A recent report by the Federal Highway Authority estimates that every year, snowfalls or sleet cause at least 70,000 vehicle crash-related injuries. Further, according to the research, out of all the weather-related accidents reported each year, 24% occurred on snowy, icy, or slushy road sections. While snow poses a potential safety threat, being a snow driver, you probably have heard multiple myths about ensuring your car operates at optimum for your safety. With winter beckoning, you’ll soon share your car parking space with blankets of crusty white salt.
Waking up to cars covered in chunks of snow isn’t the only reason drivers dread the snowy weather. The constant mechanical issues that emerge from the freezing weather can be frustrating. While different myths exist about what a snow driver must do to remain safe, it’s important to debunk what’s true and false. Here, we demystify ten common myths for snow drivers as the December season nears.
1. Idle Your Car Before Driving
Most drivers assume a car should be on idle mode to keep the engine warm before driving during winter. Well, this is an old myth that is still popular despite the advancements in modern vehicles. Older generations of cars used carburetors in engines, which needed a bit of warming before driving. Most modern models now use fuel injection systems as a replacement for carburetors.
Fuel injection systems are highly efficient and do not require warming. As such, the myth that you need to keep your car in idle mode for long hours before driving during winter to keep the engine warm is unfounded. Most modern car models have superior fuel injection systems that optimize combustion and efficiency. You, therefore, don’t need to worry about the extreme effect of the winter weather on your car’s engine.
Most auto repair shops dealers offer fuel injection replacement services. If you have noticed emergent inefficiencies in engine operation, you can consider visiting a specialist. Otherwise, when your fuel injection system operates optimally, you don’t need to worry about driving during the snowy season. The myth that you should idle your car before driving during winter is therefore false.
2. Let Air Out of Your Tires for Improved Traction
The assumption that partially deflated car tires perform better during winter is false. If you are a regular snow driver, you should know by now that deflated car tires don’t in any way increase the surface area of the portion of the tire that touches the road. Deflated tires largely compromise your vehicle handling ability, dramatically increasing safety concerns while on a snowy stretch.
Recent research suggests that driving with partially deflated car tires increases the risk of wear and tear, which could also result in tire blowouts. You should maintain maximum tire air pressure when driving in highly wintry conditions. Apart from keeping a firm grip on the road, inflated tires help maintain traction and ensure your safety.
The myth that you should have deflated car tires as a snow driver can be a ticking time bomb. It’s advisable to check constantly for any deflation. Every car model has a recommended tire pressure level, which you must always retain more during winter.
3. Four-Wheel Driving is Always Safe
Ever heard the myth that driving on a four-wheel in the snow makes your car invincible? Nothing could be further from the truth. While four-wheel drive allows your car’s tires to move better in slippery conditions such as deep snow, it’s never guaranteed you’ll be safe on the roads.
Four-wheel drive is a fantastic feature for winter driving. While you will undoubtedly have more traction on the road, you must consider all possible safety solutions. Recent studies indicate that four-wheel drive only allows a snow driver to better grip the icy road. However, this feature does little to improve a car’s cornering capability. You also don’t have much control over aspects such as emergency braking.
Consider four-wheel drive a better option in deep, snowy environments. But this feature should never lead to an assumption of invincibility while on the road. Even on four wheels, always allow yourself space to break and ensure you break gently to avoid sudden accidents.
4. Use Hot Water to Melt Windshield Ice
Your windshield is among the most delicate parts of the car. Any slight impact on the windshield can cause immense damage. The windshield is, however, also the most commonly affected surface during snowy seasons. The likelihood of an ice bloc piling over the windshield is an almost inevitable outcome. While hot water will certainly melt the ice on the windshield, you stand the risk of causing permanent damage.
Most automotive screens can handle extreme temperature conditions. However, a sudden drop from cold snow to boiling water is not ideal. The sudden surge in heat often causes cracks in the windshield and an eventual fall. A cracked windshield is a significant safety concern, and you should seek immediate remedy in case of such an incident.
The best way to defrost a windscreen should be to recycle your car’s heat from the engine. An experienced snow driver may also use air conditioning heat to melt the ice block. While this is a slower approach, it’s safer. Sometimes, you may also consider a homemade deicer and an ice scraper. This will minimize the chance of causing irredeemable cracks on your windshield.
5. Shift to Neutral When Skidding
Neutral gear won’t help you stop faster on icy roads. Switching to neutral could lead to a loss of control when skidding. The myth was perhaps founded on the old model of car braking system but may not apply to the most modern generation of cars. Most modern vehicles have a front wheel, all-wheel, and ABS drive, which means that putting the car on neutral may have little or no effect on the car’s braking system.
