Prepare Your Vehicle Show More
From a mechanical aspect, winter conditions—wet, cold, and icy weather—present the greatest challenge to your vehicle’s operating efficiency. Since these conditions cannot be avoided, prepare for winter by performing a complete vehicle checkup in the fall, including the following items:
- Electrical system (battery, ignition system, and lights)
- Brake system
- Exhaust system
- Heating and cooling system
- Windshield wipers, washer fluids, glass, and vehicle exterior
Find a AAA Approved Auto Repair Shop
Schedule Battery Testing
Did You Know? To corner and brake properly on frosty roads, you may need winter tires on all four wheels. According to Bridgestone, the difference in traction between all-season and severe-winter-rated tires is 25 to 50 percent.
Make an Emergency Winter Driving Kit Show More
The following items are be invaluable to have with you in your car should an emergency develop:
- Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, or non-clumping cat litter)
- Small snow shovel
- Snow brush and ice scraper
- Traction mats
- Flashlight with batteries
- Windshield washer fluid
- Gloves or mittens
- Cloth or paper towels
- Booster cables
- Blankets and extra winter clothing (scarf, gloves, hat, boots)
- Warning flares or triangles
- First aid kit
- Cellular phone
- Drinking water and a small food item (e.g., granola bar)
- And of course . . . your AAA Membership Card
Stop by your local AAA Travel Store and pick up your AAA Traveler Road Assistance Kit. It gives you the all basics you need out on the road at an economical price, including a AAA emergency care guide, heavy-duty booster cables, a heavy-duty flashlight with batteries, an emergency poncho, a 2-in-1 screwdriver, a first-aid kit, and more—all in a 2-sided carrying bag.
AAA Member Price: $22.95
Prepare Yourself—The Driver Show More
To minimize the dangers associated with winter driving, both the vehicle and the driver must be prepared in advance. For the driver, this means approaching winter driving with the right frame of mind.
- Always drive at a speed that matches the prevailing visibility, traffic, and road conditions.
- Select clothing that provides warmth, comfort and freedom of movement.
- Position your seat so that you sit no closer than 10 inches to the steering wheel and can see the road ahead.
- Use safety equipment correctly, including seat belts, side and rear-view mirrors, and sunglasses (in case of glare).
Getting Started Show More
Before you begin driving your vehicle, always be sure to follow these simple tips:
- Warm up your vehicle for at least 5 to 10 minutes before heading out, allowing the oil, engine, and heat and defrosting systems reach minimal performance temperatures.
- Remove all snow and ice from the hood, roof, trunk, lights, exhaust pipe, and windows.
- Never use warm water as a de-icer, and never combine heat with de-icer as it is flammable.
- Run the heater for a minute or two before turning on the defroster to prevent fogging the windshield.
- Clear a path in front of your wheels for several feet by driving forward and backward or shoveling.
- With your wheels pointed straight to minimize rolling resistance, shift to "drive" (or second gear for manual transmissions) and apply gentle pressure to the accelerator, WITHOUT spinning the wheels. If you let the wheels spin, you will only dig deeper into the snow.
- If you need more traction, use traction mats or one of the abrasive materials that you included in your emergency winter driving kit. Do not let anyone stand directly ahead or behind the drive wheels.
- If you are still stuck, rock your vehicle out of the rut by applying the accelerator slowly in low gear, releasing when you stop moving forward, and re-applying when you stop rolling backward. Repeat in rapid succession using minimum power to avoid spinning wheels.
- Try to avoid driving when visibility is poor. If you must drive, keep your speed low, use your low-beam headlights, and pull off to a safe spot if condition worsen.
Basic Driving Show More
- Normal following distances for dry pavement (3 to 4 seconds) should be increased to 8 to 10 seconds when driving on icy, slippery surfaces.
- Further increase your following and stopping distance as it gets colder. The stopping distance required on ice at 0°F is twice the amount required at 32°F.
- Drive in the lane that has been most recently cleared, and avoid changing lanes unless necessary.
- Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface.
- When driving up and down hills, observe how other vehicles are reacting and maintain safe distance. Reduce speed as you reach the crest, and proceed slowly down the hill using minimal braking, or squeeze braking if necessary, to avoid loss of control.
- Remember that traction is greatest just before the wheels spin, so use gentle pressure on the accelerator, or let up until traction returns.
- Steer and brake with smooth, careful, and precise movements rather than quick, jerky motions.
- Take extra care when driving on shaded spots, bridges, overpasses, and intersections.
- Brake before you reach a curve in the road, so that you are braking in a straight line.
Emergency Steering & Braking Show More
As an evasive action, steering is preferred to braking at speeds above 25 mph. Less distance is required to steer around an object than to brake to a stop, and sudden braking can lead to loss of control in slick conditions. Follow these tips if emergency steering or braking is necessary.
- Use the push-pull-slide method of steering by shuffling your hands so that neither crosses the imaginary line between 12 and 6 o'clock.
- If you don't have anti-lock brakes, use threshold braking to stop, keeping your heel on the floor and applying steady, firm pressure on the brake with the ball of your foot until you reach the "threshold" of locking your brakes.
- If you have anti-lock brakes, do not pump or take your foot off of the brakes. Your vehicle's system is designed to perform threshold braking with a pulsing action that reacts to the situation more quickly than humans, and pumping works against that system.
If you find yourself skidding, the following effective maneuvers—and a calm approach—will help you regain control.
- If your rear wheels begin to skid due to a loss of traction, 1) continue to look at your path of travel down the road, 2) steer in the direction you want to go, 3) avoid slamming on the brakes, and 4) continue to steer after your wheels stop skidding to avoid a rear-wheel skid in the opposite direction.
- If your front wheels begin to skid due to hard braking or acceleration, 1) continue to look at your path of travel down the road, 2) steer in the direction you want to go, 3) avoid slamming on the brakes, and 4) wait for the front wheels to grip the road again, then gently steer in the desired direction.
Read our informative brochure, "How To Go On Ice And Snow," to learn more about winter driving safety.