Winter driving presents a number of different challenges to both you and your vehicle. From rain and sleet to snow and ice, weather conditions can vary wildly during the winter months. Each year, an estimated half a million car crashes occur due to treacherous cold weather driving conditions. That’s why it is important to know how to handle winter driving conditions – then you can be prepared no matter what the weather throws at you.

Keep Your Vehicle Ready

The first and most important part of keeping safe while on the road this winter is ensuring that your vehicle is ready to when it’s time to head out. First off, make sure that your battery is operating at its optimum levels. Cold temperatures require batteries to put out more power to start your vehicle. This means that, if your battery is getting a little old, it can become drained very quickly. Your Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana Jiffy Lube® can test your battery anytime, free of charge, and let you know how your battery is holding up. This is also a good time to have your technician check that all of your lights are working correctly, as a burned out bulb can spell trouble on the road.

You should also ensure that the antifreeze in your radiator system is at the correct level. Too little antifreeze can mean that your heating system will not work as efficiently, and very low levels can cause permanent damage to your engine. Lastly, have your tires inspected for excessive wear, as too little tread reduces your tires’ ability to grip the road. This is also true for tires that are over or under inflated.

Tips for Driving

  • Stay home when you can.
    When driving conditions are exceptionally poor, do not leave the house unless you have to. More people on the road leads to more accidents, not to mention longer response times for emergency vehicles as they have to navigate slow moving traffic.
  • Drive slowly and carefully.
    Ice and snow reduce traction on the roads. The slower you drive, the better your tires can grip, lessing your chances of sliding off the road or into another vehicle.
  • Don’t overuse your brakes.
    Braking too quickly can cause your vehicle to lose traction and slide rather than slow down. Maintain firm, even pressure on your brake to slow your vehicle down at a gentle pace.
  • Maintain a safe following distance.
    In order to avoid overusing your brakes, maintain a following distance two to three times longer than you normally would. Even if you can’t see anything on the road, remember that black ice is always a possibility in winter months.
  • Be extra careful on hills.
    Hills present an extra danger for winter drivers, both going up and coming down. Trying to accelerate too quickly up a hill can make your tires spin. If you need a little extra help getting up a large hill, accelerate gently before you hit the hill in order to get up it. Never try to come to a complete stop when going uphill. When going downhill, be sure to brake gently.
  • Keep your gas tank as full as possible.
    If you do end up stuck or stranded somewhere, the last thing that you want to have to worry about is running out of gas and not being able to run your heater to keep you warm. Always keep your tank as full as possible, and try to avoid letting it get below a half of a tank.

Know What to do in an Emergency

Another important part of being ready for winter driving is ensuring that you are prepared for an accident – or even becoming stuck and potentially stranded for a period of time. In the event of an accident, make sure to stay where you are visible to other drivers, preferably out of the roadway. Use road flares to alert oncoming drivers of the accident, and stay in your vehicle until emergency crews arrive.

If you do become stuck in snow, stay with your vehicle rather than trying to walk for help. Don’t overexert yourself trying to dig your vehicle out of the snow. If you become overly sweaty or tired, take a break. If using road flares isn’t an option, tie a brightly colored item to your antenna to make it easier for emergency vehicles to find you. Make sure that your exhaust pipe doesn’t become clogged with snow to avoid the possibility of carbon monoxide leaking into the cabin. When trying to stay warm in your vehicle, use blankets, heavy clothing, or even floor mats to insulate yourself in order to conserve fuel.

Respect the Road

The most important thing to remember when driving in winter conditions is to respect the rules of the road, and others traveling on it. Be sure to clean off any snow that has accumulated since the last time your drove, as snow blowing off your vehicle can present a visibility hazard for drivers behind you. In addition, always remove all ice from your windshield so that you can have full visibility while driving. Keep a safe distance from snow plows, as they travel slowly and make wide turns.

And remember, regular vehicle inspections are the best way to make sure that you are prepared for winter driving. You can get an inspection free of charge at your neighborhood Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana Jiffy Lube® – and as always, no appointment is required.

Jiffy Lube® recommends following manufacturer recommendations, where applicable, for maintenance schedules and service intervals.

Not all services are offered at each Jiffy Lube® location. Please check with your local Jiffy Lube® service center for specific services offered.