Making sure you can see and be seen to prevent accidents
You may not be a fan of deep cold, but one thing nearly everybody agrees on: winter, with its snow, icicles and frozen lakes, makes for some very pretty landscapes. We even have songs about it, like “Winter Wonderland”.
The flip side of these pretty sights is that winter can play havoc with your ability to see anything through the windshield of your car, and make your vehicle harder for other motorists to see.
Here are some tips to make sure your visibility is maxed out on winter roadways:
Clear all your windows and exterior mirrors of snow, ice and frost before you start driving. This may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many people set off on the road with less than fully cleared side windows and mirrors. You need maximum lateral vision to detect vehicles coming your way from behind and beside you. Be sure you have an extra scraper or two in the car before you get going.
Clear all snow off your hood, roof and trunk. Have you ever been temporarily blinded by sheets of packed snow coming off another vehicle or your own hood? In some states, it’s even illegal to drive unless these surfaces are completely free of snow.
Scrape snow and ice off your headlights, signal lights and tail lights. When there’s snow falling or laying in the roadway, it’s important to make your vehicle more easily visible to drivers ahead of and behind you to avoid an auto body collision. That’s why it’s a good idea to drive with your low beams in these conditions – even if it’s sunny, because of drifting snow or melting ice that gets kicked up by your tires.
Make sure your defroster and heater are in working order. When you enter a cold car, your breath releases warm moisture that can condense on the inside of your windows. The defroster, in use with your heater, is the best bet for keeping your windshield clear until the glass warms up enough to prevent condensation. Make sure to keep air flow coming into the car, to prevent a buildup of moisture inside the car.
Use the air conditioner for stubborn interior fog. In humid conditions, hot air from the defroster can actually contribute to interior fogging. When this happens, temporarily switch to using the air conditioner, and be sure you’re not recirculating the interior air. The air conditioner will dehumidify the air, preventing fogging. Leaving it on too long, however, will create fogging on the outside of your windshield.
Take proper care of your windshield wipers. By winter, your windshield wipers might need to be replaced if they’re worn or ripped. Check them before the first winter precipitation, and don’t turn them on if they’re frozen to your windshield. Be sure you can lift them off the glass easily before you drive away, and knock off any residual ice or snow clinging to them.
Mind your windshield washer fluid supply. Road salt can create a deadly curtain on your windshield when the roads are wet possibly leading to a trip to the body shop. Be sure the washer fluid reservoir isn’t dry before you drive, and always carry an extra bottle of washer fluid just in case.