With the winter season comes a greater risk of accidents. More than 70% of North America gets covered in snow during the winter months. There are over 156,164 car accidents that happen driving in the snow. More than 17% of total accidents happen during the winter months. With the snow-covered roads comes an increased risk while driving. To stay safe, you’ll need to prepare ahead of time.

Click here for a pre-winter vehicle preparation guide 

In This Article

  • Prepare your vehicle for the winter ahead of time in the fall.

  • Plug-in your vehicle at night if it’s below 0

  • Check the road conditions before you head out and plan your trip ahead of time

  • Don’t risk your life or others if the weather is too bad and you’re not comfortable to be driving in it.

  • Always stay alert while remaining calm and composed

  • Stay on the plowed main roads as much as possible

  • Allow for more distance between yourself and other vehicles in case you need to stop

  • Be aware of black ice and how to deal with it

  • Always clean all the snow and ice off of your vehicle. You have a chance of a fine if you don’t

  • Keep your gas tank above half a tank

  • Keep your fluids topped up

  • Keep an emergency survival kit inside of your vehicle

  • Switch to winter tires if you haven’t yet. Click to see some of the best winter tires available 

  • Dress warm and comfortable before heading out in case of emergency

  • Bring a charged cell phone and a charger

A lot of people think their all-season tires are enough for the winter. However, winter tires and all-season tires have 3 main differences that set them apart. Making winter tires the superior choice for performance in the ice, snow and cold weather.

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In the extreme cold, all-season tires become too stiff and rigid. Stiff and rigid tires in the winter don’t provide optimal tire traction. Winter tires have a special compound in the rubber that allows them to remain flexible. In turn, allowing them to grip the road better.

Winter tires have a deeper tire tread and unique tire tread patterns. The deeper treads prevent snow buildup and provide better traction in the snow. While the tread patterns channel snow, slush and water away from the tire.

Winter tires get designed with more biting edges and a large number of tiny slits called sipes. These sipes provide a better grip on the ice and snow leading to better tire traction while driving.

While winter tires are an amazing addition to your vehicle to increase your safety. They can also save you money by bringing down your insurance rates. Many insurance companies offer discounts from 2 – 5% if you replace all four of your tires with winter tires. Check with your insurance provider to see if this applies to you.

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  • For added weight use 2L bottles filled with sand or kitty litter. Added bonus you can pour them out to help you get unstuck as well
  • Cover your windshield at night with a potato sack or cardboard to prevent frosting
  • Homemade de-icer mixture ⅔ rubbing alcohol and ⅓ water. Spray onto frozen windshields then do some light scraping
  • If the rubber seals on your door freeze. Spray cooking spray on the rubber around the door to stop your doors freezing shut
  • Rub toothpaste into your headlights and taillights to prevent them from icing over
  • Fill a sock with kitty litter and leave it on your dash. Great to prevent the interior of your windshield from frosting
  • Lift your windshield wipers at night or cover them with a sock to prevent freezing to the windshield
  • Squirt alcohol-based sanitizer on your key to dethaw the door lock
  • Cover your mirrors with plastic bags to prevent frosting
  • Use your floor mats if you need traction in a pinch
  • Rub half a potato or wash the inside of your windshield with shaving cream to prevent frost
  • Spray WD-40 into the locking mechanisms to prevent ice building up inside

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These 3 hazards are unique to colder weather but they’re huge ones. Sliding around on the ice and not getting proper traction on the snow may lead to loss of vehicle control.

The worst season for poor visibility while driving is winter. This is because the sun sets earlier. Also, there are snowflakes falling and slush flying all over from other cars on the road.

Be sure your windshield wipers are in good condition. Always make sure your headlights are clean and wear sunglasses.

The cold weather causes your battery not to hold as strong of a charge and may even have a slow drain over time. Be sure to replace your battery if it’s old and keep an emergency jump-starting kit during your travels.

Be sure to prepare your vehicle for the cold winter season ahead of time. For a great guide to preparing for the winter click here

All-season tires weren’t made to perform in the cold weather and in snowy road conditions. Be sure to change to winter tires for the best traction while driving. If your winter tires are old and the treads worn, replace them.

Mother nature often has unexpected changes during the winter. There’s always the chance of a blizzard. To stay safe, be sure to check expected weather conditions before heading out.

