As an experienced driver living in a snowy climate, I’ve heard some pretty misguided winter driving advice over the years. Some bad tips even come from well-meaning family or friends confidently dispensing dangerous guidance.
Let’s debunk the 9 worst pieces of winter driving advice I’ve been told by other drivers. Learning proper techniques now will keep you safe this winter.
1. Warm Up Your Engine Everytime Before Driving:
Most vehicles built after the mid-90s don’t require any idle warm-up period even in cold weather. Today’s fuel-injected engines are designed to operate fully as soon as started.
Idling causes raw fuel to wash cylinder walls without burning off deposits. This leads to excess emissions and engine damage over time.
Better advice: Start your vehicle and allow the idle to settle, usually under 30 seconds. Drive gently while avoiding high revs until reaching operating temperature. Modern cars don’t need idling warm-ups.
2. Leave Your Car Running Unattended to Heat Up Faster
It may seem convenient to leave an unattended vehicle running to thaw out quicker. However, an idling car is bait for car thieves who can easily steal it or belongings inside.
Remote car starters with keyless entry systems are safer alternatives if you want the interior heated before getting in.
Better advice: Warm up your parked car only when you can keep an eye on it. Lock doors to prevent crime during the thawed out period. Consider installing a car remote start system instead.
3. Overinflate Tires for Better Winter Traction
Some think packing more air pressure into tires will help with snow and ice traction. This is entirely false and promotes blowouts.
Higher inflation gives a narrower tire contact patch which actually reduces grip. Overinflation also provides a harsher ride which limits wheel reaction to uneven surfaces.
Better advice: Use properly inflated winter tires around 5 PSI less than the door sticker rating for maximum surface area grip. Maintain recommended pressure levels on all four tires.
4. Add Weight Over Rear Axle for Extra Traction
You’ll sometimes see folks advocating loading bags of sand or cement in your trunk during winter for enhanced traction. However, this promotes dangerous fishtailing.
Extra rear weight takes weight off the steering wheels to help back end lose grip. A lighter front with all-wheel-drive is ideal for actually driving through snowy conditions.
Better advice: Don’t overload rear cargo area with heavy objects which reduces front wheel effectiveness. Maintain even weight distribution and consider using winter tires for ultimate snow traction.
5. Pump Brakes to Stop Better on Ice
Drivers may tell you pumping the brake pedal can help stop a car better in icy conditions. That method actually makes you lose even more control nowadays!
Unless equipped with antique non-ABS brakes, pumping causes all wheels to lose braking power between pulses. This extends stopping distance considerably compared to holding steady pedal pressure.
Better advice: Keep constant, firm pressure on the brake pedal to engage anti-lock pumping on slippery surfaces. Pumping brakes without ABS causes complete brake failure between pulses, multiplying stopping distance.
6. Floor the Accelerator If Your Car Starts Skidding
It’s a natural reaction to want to punch the gas if your car hits ice and starts to veer sideways. However, pinned throttle only makes you lose tire grip and fishtail faster.
Trying to accelerate through slippery spots or out of a slide overwhelms available traction. Lifting off the gas provides gentle re-gripping without power overwhelming tires.
Better advice: Take foot fully off accelerator if skidding starts, allowing wheels to align again. Apply smooth, minor throttle once straight to avoid spinning out. Don’t stomp gas deep in a slide!
7. Turn Against the Skid is Best Method
Conventional wisdom says turning your wheels against the direction of a skid helps straighten out loss of control. Modern stability features actually amplify this problem!
Electronic programs get confused if you turn opposite a slide’s motion nowadays. This doubles vector forces against stability control efforts to recover.
Better advice: Keep wheels pointed straight while braking gently until regaining grip during emergencies. Don’t input direction changes against stability system functions.
8. All-Wheel-Drive Means No Winter Tires Needed
Having AWD or 4WD seems to provide overconfidence, with folks believing specialty snow tires are unnecessary. But this ignores rubber compound differences.
All-seasons and summer tires remain stiff and slippery in cold weather, regardless of drivetrain. They may cope fine in straight-line travel but lose control cornering.
Better advice: Install winter tires to maintain grip on cold roads through proper rubber flexibility, tread siping and compound stickiness. AWD guarantees acceleration only with the right tires.
9. Just Stay Home If Roads Look Icy
It’s smart to avoid driving in treacherous conditions whenever possible. However, some local weather makes road hazards unavoidable all winter.
Hunkering down for months because your area gets continual snow isn’t practical. Learning proper modern winter driving allows you to venture out safely when needed.
Better advice: Use caution but don’t become homebound every time flakes appear. Employ advanced stability controls, winter tires and safe techniques to confidently master snow and ice when critical trips can’t wait.
Stay Safe This Winter!
Avoid taking advice from well-intentioned friends or family suggesting dangerous winter driving myths. Whether warning against idling warm-ups, pumping brakes or punching slides, these outdated ideas make winter conditions even more hazardous.
Follow modern best practices instead to smoothly traverse winter wonderlands. Accelerating gently, maintaining tires properly, and trusting vehicle stability systems will keep you smiling all season long!