The use of neural gear worked better with the older generation of vehicles. Most of these vehicles had rear-wheel drive mechanisms. With advanced models, shifting the gear to neutral to shorten the stopping distance in case you skid on snow may be risky. It’s important that you consider constant visits to your local car repair shop for servicing of the gear system throughout the snow season
When a car is in neutral, making a sudden maneuver is impossible. As such, you must be in gear to ensure complete car control when on slippery roads. This is, therefore, one of the myths you should never listen to when driving on snowy roads.
6. More Weight Improves Traction
You have seen drivers add weight to the car trunk during snowy seasons. This long-standing winter myth assumes that adding more weight to a car trunk increases traction. The truth, however, is that adding weight may weigh down the back of the car truck but may not necessarily enhance traction.
Some common ways to weigh down a car’s trunk include adding bags and cinder blocks. Auto body center experts note this could be a half-myth, given that additional weight can help reduce fishtailing. However, this only applies to older car models with weight distribution challenges. This may not apply to front-wheel drive vehicles that have a balanced weight distribution model.
All-wheel drive vehicles shouldn’t have rear weight added to them. In most cases, such extra weight further destabilizes the car, which can be deadly during snowy weather. If you intend to increase traction on your car during winter, it’s better to focus more on installing high-quality tires instead of adding weight.
Before adding extra weight to your car, consider the fuel it consumes and the cargo space occupied. The best expert advice would be to consider installing winter tires instead of adding an extra load on your car. You may consider visiting an auto body center for advice on ensuring better traction for your car without adding unnecessary weight.
7. Winter Tires Aren’t Useful
Winter tires have proved to be a helpful investment during snowy seasons. Since they were first used in the 1930s, Winter tires have been the source of controversy. As a snow driver, ordinary car tires may not help when stuck in the snow. Opting for regular car tires during winter is a bad idea unless you want to keep taking your car for collision repairs during winter due to sudden skids.
All-season tires serve you well during Summer and Spring. However, with Winter, these tires may be increasingly unreliable. Research reveals that all-season tires lose grip even on regular roads when temperatures fall below 45 degrees. Most all-season tires harden rubber compounds and lower road responsiveness with slight temperature changes.
Winter car tires improve grip when driving on slippery, snowy roads. The rubber compound and the treads on these tires have some aspects of engineering that greatly enhance traction on the road. Even with an all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle, you still need winter tires to improve grip and traction on snowy roads.
8. You Don’t Need to Wash Your Car in the Winter
If you have been a snow driver before, you know by now that no matter how often you wash your car, it will likely get layers of ice almost immediately. Perhaps this is the basis for the common myth that you don’t need to wash your car in the winter. It’s generally advised to consider regular car cleaning even during normal weather conditions.
Regular car cleaning keeps your vehicle’s paint intact and helps you avoid rust. During winter, regular cleaning is even more critical because of the recurrence of rust. It can be highly corrosive when snow mixes with salt, chemicals, and other road-related grit. Imagine this combination forming ice blocks on your windshield and car’s outer body. If such layers of snow remain unwashed for days, your car’s exterior will likely eventually suffer corrosion.
If you are a snow driver, ensure that your visit to the carwash is regular and thorough. You better incur the cost of cleaning the snow-related grit off the car than have to repaint or replace certain car components due to rust. On top of this, you may consider undercoat treatment for your vehicle before or after the snow season to ensure it retains its natural and original form, more so if it’s a rental car.
9. It’s Okay to Pass Drivers in Poor Conditions
Snow drivers should appreciate that speed is an enemy when driving under extreme wintry conditions. The common misconception that you can pass other drivers at top speed sounds like a death wish. According to Forbes magazine, snow conditions top the list of causes of accidents in the United States. As such, caution should be a key consideration for all drivers.
Second, maneuvering corners and sudden breaking are significant problems on icy roads, even at average speed. As such, you need to consider your safety and those of others before making random decisions to overtake. Every snow driver should appreciate that driving during wintry conditions requires actualizing defensive driving lessons. Avoiding speed during snowy seasons isn’t a driving tip but a survival tip. Unless you don’t mind frequent visits to a collision repair shop due to recurrent collisions.
10. Use Your Parking Brake to Stop Quickly
Parking or emergency brakes are a backup braking system installed in most modern cars. Using parking brakes should never be an option when there’s a freeze potential or during snowy weather. Recent submissions by both AA and Toyota highly discourage the use of parking brakes to stop quickly during snowy weather.
When snow freezes on brakes, there’s a high likelihood of technical failure because parking brakes are rarely used. Such sudden force, coupled with the extreme freezing, could cause a freak motor vehicle accident. You should seek technical support from an auto repair services provider regularly during winter to ensure your parking brakes are in perfect working condition.
If you are a constant snow driver, demystifying these ten myths can help keep you and your fellow motorists safe. Apart from debunking these myths, it’s essential that you also consider a visit to your auto repair services provider. Frequently visiting an expert mechanical service provider during snowy weather will ensure your car is in the best technical condition.