Winter driving to avoid auto body collisions

Driving on Wintery Roadways

REMEMBER DASHER AND DANCER AND TAURUS AND CIVIC, CONCORD AND SEBRING, IMPALA AND BLITZEN . . . BUT DO YOU RECALL . . . THE SAFEST CAR OF THEM ALL?

During the summer and fall months we tend to forget the subtle nuances of navigating through snow and ice. Then the first snowfall hits, jogging our memories and invigorating our driving skills. But before you dig out your car and make tracks, keep in mind that the most important winter road rule is safety driving before punctuality.

Is Your Vehicle Winter-Worthy?

The time to winterize your car isn’t when six inches of snow have fallen and the thermometer has dipped below freezing. You should winterize well in advance of severe winter weather conditions.

The first thing to check is your motor oil. Most automakers have summer and winter-grade oil recommendations, so check your owner’s manual. Winter-grade oil is usually lighter and will help your car start easier in cold temperatures. Change the oil and the oil filter.

If you’ve ever driven on a slushy highway that has recently been salted, you know the importance of good wiper blades. Check your blades and replace them if necessary. Also make sure you have plenty of windshield wiper fluid.

Most tires sold today are “all-season” radials. They are good tires, but are a compromise between summer and winter driving. Snow tires are better for winter driving and should be installed on all four wheels, prior to the first snowfall. Also remember to check your spare.

Another good idea is to take your vehicle to a service station and let them test your battery and charging system, exhaust system, ignition and belts and hoses. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

The Low-Down when the Snow’s Down

The most important factor to consider before driving through your local tundra is time. You will need extra time to clear snow and ice from your car; extra time to pull away; extra time to brake and extra time to arrive safely at your destination while avoiding a trip to the auto body shop.

Snow and ice dictate that motorists slow down and allow extra distance for braking — usually five car lengths. When you are driving on a snowy road, maintain a slow, steady speed, and to prevent skidding avoid fast acceleration and sharp braking. If you do skid, don’t steer into the direction of the skid. Instead, look in the direction you want the vehicle to go and steer in this direction. This will stop the skid and straighten out your vehicle. Remember, driving on snow and ice requires concentration and deliberate driving.

Black Ice

Black ice is one of the most dangerous winter road hazards because it is nearly invisible and can catch you off guard, which could lead to expensive auto body repairs due to a collision. Black ice forms when the air temperature is warmer than the pavement, causing moisture to freeze rapidly and create a thin, transparent layer of ice on the roadway. It’s often found days after a snowfall, when the roads have been cleared and the sun starts to melt the snow, spreading a thin film of water on the roadway; as the sun goes down, this snowmelt can refreeze into black ice.

You can increase safety by keeping the following tips in mind:

• Be aware that black ice is almost invisible.

• Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and tunnels and in early morning, when the air temperature is rising faster than the pavement temperature.

• Never brake while driving on ice. Applying your brakes while on ice will cause a vehicle to skid. Brake only during your approach.

• Keep your distance. The distance needed to stop on ice is twice as long as under normal driving circumstances. Keep at least a three-car distance from the vehicle directly in front of you.

Your Car is Snowbound. Dig It?

You wake to find a big fluffy white lump where your car was once parked. With a groan, you throw your coat over your jammies, grab your boots, hat, gloves and shovel and tromp out into the blistering cold.

Before you pry open the door and start your engine, be sure to clear snow from the tailpipe. This will prevent deadly gases from building up in the passenger compartment while the engine is idling. Next, you should clear snow from all windows and from your headlights and tail lights. Remember, you want to see and be seen.

Dig out the tires and spread sand or kitty litter in front and behind them. If that is not enough to get you out, use your vehicle’s weight to rock you out. Flooring the accelerator rarely helps, but by rocking the car with quick forward and reverse movements you can use the weight and force of the car to get onto the open road.