Dec 01 2013

It’s Not Always A Winter Wonderland Out There!

Winter driving isn’t as hard as people think it is. It just takes a little more concentration and awareness. Drive like you’re tiptoeing on ice, because you might be. Use small, slow motions. Ease on the brakes, drive like there’s an egg under the accelerator, and if you start to skid, steer in the direction you want to go and keep steady, light pressure on the gas. If you’re skidding sideways, the brake is not the pedal to press. It will just make things worse. When you brake in a straight line and the pedal starts pulsing or chattering, don’t release pressure. Keep your foot in it. That noise means the anti-lock brakes are working.

Most important, slow down. Don’t leave the house unless necessary (which is splendid advice no matter what the weather’s like—traffic congestion thanks you). Keep your head on a swivel, drive defensively, and stay away from drugs and trans fats. (I know that has nothing to do with driving, but good advice, don’t you think?!)

Check your battery.  A weak, failing battery will not get better if you ignore it.  If you have a fresh battery and it’s still running down, get your charging and electrical systems checked for problems. This is not something to put off.

Have an emergency kit in your car.   The ideal cold-weather crisis kit consists of a thermal blanket, ten bucks in cash and two in change, a charged-up flashlight with batteries (or one of those crank-’em-up flashlights with the LED bulbs), an extra ice scraper, a five-pound bag of cheap clay cat litter (to throw under your tires when you get stuck), a small shovel, a charged-up battery booster with an extra cell-phone car-charger cable, one of those little sets of jumper cables that come in a pouch, a couple of pairs of warm gloves, a warm hat, an extra flannel sweatshirt with a hood, some paper towels, a can of aerosol spare-tire filler and a few packs of chemical hand warmers like Hot Hands.

As with car batteries, windshield wipers do not improve if you ignore them. Get some premium, heavy-duty, snow-and-ice wipers. A lot of these have a fabric or rubber boot to prevent moisture from accumulating and freezing their moving parts. Be sure your washer fluid is filled with a good winter solution. Don’t add salt unless you are driving a car that belongs to somebody you really don’t like.

That cover it? Good. Be careful out there. Meanwhile, I think I’ll just stay home in front of a warm fire!