Road salt is fantastic for getting rid of ice and helping to make your travels safer. But, a detriment of road salt is that it eats away at your vehicle’s finish leading to corrosion. Regular cleaning your vehicle during the winter to get all the road salt off and prevent build up.

There will always be some new drivers or less experienced winter drivers on the road. These other drivers can be one of the biggest dangers when driving in the winter. Always be alert, don’t rush and be a defensive driver.

There are always people saying that you need to warm up your vehicle before driving. That’s because older vehicles used carburetors to give the proper mixture of air and fuel to the engine. 

Carburetors needed to be properly warmed up to give off the right mixture to the engine. But, newer vehicles use electronic fuel injection. Electronic fuel injectors have sensors to ensure optimal temperatures.

Studies have shown that warming up your vehicle for 5 minutes increased fuel consumption by 7 to 14%. Warming up your vehicle for at least 10 minutes has shown an increase of 12 to 19%.

  • Never rely on your vehicles 4×4 or AWD systems

  • Don’t let your gas tank get too low to avoid moisture build-up

  • Driving with snow on your vehicle as you’ll blind other drivers and can get charged

  • Not washing your vehicle this will lead to corrosion and rusting

  • Driving with summer/all-season tires

  • Not familiarizing yourself with your vehicles features such as traction control

  • Don’t follow other vehicles too close

  • Don’t drive distracted

  • Don’t rush always take your time it’s not worth losing your life

  • Pumping the brakes let your abs system do its job

  • Don’t use cruise control this may lead to you losing control and going off the road

  • Don’t let your tire pressure drop too low. Low tires don’t grip the ground as well and will need more gas to drive

  • Avoid driving when the conditions are bad

  • Don’t stop unless you have to especially uphills

  • Don’t rush past snowplows let them clear the road ahead of you

  • Don’t rely on your vehicle’s systems sometimes they won’t work

The majority of crossovers and cars are front-wheel drive. These FWD vehicles are good for driving in the snow as most of the weight is above the driving wheels. The drive train essentially pulls the vehicle along meaning less chance of over-steering.

To see the best winter tires click here


Studless Winter Tires Pickup Trucks

Most sports cars, trucks and truck-based SUVs are rear-wheel drives. RWD allows for better weight distribution and handling in good driving conditions. The back wheels have the task of sending out power while the front wheels focus on steering. These vehicles aren’t favorable for winter driving. There’s not that much weight over the driving wheels to help with traction.

All-wheel drive vehicles have automatic four-wheel-drive systems. The vehicle can select to drive 2WD or 4WD based on the road conditions. In ideal conditions, 80% to 100% off the power gets sent to either the rear or front wheels. Then, when you face slippery conditions the power gets sent to the wheels needing more power.

These are great for the winter season. But, remember that AWD systems don’t help with turning and braking.

TrucksResource What's The Difference Between Four Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive, Front Wheel Drive And Rear Wheel Drive

Four-wheel drive vehicles are only part-time 4WD and need manual activation. When switched into four-wheel drive power gets sent to all 4 tires. These vehicles are great for the winter. When combined with a good pair of winter tires they perform fantastically.

While you’re travelling during the winter. You may find yourself sliding and a temporary loss of control. There are 5 different types of skids that you may encounter while driving. They are Understeering, Oversteering, Counterskids, Wheel Lockup and Wheelspin.

Front-wheel skids or understeer occurs when the two front wheels lose traction. If your vehicle starts to do a front-wheel skid remain the first step is to remain calm.

  • Don’t panic and slam on the brakes this will only make it worse
  • Don’t touch your brake or gas and let the tire traction steer you
  • Steer in the direction you would like to go
  • Once off the ice or slippery patch resume driving as normal
Oversteering and Understeering TrucksResource

A rear-wheel skid occurs when the back tires don’t grab traction and your vehicle starts to spin. As always when driving a vehicle, the first thing is to remain calm.

  • Let off the gas
  • Turn into the slide to straighten out your vehicle
  • Remain calm and collected being sure not to oversteer into it as it can make it worse

A counter skid or fishtail occurs when you oversteer and don’t correct it properly. This results in the backend of the vehicle sliding back and forth gaining momentum on each swing. If not corrected at the start you may generate enough energy for it to throw you off the road. The first step to dealing with this is to remain calm and collected.

