QOTD: What Are Your Best Winter Driving Tips?

Illustration for article titled QOTD: What Are Your Best Winter Driving Tips?
Photo: ROBERT LABERGE/AFP (Getty Images)

I looked outside the window this morning and let out the kind of exhausted, chest-heaving sighs that only come with the winter: We got about six inches of thick, damp snow overnight, and I was supposed to be running errands today. Oh, hell.

I grew up in Michigan, so I vaguely know about winter car maintenance, but we also didn’t have a ton of money, so it wasn’t like we were swapping to snow tires or fixing the heating system so I could unthaw the thing from the inside. I also had one of my first long drives in driver’s training through one of the worst blizzards our town had seen in a while, which didn’t warm me to the concept.

Then I moved to Texas, laughing, telling myself I’d never have to drive in anything more than a gentle dusting ever again. Was it that hubris that sent fate along to give me a Canadian husband? Probably. I drove through one cold night and somehow managed to freeze my windows shut from the inside, at which point I once again decided that the whole winter driving thing is not for me.

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So, here we are. Snowy as hell, and me with only the vaguest idea of how to cope with that. I have my basics—ice scraper, emergency supply of blankets and warm clothes, that kind of stuff—but I still feel hopelessly unprepared. My husband has nominated himself honorary driver during all the winter months, which is fine with me because his car actually has heated seats, but I also can’t guarantee I’ll always have him to cart me around where I need to go.

I thought I’d turn the question to folks who likely have more winter experience than I do: how do you prep your car for the winter? What little tips and tricks have you acquired over the years that make winter driving that much easier? How do you survive your winter months behind the wheel?

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

  • Snow tires are a scam. If your tires have tread, you’ll be fine. What you need is an AWD crossover. Not many people realize that AWD cars also have all wheel steering and all wheel braking, providing an advantage over regular cars which can only use two wheels to stop or turn.
  • Get up to the speed limit. If you go too slowly, your car won’t make it through the snow drifts. Engineers account for this when setting the speed limits. Also, it gets smoother the faster you go.
  • Save time by only clearing a two foot by two foot square from your windshield in front of the driver. The rest of the snow will be gone by the time you reach your destination.
  • If you have a shared parking situation and you hate shoveling snow, just wait until the neighbors dig out and then park your car in the cleaned-out space they left behind.
  • Painted lines on the road or parking lots aren’t real if they’re covered by even the thinnest glazing of snow - drive and park wherever you have the best traction.
  • If you get into trouble, slam on the brakes and keep turning the wheel whichever direction you want to go until the car responds. Modern AWD crossovers have advanced computers that will interpret this input and keep you from crashing.
  • If for some reason you have a giant lifted truck on mud terrains, nothing can stop you and you are invincible. Mud terrains are perfect for icy conditions.