Winter Driving Safety & Car Maintenance Tips
General Travel Preparation Additional Equipment Defensive Driving Self-Rescue Vehicle Preparedness
General Travel Preparation
- Keep cell phone charged.
- Plan and know three routes to the destination.
- Research what the recommended technique is for your vehicle when it skids (there are different approaches depending on a vehicle's drive: RWD, FWD, AWD, 4WD).
- Maintain no less than a half tank of fuel - heavy traffic, spinning wheels in snow, and heating car while waiting for rescue - all these take extra fuel.
- Remove snow and ice from the vehicle prior to driving, and drive only when all windows and lights are clear (be sure to remove snow from the roof as well, to prevent it from falling on other vehicles).
Carry the following equipment in the trunk during the winter season:
- Coat, blanket, gloves, hat, and boots.
- Hand warmers, chocolate bars, and water.
- Flashlight, flare, cell phone charger, ice scraper, jumper cables, and a small shovel in snowy days.
- Keep a safe distance - braking on ice or snow may take 10-times more distance than in dry conditions.
- Expect the unexpected - drive slower than speed limits may indicate.
- Prevent windows fogging by using both the air conditioning and the defroster.
- All / 4-Wheel Drive doesn’t improve braking on a slick road, neither it improves taking turns on ice.
- Brake to an appropriate speed. Then release the brakes before the turn and steer through the turn. Then, accelerate if needed only after the turn is completed.
- Make yourself visible - turn headlights on, even in daylight.
- Keep two hands on the steering wheel at 10 min till 2 o'clock position.
- Stay focused:
- do not text, email or message over the phone while driving (per 47 O.S. §11-901d);
- try to keep conversations over the cell phone to the minimum* - pulling over is highly recommended.
- When stuck in the snow:
- Attempt to start moving vehicle using second gear/D2 (manual/auto transmission), press the accelerator gently.
- Try rocking the vehicle back and forth by using drive and reverse gears until the car rolls out.
- Use floor mats to gain traction.
- If stranded outside the city, stay with the vehicle and wait for rescue (keep in mind that wreckers and law enforcement address high emergency events first).
- If there are more disabled cars, join other drivers in the safest area/car possible.
- Fleet Management vehicles are equipped with GPS which should enable your agency Fleet Administrator or Fleet Management Division to locate the vehicle in minutes (note: be sure to provide state vehicle # when you call).
- Note: Fleet Management provides wrecker services ONLY to state-owned vehicles.
- When driving:
- Following a rut may not be the best idea (black ice and icy, hard snow), slow down, and drive where you may get more traction.
- Take advantage of the FMD's Winter Check (details).
- Change oil for the proper density (i.e. 5W-30) for winter season as described in a vehicle's manual, or oil cap in the engine (see FMD Maintenance Schedule).
- If you are aware of an oil leak, have it fixed or carry an additional quart of oil in the trunk. Be sure to inspect oil level periodically with a dip stick - winter driving puts additional burden on the engine.
- Check the battery condition (car parts stores can do it, usually free of charge for personal vehicles; FM can do it for state-owned cars).
- If the battery is more than 3 years old, consider replacing it.
- Check the tire pressure - the manufacturer's recommendation label is located either in the manual, doors or glove compartment.
- Do NOT forget to inflate a spare tire.
- Check the tire thread - if the thread does not go deeper than the head of Lincoln on a penny, it is time to change the tire.
- Keep better threaded tires upfront where steering and primary force of braking occur.
- Rear-wheel drive vehicles: when expecting snow and/or ice, place extra weight (i.e. sand bags) over the rear axle.
- Be sure that a jack and wrench are in the trunk; consider buying a four-point jack (2 ton costs about $20) - using a factory scissors jack can be risky on a wet and soft/snowy/muddy surface.
- Practice changing a tire - winter conditions make lug nuts harder to loosen.
- Front-wheel drive: if a front flat tire occurs and your spare is a "donut" (not a full size wheel), try to rotate a back wheel to the front so that the spare ends up in the back - it will maintain balance of steering and braking in front.
- Add and maintain a high level of windshield fluid; use a winter formula to prevent freezing, if possible.
- If planning a trip, carry a gallon of spare fluid in the trunk.
- Check the condition of wiper blades (also in the rear, if any).
- When parked and expecting an ice storm or overnight freeze, be sure to separate wipers from the windshield.
- Apply shaving cream on the inside of the windshield and remove it with dry cloth to help prevent it from fogging.
- Prepare 33/66 mix of vinegar and water and apply on the outside of windows to keep frost away.
- Check and replace broken lights and burned out bulbs - make yourself visible for others and better able to see the road in front of you.
- Bulb types are described in the vehicle's manual and are generally easy to buy and replace.
- Check the level of the engine coolant; always follow manufacturers' instructions, generally adding a mix of 50/50 (water/coolant) is acceptable, but if severe cold is expected, consider use of a 30/70 mix.
- Unless clearly specified, do NOT mix differently colored coolants.
- Repair any observed leaks, problems with the thermostat, or heating system in the vehicle - operational heater may save your life if you are stuck in the snow for hours.
- Brakes & Alignment:
- If you feel that the brakes work unevenly or that the car pulls to the right or left, have it fixed ASAP - driving in slippery conditions will most likely magnify the problem beyond control and may cause a crash.
- Doors and Locks:
- Lubricate door seals with WD-40 to prevent sticking during freezing conditions.
- Use graphite lubricant for door locks.
Fleet Management can inspect and service state-owned vehicles ONLY (schedule a visit by contacting FMD Service at firstname.lastname@example.org or 405-521-2204).
Personal vehicles are sole responsibility of the owner and Fleet Management makes these general suggestions to help keep drivers safe during winter months. Additional precautions may apply. Drivers should follow all manufacturer's recommendations with respect to operation of a particular vehicle.
* The National Safety Council considers hands free communication as distractive as talking directly through a phone (details)