the Gas


Accelerate and decelerate slowly during winter driving, AAA says. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids, according to AAA. Hitting the gas harder will only take you longer to get going through the snow usually. Make sure to take your time coming to a stoplight or stop sign so you don’t skid through an intersection. Find out how to get your car ready for winter.
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Stay BackFamily Handyman

Stay Back


AAA tells drivers to increase their following distance by two-fold during snowy conditions. The normal dry pavement following distance of 3 to 4 seconds should be increased to 8 to 10 seconds, according to AAA. The increased distance will give you more time to react should you have to respond to something ahead of you on the road. Get your car ready for winter driving.
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Power Down

Power Down


AAA suggests that drivers don’t try to power up hills in winter driving because it will lead to spinning wheels. AAA says to instead try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill as slowly as possible. Know what to do in a roadside emergency if you get into one.
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Steer into SkidsFamily Handyman

Steer into Skids


It always seems counterintuitive to steer into a skid in winter driving but it’s best to steer in the direction your car is skidding. If your car swings out to the right, turn the steering wheel to the right to stop the skid. It’s also important to not hit the brakes or overcorrect during the skid, both will result in the car skidding more violently. It’s difficult to prepare on how to react to a skid. Geico suggests finding an empty parking lot in daylight to practice driving in icy conditions. Find out what to do if a dashboard light comes on in your car.