Here in Kansas City, our winters don’t see much snow. And that’s a problem. Because while we don’t get much snow, we still get some. We’ll get three or four big storms every winter, and since that’s all the opportunity anyone gets to practice, there’s a general cluelessness about snow & winter driving endemic to our area. It leads to traffic jams, accidents, and a bitter hatred toward winter. So we put together a list of winter driving tips  to whether the snow safely and efficiently.

 
Full disclosure: We love winter. We love the cold, the snow, snow driving, and the opportunity to stop sweating for at least three months of the year. Bonus: You won’t get mosquito bites or get as easily sunburnt. And some just love winter because the cicadas’ incessant song is no longer buzzing. Though we’re not expecting you to fall in love with one of our favorite seasons, we’re hoping maybe these safe snow driving tips will help take the edge off as we roll right into winter. 

 


Get the Right Tires
Let’s get this out of the way first. Look, we’re a tire store. We’re going to tell you to buy winter tires. But not just so we can bump up our numbers. Winter tires genuinely do offer better traction when you’re driving in snow. Take a look at our blog on the benefits of winter tires. We strongly recommend that you keep a second set of wheels and tires to bolt up around November, when it starts to get cold and wet and full of slush all at the same time. For even more traction, you can get snow tires, which are just winter tires with bigger tread blocks. 

 


Over the past several years, we’ve seen a crossover and SUV craze in America, and many buyers cite their all-wheel-drive capabilities as why. But it doesn’t matter how many of your wheels are driving if none of them are getting traction.

 


Leave More Room
This one is pretty obvious, too. When you’re driving in traffic, leave more room between your car and the one in front of you. You won’t be able to stop as quickly, so when Phone-face McGee up ahead finally looks at the road and skids after slamming on his brake pedal at the sight of a stray reindeer, that space buffer can help you avoid a collision.

 


Turn On Your Lights
If your wipers are on, your lights should be on. During a snowstorm, your headlights aren’t just to help you see. They let others see you. Let’s say someone is about to make a turn across your lane, but she can only see headlights through the dense snowfall. She might judge a gap in those headlights as an opportunity to make that turn. But your car might be in that gap, headlights off. That’s going to ruin everyone’s Christmas. 

 
Most newer cars do have daytime running lights, but it can’t hurt to turn on your low beams when there’s snow in the air. The brighter, the better. However, don’t turn on your high beams, especially if it’s snowing at night. Low beams will illuminate the road under the snow, but high beams will merely reflect off the snow back into your face. This can be blinding or even create a mesmerizing effect. Fog lights also work great for snow.


Pay Attention
Call me Captain Obvious, but when you’re driving in the snow, that’s your only job. Not looking at your phone, not mopping up spilled peppermint latte. If you need to do something else, anything else, just find a safe place to pull over. 

 
Take Surface Roads if You Don’t Feel Safe at Highway Speeds
If you’re doing 25 mph on the highway, you’re being unsafe. Someone might be doing 50 behind you while mopping up a spilled peppermint latte. By the time he sees you through the snow, it may be too late. If you need to drive slowly, that’s fine, but take slower roads. You won’t get there fast either way. You might as well be safe. 


Clean Off the WHOLE Car
This one is easy, because you should do it before you even start driving. I know. It’s cold, and your leggings are wet, and there’s snow in your UGG boots. You still need to clean the snow off your entire car. There are way too many   18-inch snow hats balanced on the roofs of SUVs on the highway. 

 
There are several problems with only clearing off the windshield and windows. First, as mentioned above, people need to see your lights. Not just your headlights. Your brake lights, tail lights, and turn signals too. Second, cars get warm. As the snow mound on your hood or roof begins to warm up from beneath, it will melt, then potentially refreeze. Now there’s a 30 lb chunk of ice on the roof of a car flying down the highway. It’s inevitably going to take flight for a few fleeting moments, then smash into another driver’s windshield. 

 
When you clear off your car, start with the roof. Use a telescoping, long-handled snow brush to push and pull snow off your roof. Then move down to the glass, then the hood and trunk lid, and finally the bumpers. Be sure to brush off your license plate, or some bored cop could pull you over for leaving it obstructed. 

 
Even if you leave a little snow on your hood, it can fly back into your own windshield at speed, melt, and refreeze, and that’s nothing you want to deal with in the middle of your trip.

 


When You Lose Traction, Use Small Inputs
This is the hardest lesson to learn about driving in snow safely. Stability control only goes so far. What do you do when you feel yourself sliding? We tend to do one of two things: We clench up, slam on the brakes, and freeze; or, we make huge overcorrections that leave us in worse shape than we were before. You’ll have much more success staying out of ditches if you avoid these two extremes. 


When you can’t accelerate, feather the gas. Just give it short, light pulses until you start to move. This will take advantage of your car’s rocking momentum to get moving and grab onto the snow.


When you can’t stop, tap the brakes. Tapping the brakes in short pulses will help you maintain control of the car when it starts to slide. Brakes can lock under heavy pressure, which means the wheels stop spinning. At that point, you’re just a much heavier sled. Light, pulsing pressure will let your wheels keep spinning while your car slows. This only applies to older cars, however. Newer cars have ABS, or the antilock braking system, which uses the same principle, but dozens of times per second. If you’re driving a newer car, feel free to just mash the brakes. The computer will handle the rest.

 
When you can’t turn, use small steering inputs, rather than big ones. If you have decent tires and your brakes aren’t locked up, your steering will eventually turn your car. It just takes an extra moment for your tires to find that grip. The biggest mistake most drivers make here is to start spinning the wheel as far as they can. Instinct says, if this steering input isn’t working, I need more steering input. But that’s not the case. Cutting your wheel too far will actually reduce your traction, unsettling the whole car. If you use a light input and you still don’t feel the car turning, try feathering the gas. This may give your car enough traction in the snow to get it heading in the right direction.

 


Practice
All this advice about small inputs is fine, but you won’t have time to google or reread this article as your car skids towards the median. The best way to start driving in the snow safely is to practice under said driving conditions. That means whenever weather conditions call for snow, wait until the traffic dies down, then go for a cautious drive. Start testing yourself. You’ll begin to develop instincts about the abilities of your car and what kind of steering, braking, and throttle inputs you’ll need in order to regain control when it starts to slide. Kids growing up in snow states learn this stuff early on, but you’ll need to build the skillset. So practice at low speeds. Break traction on purpose (in a legal area), and learn what it takes to recover. 

 
No matter how much snow the Kansas City sky throws at us this winter, you can be ready. And if the icy conditions of the road or the cold weather completely throw off your memory on "how to drive in snow safely" Zohr will be there to help with any tire damage incurred through its mobile tire repair and mobile tire replacement services. 

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