  • Ease off of the gas
  • Look down the road and use enough steering to point the front tires where you want to go
  • As the vehicle straightens out, straighten the wheel to keep going straight down the road

Wheel lockup occurs when you slam on the brakes too hard or fast for where you’re driving. The tires will stop turning while the vehicle is still moving forward. As always, remain calm in the situation.

  • Release the brakes until the tires begin to spin again
  • After they’re turning again you can try to ease onto the gas pedal

Wheel spins occur when you slam on the gas too fast. The tires will begin spinning at a rate faster than you’re travelling. To fix a wheel spin, back off of the gas pedal until your tires regain traction. Then, ease onto the gas to accelerate.

Did you know that cold weather can decrease your fuel economy by up to 22%? The cold temperatures cause your vehicle to work harder to perform as normal. 

This is because there’s more friction in the engine and transmission from cold oil. Also, you use more gas because the battery doesn’t hold as strong a charge and tires may not have enough air.

On short trips, you’ll find that your vehicle is burning even more fuel. That’s because your vehicle doesn’t warm up enough. This leads to everything not reaching its optimal working temperatures.

Some things you can do to improve your fuel economy this winter season are:

  • Don’t idle your vehicle for too long studies show 30 seconds is all your vehicle needs
  • If possible park somewhere warm so everything stays optimal temperature
  • Combine trips to keep your vehicle at the most efficient working temps
  • Don’t use seat heaters or defrosters more than necessary
  • If recommended by vehicle manufacturer change oils for the cold season

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If you get stuck in a patch of ice or snow it’s crucial not to panic and rush as you might get stuck even deeper.

  • Turn off your traction control – this will stop the tires spinning helping you to get unstuck
  • Don’t spin your tires this will create more ice – ease onto the gas and you can use the brake to help slowly move your tires
  • Keep your tires straight then rock back and forth to create a path. Let your vehicle stop before switching directions to avoid damaging your transmission
  • Still stuck? Put sand, kitty litter, salt, cardboard or your floor mats under the tires for traction
  • Still no traction? Shovel around your tires removing as much snow as possible then try using sand etc again

If you can’t get unstuck from the snow patch don’t panic. Instead, call a tow truck or CAA to come provide assistance in getting out.

While you’re waiting for a tow truck or help:

  • Unclog your vehicle’s exhaust of snow and ice. This is to prevent carbon monoxide from leaking into the cab of the vehicle
  • Stay inside of your vehicle
  • Run the engine only when necessary – use a survival candle for heat
  • Set up warning lights & flares to keep yourself visible
  • Keep warm as possible

No! Never rely on your vehicle’s electronic driving systems to keep you safe during the winter. While 4×4 is great for preventing you from getting stuck it doesn’t help with stopping and skidding. Also, you never know when the systems will malfunction which you don’t want to happen in an emergency.

5 helpful hacks for the winter driving season:

  • Squirt alcohol-based sanitizer on your key to dethaw the door lock
  • Rub toothpaste into your headlights and taillights to prevent them from icing over
  • Quick & Easy Homemade De-Icer 2/3 Vinegar 1/3 water mixed together
  • Spray your rubber door seals with cooking spray to prevent them from freezing shut
  • Fill 2L soda bottles with sand or kitty litter for added weight that can be poured out to help you get unstuck

Winter tires are a must-have on every vehicle that’s going to be on the roads this winter. They are specially manufactured specifically for winter driving and the cold weather. All-season tires don’t have the same special compound inside of them that allows for winter tires to stay so rigid which helps to provide traction.

6 of the most impactful things for safer winter driving are:

  • Prepare your vehicle for winter ahead of time
  •  Install good winter tires
  •  Always clean all of the snow off your truck
  • Take your time and always remain alert

It’s recommended to put between 400 to 600 lbs of sandbags in your truck box. The extra weight helps weigh down the back-end of your pickup preventing fishtailing and other skids.

Winter conditions can be very dangerous to drive in because of snow-covered and icy roads. Your vehicle tires won’t provide the same performance that you expect leading to sliding around the roads. Be aware that winter driving conditions can rapidly change from one extreme to the other.

Checkout our complete guide on pre-winter vehicle preparation

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