Planning a romantic date with your Valentine? Unless you've traded in your car for a snowmobile, you should be prepared for whatever the season throws at you (or piles on top of you).
As always, make sure your car is winterized and ready for the weather. Depending upon where you drive, you may consider installing winter tires; if not, at least be sure you've got the correct chains for your tires. If you haven't already, schedule a maintenance appointment to check-up on such essentials as your vehicle’s tire pressure and tread; status of belts and hoses; fill radiator fluid and oil; and ensure your brakes, exhaust system, heater/defroster, wipers, and ignition system are all working properly. Don't forget to check the status of your battery's charge: Batteries that need to be replaced tend to die in the cold weather.
Before you hit the highway, watch the weather reports -- especially if you'll be taking a long-distance drive or visiting isolated areas. Delay your outing if especially bad weather is expected. If you must leave, let others know your route, destination, and estimated time of arrival.
Finally, be sure to use your seat belt every time you get into your vehicle, and be sure your kids are properly restrained by child safety seats or boosters. Statistics show that wearing a seat belt can prevent a death or serious injury during a vehicle crash.
Before you head out, be a sweetheart and follow these tips for driving safely on snow and ice.
1) Don't Drive If You Don't Have To
The best way to avoid an accident on on snowy and icy roads is to simply stay off the roads until the threat passes.
Nothing can inconvenience you more than a wreck or getting stuck! If your trip is non-essential or can be postponed, just stay home. If the weather forces you change your Valentine's Day plans, schedule a romantic evening at home instead.
2) Keep it Full When it’s Cold
Keep your gas tank sufficiently full – at least half a tank is recommended.
The first reason is obvious: Keep your tank half full to prevent the possibility of running out of gas in an area where no service stations are available. Running out of gas under normal circumstances is inconvenient, but in freezing weather running out of gas can be downright dangerous.
Another reason, according to the Car Care Council, is that the condensation of moisture in the air in the gas tank can cause an accumulation of water. Because water is heavier than gasoline, it settles to the bottom of the tank, entering the gas line and eventually working its way to the lowest point in the fuel system. Once the moisture freezes, the fuel flow is blocked and the engine may not start on a cold morning.
3) Slow and Steady
Slowing down is the most important thing to do when driving on ice and snow.
High speeds make it both easy to lose control and difficult to stop. You should never be driving faster than 45 mph in any vehicle when roads are icy -- not even on highways! In many cases, much slower speeds are necessary. You can slide off of the road on certain types of more treacherous icing - like black ice - at 10 mph or less! If you're fishtailing or sliding at all, it means you are going too fast for the conditions.
In normal conditions, you should maintain a following distance of three seconds between you and another car. On winter roads, increase that to a full 8 to 10 seconds. Yes, that may mean slow going, but a little patience will keep you a lot safer on the road.
Be extremely cautious until you are able to determine how much traction you can expect from your tires.
4) Get the Snow Off
From the driveway to the highway, get all the snow off your car
Getting your car out of the snow and on the road can be a pain, but it's an important aspect of driving safety.
Keep your windows clear: Don’t start driving until the windows are defrosted and clean -- even if you’re only going a short distance. Brush all the snow off your car and don't forget the roof! In fact, failing to clean off your car can be illegal. More than that, it can be dangerous to cars behind you: You don't want a block of ice the size of a mattress flying off your car into traffic.
Also, before you hit the road, make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice, or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
5) Check the Tread and Pressure
Tire traction is the key to good accelerating, turning, and stopping under any conditions, but especially on wet and snowy surfaces.
Underinflated tires offer less traction, can reduce fuel mileage, can wear out prematurely, and most importantly suffer unnoticeable and irreparable damage that compromises their performance so check your tires and fill them to the vehicle manufacturer specifications listed in your manual or inside your vehicle's doorjamb. Reducing tire pressure to increase traction doesn't work: driving on under-inflated tires is dangerous any time of year.
Under normal circumstances, tires are legally required to be replaced when they are worn down to 2/32-inch of tread. However, to have adequate snow traction, a tire (even a winter tire) requires at least 6/32-inches of tread. You need more tread depth in snow because your tires must compress the snow in their grooves and release it as they roll. According to Tire Rack, if there isn't enough tread depth, the "bites" of snow your tires can take on each revolution will be so small that your traction will be reduced.
6) Winter Weather Requires Winter Tires
If you live or travel in snowy climates, your tires need the extra grip and turning capabilities that only winter tires can deliver. This is also true if you drive a four-wheel or all-wheel-drive vehicle.
Snow tires have special treads that cut through the snow and allow the vehicle to have better traction. They're also made of a more flexible type of rubber, so that they don't freeze and become hard in cold temperatures.
Many people think that all-season tires can deliver year-round performance, but if you live where you frequently encounter snow or ice, or if the temperature consistently hovers around freezing, all-season tires just won't cut it.
To help you select a winter tire that improves your safety in the snow, the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) designates winter tires that meet the severe snow standard with a new symbol. Only tires that have the Three Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol (a snowflake inside a mountain) have been tested for use in severe snow conditions.
Nexen offers a selection of five winter tire styles designed to provide safe performance driving in treacherous winter conditions for all vehicles. All of them offer 36 months of free roadside assistance with tow and tire change, as well as a mileage warranty that varies depending on the model. Learn more about these models here.
7) Practice Makes Perfect
Know how to handle your vehicle on snowy and icy roads
You can prepare for a skid by practicing. Go to an open parking lot and practice braking on icy or snowy surfaces. Yes, this can actually be fun, but more importantly, you'll better know how to handle yourself when you skid in traffic.
