When the weather gets frightful, it’s important to step up your driving!
We all know that winter tires are better than all season, and it’s not a bad idea to add a little fuel line antifreeze to avoid choking your car, but those are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to safe winter driving.
I’ve listed a few winter driving hacks to keep you safe on the road…
Make Sure Your Headlights Are Bright and Aligned
Given the reflection off snow and fog from changing temperatures, it’s during winter, more than at any other time of year, that you want to make sure your headlights are in good working order, properly aligned and bright.
If you find that your headlights have gotten foggy over time, there’s a simple solution: toothpaste. Really! Just grab a tube—whitening toothpaste, which contains some mild abrasive, works best—some rags and rub the paste onto your headlights. Give it a good going over and then wash away what remains.
If your headlights are more than a few years old, you may need to sand off the oxidization from the top few layers of the plastic. You can take your car to a mechanic to do this, or do it yourself. Either way, at the end you should have sparkling clear headlights, and you’ll notice the difference immediately.
If Your Park Outside Overnight, Direction Matters
Believe it or not, the ideal position is to park your car facing east, where the sun rises.
That way, your windshield will benefit from the natural thaw effect of the sun and you’ll have less work to do to scrape off the ice and snow that may have accumulated overnight.
It sounds simple but if you’ve ever spent time scraping a windshield, you know that anything that makes the task easier is a good thing. Of course, finding a parking space that faces east might be a challenge…
Frozen Locks And No Hot Water Handy?
Use hand sanitizer. Most of us have some of this handy and it serves double duty with a frozen car lock. The alcohol in the sanitizer will break down any ice that formed from moisture freezing into the lock.
I’ve used this trick more than once and it really works.
Keep Side Mirrors Clear Of Ice
From a safety point of view, your side mirrors are essential. Unfortunately, when they get caked with ice, even the heated kind can take a while to thaw.
Instead, if the forecast is calling for freezing rain, pop some freezer grade zip lock bags over each mirror (the big ones). They’ll be easy to clean off in the morning and your mirrors will be ice free.
You can do the same thing for your windshield except use a sheet in that case. Held down by your doors and wipers, the sheet will make it easier to get a clear windshield, so you can drive safely. It will also protect your wipers from getting stuck to the glass.
I haven’t tried the sheet trick (Sherry worries that the sheet will fly over to the neighbour’s yard), but one of these days…
Keep Cardboard In Your Trunk
If you get stuck in a snow rut and your tires are spinning, you can place the cardboard in front of the tires that aren’t getting traction and try again.
Cat litter also works well in this regard and the weight of a couple of containers of litter will help if you’re driving a rear wheel drive vehicle.
Place the containers inside your car, roughly over the rear wheels, for best results. It’s a little harder on your fuel consumption but beats fishtailing and ending up in my office.
How To Stay Safe If You’re Stuck In A Snow Storm
If you’ve had an accident—single vehicle or otherwise—or are just stuck in a snow bank, you’ll be glad that you took these precautions. I think back to the big Buffalo snow storm of a few years back when drivers in the midst of their daily commute were stranded for days and a few lost their lives. We get our share of snowstorms on this side of the Golden Horseshoe (especially if you’re in St. Catharine’s or Niagara Falls) so I take these hacks seriously…
- Charge your tech—Make sure your cell phone is fully charged before going out in less than great weather, and make sure you always have a charger with you: if you get stuck on the side of the road, you want to be able to call for help quickly, particularly if you are stuck in harm’s way
- Keep an emergency kit—Particularly if you’re driving in rural areas where help might not be immediately available, you want to have items like:
- Reflective triangles or flares, to make you more visible
- Blankets or a sleeping bag (critical)
- A flashlight and batteries
- Some extra clothes (sweater, hat, mittens/gloves), in case your first set get wet while you’re trying to get out of a rut
- Bottled water and snacks. Granola bars are a good option: they won’t go bad and have enough sugar and fat to keep you fueled.
- A first aid kit, jumper cables and other standard emergency tools. Don’t forget your ice scraper and the cardboard I mentioned before
- Check that your tailpipe isn’t filled with snow. If you’re going to sit idling for a while, you don’t want the car to fill up with carbon monoxide. If you’re not sure, keep the window cracked open a tiny bit. If it’s snowing where you’re sat, get out and check that your tailpipe is not covered at least once an hour, if your car is running
- Keep your windshield clear so that you are visible, and so you can see out
On The Lighter Side, Keep Your Take Out Hot
Okay, this one has nothing to do with safety, but it’s a great tip: put your takeout containers on the seat and turn on the seat warmers. Voila: hot food when you get home!
Keeping safe while driving is so important, particularly when you add the challenges of winter weather. Like the Scouts say: Be prepared.