This weekend’s holiday festivities wrapped up with snowfall and freezing temperatures throughout Renton and Western Washington. Snow that began falling Saturday and continued throughout the weekend has left a blanket of white throughout King country and across the Western Washington I-5 corridor. Snow driving brings a new set of challenges. And with temperatures continuing to stay below freezing until the New Year, it’s important for Renton drivers to be prepared for icy and snowy road conditions.
Snow Driving Tips: Before you drive
Check weather stations
Before you set out for your drive, check your weather app or local weather station for updates on travel and weather. Winter forecasts can change quickly and it’s important to be informed when they do. A change in weather can easily change your travel plans, and it’s much better to be informed about safety hazards before you get on the road than after.
Prepare an Emergency kit
If you’re driving in the cold and get into an accident it could be a while before emergency crews can get to you. In these emergency situations you’ll want to have your car stocked with the essentials to keep you safe and warm.
What to put in an emergency kit:
- Warm jackets, clothes, hats, etc.
- Any necessary medications
- Extra food and water
- Ice scraper
- Road flares
- First aid kit
Before snow driving make sure to fuel up; it could be harder finding accessible gas on the road. As a general rule of thumb, it’s wise to never let your fuel gauge drop below a quarter tank. During the winter months it’s a good idea to up this to half tank in order to avoid gas-line freezes.
Check tire pressure
Cold weather is notorious for messing with your tires’ pressure. This change in pressure can mess with your tires ability to grip the road, your mpg, and can cause issues with your suspension (if tires are under or over-inflated for extended periods of time).
Most tire shops will check your tire pressure for free. You can also purchase a tire pressure gauge at most auto-parts stores so you can check it yourself.
The recommended tire pressure is typically based on that tire’s make and model.
Check tire tread
In addition to checking tire pressure it’s also important to check tread. For most Renton drivers, all-season tires are the best tire option to get where you need to go throughout the year. For all-season tires, you don’t want your tread to be any less than 2/32 of an inch. If your tread is less then that and it’s icy outside, we recommend not driving until the ice has melted.
You can easily use the quarter-test to check tread:
Insert a quarter into your tire’s tread. If you can see any space about Washington’s head, it’s time for new tires.
The forecast is calling for more freezing temperatures, snow ,and sleet throughout this week and into next. That means now is the time to get your wiper blades checked. If your wiper blades are old and worn out, they won’t stand a chance against the cold weather and ice that’s sure to build up over the next few days.
Snow Driving Safety Tips
When snow driving make sure to take it slow. With the road’s surface being slicker than usual, your vehicle isn’t going to have the traction it usually does. Reducing speeds can help you maintain control of your vehicle. This applies for both accelerating and stopping. Speeding up quickly can cause your car to skid out of control. Slowing down too fast can have the same effect. Because of the reduced traction on the roads while snow driving, it takes longer to actually slow down anyways. Make sure to give yourself ample time to get to your destination and to stop at lights or crosswalks.
If you can avoid stopping altogether, do it. It can take a lot of extra force to get your car moving again once you come to a full stop. If you can maintain momentum by letting off the gas instead of stepping on the breaks it can actually help you navigate icy roads better overall. This is especially true for going uphill. If you are trying to go uphill, the worst thing you can do is stop or hit the brakes. This negates all of the momentum you’ve gained and puts you at serious risk for skidding out.
What to do if you skid
If you do skid out, don’t panic. If you’re driving or taking a turn and feel your car begin to slip, stay calm and refer to these 5 do’s and don’ts:
- Hit the brakes
- Try to overcorrect
- Try to get out of the skid
- Turn gently into the skid (how much depends on how severe the angle is)
- Reduce speed (by letting off the gas)
More Snow Driving Tips
The best way to prevent a snow driving accident is to avoid driving altogether. If you don’t work or can opt to work from home, not venturing out onto the roads is the best way to stay safe. However, if you do need to go out, here are a few more practical snow driving tips to be aware of:
Drive on snow: Packed down snow can have the same effect on driving as hardened ice. This is because both packed snow and ice can significantly reduce the surface tension that your tires have to grip. If you can’t avoid driving, look for matches of fresh, un-packed snow in your lane to drive on. This un-packed snow allows your tires to roll-over and throw off excess snow and gain at least some traction.
Another snow driving tip we have for you is to be wary of when you put on chains.
In some scenarios, chains can be a real life-saver when it comes to snow driving. However, in other scenarios, chains can actually cause serious damage to the road, your tires, and your car’s body.
Chains are meant to give extra traction to slow-moving vehicles on roads with a layer or ice or snow.
If the roads you’re driving on have been salted and plowed, using chains won’t do any good (and instead could easily do a lot of bad). Similarly, chains will do more harm than good good if you’re driving at speeds over 30 miles per hour. This is why it isn’t advisable to use chains on freeways or in areas where the amount of snow and ice allows the flow of traffic to exceed this speed.
If you have chains on your car and see that traffic is picking up or the roads have begun to clear, pull off and remove your chains as soon as it’s safe to do so. Your tires and the road will thank you.
For more snow driving tips, read our blog on winter preparedness.