8) Know How to Handle A Skid
To correct for any skid, let up on the gas and gently turn your wheels in the direction you want to go.
Be careful not to over correct and do not re-apply the gas until you're headed in the direction you actually want to go. Panicking and steering sharply into the turn will only reduce control.
If you're fishtailing or sliding, it means you're already going too fast. Reduce your speed so you won't need to worry about this! Most high-speed slides are difficult to correct successfully, but if you're caught off-guard and begin sliding, turn your wheels in the direction that the rear of your car is sliding. It helps to look with your eyes where you want the car to go, and turn the steering wheel in that direction. It can be easy to steer too far, causing the car to slide in the other direction. If this happens (called overcorrecting), you'll need to turn in the opposite direction. Read more about correcting a slide here. http://icyroadsafety.com/tips.shtml
9) Know How to Brake
It's easy to use antilock brakes properly: Stomp, stay, and steer.
When stopping, plan well in advance, apply the brakes gently, and slowly add pressure -- rather than fast sudden braking. But if you're responding to an emergency, stomp on the pedal as if you were trying to snap it off. Stay hard on the pedal, an continue to steer smoothly around the obstacle. As with any driving emergency, keep a firm grip on the steering wheel and stay calm.
If you have a chance to try this in an empty parking lot you'll discover that your ABS also allows you to safely steer around obstacles while in full-brake mode. Just keep your foot stomped down; don’t lift off the brake until your car comes to a complete stop. Most of today's modern vehicles are equipped with antilock braking systems that help drivers maintain control of the car by preventing the wheels from locking up, and as of 2012, NHTSA requires all passenger vehicles to be equipped with electronic stability control systems (which are operated by the ABS). This could prevent from 5,000 to 9,000 fatalities a year!
If you don't have ABS, panic braking takes a little more skill. You have to be able to push the brake pedal down hard, but not so hard that you lock up the tires and start to skid. It takes a lot of finesse to do this well, so this is another skill you could practice in an empty parking lot, to help you learn how to do it in an emergency.
If your brakes don't work at all, try to steer yourself away from traffic and people. Turn on your emergency blinkers. Use your gear selector to downshift into lower gears and, if you must, sideswipe your car against the guardrail until you're going slow enough to use the emergency brake to bring you to a standstill.
10) Know the Limits of All-Wheel Drive
Having AWD will aid acceleration, but it doesn't give more grip in corners or help you stop.
Sometimes, all-wheel drive gives drivers a false sense of security, causing them to brake late or enter turns too quickly. The primary role of all-wheel drive is to provide forward traction when accelerating from a stop: they can't give more grip in corners, or help you stop. Equipping your all-wheel or four-wheel-drive vehicle with winter tires ensures you have maximum control over acceleration, traction, and turning when roads are slippery with snow or ice.
11) Idling Gets You Nowhere
Idling your car to warm up the engine is unnecessary
Research from the Environmental Defense Fund shows that today's electronic engines do not need idling to warm up before being operated, and in fact, idling creates both unnecessary waste and harmful pollution. With today's modern engines, idling for more than 10 seconds wastes more fuel than stopping and restarting the engine.
Rob Maier, who runs Maier's Garage in Bridgeport, Connecticut, says, "You don't really need to idle your car, because of the efficiency of modern fuel injection, which eliminated carburetors and chokes. The only reason to let the car idle at all is to get the oil circulating, but after 30 seconds that's a done deal. My truck has 150,000 miles on it, and I just throw it into gear and go."
Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage. According to Esquire.com, "Idling a car in a garage, even with the door open, is dangerous and exposes the driver to carbon monoxide and other noxious gases. If the garage is attached, those fumes can also enter the house."
Temperature is rarely a reason to idle these days. If you're like us and just don't like driving in a cold car, Bob Aldrich of the California Energy Commission points out that "idling is not actually an effective way to warm up a car — it warms up faster if you just drive it." Turn on your heated seats instead!
12) No Cruising Allowed
Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface.
Your car's cruise control does not know the difference in road surface types and -- on slippery surfaces like wet, ice, snow, or sand -- it can actually cause your vehicle to go into a skid.
If you have cruise control set and the vehicle suddenly loses traction, the cruise control reads it as a loss of power and can make the vehicle accelerate, and you can lose even more control. And if you do skid, you won’t feel it as quickly as you would if you had your foot on the pedal.
13) You Light Up My Life
Check your headlights and taillights to ensure optimal visibility.
Have your headlights properly aimed: Mis-aimed headlights blind other drivers and reduce your ability to see the road. Also: don't overdrive your headlights. You should be able to stop inside the illuminated area. If you're not, you're creating a blind crash area in front of your vehicle. Finally, be sure your taillights and brake lights are working properly: When driving in reduced visibility conditions, drivers tend to follow the tail lights of vehicles in front of them.
Make sure you and your sweetheart arrive safely at your destination. A little prep time before you leave and some extra caution along the way will ensure warm, romantic memories of your journey.
For more information or service regarding NEXEN Tire America, visit www.NexenTireUSA.comand use the Dealer Finder to locate your nearest Authorized Nexen Dealer. You can also call the toll-free technical support number: 1-800-57-NEXEN (63936) / 1-866-70-NEXEN (63936). Follow @NexenTireUSA on Facebook and Twitter for details on tire and car care tips, exciting contests, and more.
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