Cold Weather Driving Tips For All My Struggling Southerners Out There

Illustration for article titled Cold Weather Driving Tips For All My Struggling Southerners Out There
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I arrived back in Texas just in time for it to feel like I’d never left Canada. The south has seen sub-freezing temperatures, ice, and the threat of snow, which is not anything many folks down south are prepared for. So, from me (a former Michigander turned Texan-Canadian) to you (a southern-bound person dealing with an uncommonly cold day), here are a few handy tips to keep you safe and sane.

Don’t go anywhere. Seriously. If you don’t have somewhere you need to go, don’t go out. I know northerners like to laugh at the south’s inability to handle even the gentlest of sub-freezing temps, but the infrastructure isn’t prepared for it. We don’t have salt trucks or plows. We’re not prepared for this stuff the way a northern state is. It’s not ideal.

And we also don’t know how to drive on it. Growing up in Michigan, I learned how to drive in the midst of blizzards and inches-thick ice. You have to know how to cope with that stuff. You cars are decked out with winter tires and you learn from a young age how to deal. In Texas, you don’t have that. Most people don’t. So just... stay at home until it’s over.

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If you absolutely have to drive... Go slow. You don’t need to go highway speeds everywhere you go! Ice is going to make things slick, which means braking and accelerating are going to be completely different from what you expect. Give yourself ample time to cope.

You don’t need a month’s worth of groceries. I assure you that you will not die if you have to eat a frozen pizza, pasta, or a couple cans of beans for a day or two. You very likely have enough groceries to last through this cold snap. It’s okay. Don’t worry about it. Leave HEB alone.

You don’t need an ice scraper. If you have frost on your windshield, you can scrape it off with a credit card or a gift card if you have one. You can also just let your car run with the heat blasting; that usually takes care of any ice accumulation. That being said, please clean off your car if it snows. It’s real shitty to send a wayward chunk flying into someone else’s windshield. And on a similar note, make sure your windshield wipers are equipped to handle the weather; the sun-baked rubber you’ve had on since summer ain’t gonna cut it.

Keep your car in the garage. That’ll keep it protected from weather and possibly a little warmer than if it’s exposed to the elements.

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Check your tire pressure and wear. If your tires were perfectly inflated the last time you drove on that 80-degree day, they’re going to seem a little flat in the cold because the air gets denser. Top them up with air—and use this as a good time to check your tire wear. If you’re cruising around on balding summer tires, stay at home.

Dead battery? No problem. Get a jump from a friend or neighbor. Your car will be just fine. On a similar note, turn off all unnecessaries—radio, headlights, heat—if you think you’re going to have a hard time starting up your car. Let the battery focus on the most important job of starting up. You can add all the other stuff later.

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Don’t drive with sluggish fluids. If your car is suddenly overheating, stuttering, or malfunctioning, your fluids have probably thickened. Either swap to thinner, winter-weather fluids before the cold snap, or just give your car a breather for a few days.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

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DISCUSSION

Probably should point a finger at the Northerners who think they are better drivers in winter conditions, then come down South and make the same mistakes or worse. And this is coming from someone who was born and raised in Jamaica, lives in the South, and has never had an issue driving in winter conditions.