A snow storm hit several major cities in the Northeast on Thursday, which means it may be time to put that ice scraper back in your car.
Most people will do just about anything to avoid driving in the snow — and in some circumstances, that's a good thing. If conditions are particularly dire, it's best to avoid driving. However, there are some circumstances where you have to suck it up and drive.
A week ago, I drove a Chevy Cruze slalom-style in the snow up in Connecticut as part of a driving class with Chevrolet. My driving instructor, Pat Daly, shared some tips for those times where you have to drive in snow.
1. Assess whether or not it's safe to drive. It's most dangerous to drive when the temperature ranges between 24 and 34 degrees Fahrenheit with snow or ice on the ground. That's because snow or ice will actively melt in that temperature range when cars drive over it, so your tires can't grip as easily.
2. Prepare your car for the conditions. The first thing you should do is make sure the heat inside isn't turned up too much. Although it's tempting to do that on a cold day, it will make you drowsy. Make sure you also remove snow from the roof — it's not only a safe practice, but some states will ticket you for driving with snow on the car.
3. Dress for driving, not just snow. You should take off your puffy coat when you drive so you have better steering capabilities in the event that you skid and need to react immediately. Keep in mind that big snow boots can make it difficult to gauge the pressure you're putting on the pedal, so consider bringing different shoes for driving.
4. When it comes to driving, remember that even though you always want to be cautious, you don't want to be so cautious it turns into a dangerous scenario. The best case scenario to explain this is when you're going uphill: don't be shy punching on the accelerator because you can easily stall in the middle of a hill otherwise.
5. In the event that you do stall in the middle of a hill, it's best to work with gravity. Daly told me that you should try to slowly reverse to the bottom of the hill rather than re-attempt the uphill battle from the middle of the hill.
6. This may come off as stating the obvious, but it really is important to brake early before going downhill. Even if it feels like you're crawling, keep on the brake until things flatten out.
7. In the event that your car starts to skid, try and pay attention to how it's skidding. There are two things you can experience, one is called a front end loss of grip, or understeer. This is when you're trying to steer but the car isn't responding.
8. A car understeers because the front tires have lost their grip, so you DON'T want to keep steering because it already means you're asking the tires to do too much. You also DON'T want to brake for the same reason.
9. In the event your car is understeering in the snow, you want to let it correct itself. Don't brake, don't try to steer more, but DO take your foot off the gas.
10. However, you can also oversteer, which is when your car fishtails or steers more than you'd like, when driving in the snow. This occurs when you drive too fast and lose grip in your rear tires.
11. This is where you may have heard the expression "slide into the skid." Basically, if you're car is slipping all over the place, you want to go with it and GENTLY steer in that direction. You can also GENTLY apply the gas to transfer some of the weight back to the rear wheels.
12. You should ALWAYS be looking in the direction you want the car to go in, rather than looking where it seems to be skidding on its own. If you look where you want the car to go, it will help you naturally steer in that direction.
The key takeaway is that if you must drive in snow, take it slower than usual and only rely on the acceleration if the situation really calls for it, like a big hill. If the car starts to skid, don't panic and give the car time to work itself out.