How to Prepare for Winter Driving
Minnesota weather is famous for being cold and snowy. While a good snowfall may be pretty and fun, but it can also be treacherous. At Kennedy Transmission, we’ve seen plenty of cars damaged by accidents. While it’s not possible to totally avoid the potential for accidents— especially in winter—there are steps you can take to maximize your safety while driving in the Minnesota winter.
Some cars excel more than others at winter driving. Regardless of what kind of car you drive, there are a plethora of general-purpose winter driving tips that you can follow to help you successfully navigate winter weather.
Avoid Sudden Starts and Stops
Snow, sleet, and ice are dangerous because they increase the risk of sliding as you try to accelerate or use the brakes. In the summer, the friction between your tire and the road is much higher than it is on a slick winter road. However, the friction between your tire and a snowy road isn’t zero; it’s just lower than it would be otherwise. It’s still possible to maintain grip on slick roads, but you just have to be careful.
In practice, this means avoiding sudden starts and stops. Slow acceleration and deceleration will allow you to maintain grip on slick roads. If it is safe to do so, determine the hardest you can press down on the accelerator and brake to determine when you start to slip, and then stay under that on your commute.
Following Distance is Key
One of the most effective winter driving tips is to maintain a longer-than-usual following distance at every speed due to the slick roads. After all, it takes longer to stop in the snow, so make sure you have the space to do so. You may also be able to avoid a wreck if the vehicle in front of you is forced to make a sudden stop.
Prepare for Your Car for Winter Driving
Regardless of your cars make or model, you’re going to want to put it in the best position it can be to brave the Minnesota weather. Before the coldest weather strikes, it’s important to do some routine maintenance so that your car can function well:
- Check your tires to ensure they aren’t bald or damaged
- Ensure your tire pressure is sufficient
- Top off your windshield wiper fluid
- Weigh down your truck bed or SUV rear if it tends to fishtail
While it won’t help you drive better in the winter, try not to let your gas tank get close to empty. If it’s cold enough, frozen condensation in the tank can make it hard or impossible for your car to start in these circumstances.
Snow Tires and All Wheel Drive
Despite their name, all season tires are not ideal for all seasons. Putting snow tires (also called winter tires) on your vehicle is the single best thing you can do to achieve better driving performance in the winter.
What Are Snow Tires?
Snow tires are specifically designed to function well in snowy and wintry conditions. They are made from special rubber compounds that better grip slick surfaces. In addition, they feature tread patterns that reduce snow build up and better plow through deeper sections of snow and slush with ease. However, because of these specifically designed winter features, snow tires perform poorly in warm weather.
Do I Need Snow Tires?
In the Minneapolis metro area, there are an average of 37.3 days where fresh snow falls with an average accumulation of 54 inches. Taking this into consideration, snow tires are a good idea for many drivers, including those with a long commute or those who drive for a living. However, snow tires are not legally required and are not necessary for every vehicle.
All Wheel Drive in Snow
In recent years, all wheel drive (or AWD) has been marketed as a boon to winter driving, but it isn’t as important as having winter tires. Remember: snow and ice are dangerous because of low friction between the tire and the road, and the presence of AWD doesn’t change that.
AWD vehicles can help your vehicle accelerate and maintain some additional grip in the Minnesota weather, but it does not help your vehicle slow or stop. If you do have an AWD vehicle, keep this in mind.
Don’t Slip Up with Poor Auto Service
Ultimately, there are three core winter driving tips: stay alert, know the road conditions, and know your vehicle. Figuring out how to prepare for winter driving can be tricky if something is wrong with your vehicle. If you have any worries about your vehicle this winter, contact Kennedy Transmission. With seven locations across the Minneapolis St. Paul metro, we can ensure your car is winter-ready and help get it back on the road if it isn’t.