Blog | Your Commute Turning Into a Luge Run?

7

Feb
2014
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Your Commute Turning Into a Luge Run?

Take extra care when driving in snow and ice.  After all, your commute is not a luge run at the winter Olympics.
 
This winter has been particularly challenging for motorists from coast to coast. Even the South has had to contend with crippling winter weather. This is great news if you’re a snowplow operator. But if you’re a regular commuter driving a midsize sedan, you need to take extra precautions before you venture out into the cold. Here is some advice for those who aren’t spending this winter in Hawaii or don’t drive a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer.
If there is snow on the road, drive within your limits and your vehicle’s limits. If you’re warm and cozy at work or at a friend’s house, consider staying a bit longer to let the plow trucks clear the streets. The drive home will be much easier and safer.
Even in the worst conditions, you will probably be sharing the road with other motorists. So, it’s important to pay extra attention to their movements. If a hot-rodder in a 4×4 wants to pass, pull over and let him. If you drive a vehicle with all-wheel drive or a 4×4, that does not mean it will stop any faster on roads covered in snow and ice. Often, these vehicles are heavier than a normal car and will lose traction more easily in slick conditions when the brakes are applied. Locked brakes mean your vehicle may soon be spinning out of control, despite its anti-lock braking system and its traction control.
Good tires and a healthy battery are obviously important when driving in winter weather, but you should also make sure your windshield is clean and your wiper blades will keep them that way. Whether or not you keep your car in tip-top shape with car wax, consider waxing the windshield in the winter. The wax will help make the snow and slush slide right off. Remember to follow the wax manufacturer’s instructions.
Working headlights and taillights are critical in winter driving. With the start of daylight savings time, most commuters are forced to drive to and/or from work in the dark. Add the risks of active wildlife, like deer, and snow-covered roads, and you can see why it’s important to see and be seen when driving. Before you set out, make sure you know how to change your car’s light bulbs. Keep a couple spare bulbs in the car. With today’s modern cars, you typically don’t need tools to perform this task, and spare bulbs are readily available for under $15 for most cars.
Keep your gas tank full. If you allow the gas tank to fall below half full, condensation can form inside and cause the engine to perform poorly. You are also at greater risk of running out of fuel, because your gas mileage is virtually zero as you idle in bumper-to-bumper traffic in a snowstorm.
Consider installing snow tires on your vehicle. With advances in tire technology, you can get a set that performs well in various road condition and temperatures. These are not your grandfather’s studded radials. Snow tires can help make the most winter-unfriendly vehicle (like that 350-hp rear-wheel-drive sports car) more suitable for slick road conditions.
Ice storms are more treacherous than snowstorms. If possible, avoid driving on ice-covered roads. Wait for the temperatures to rise and the maintenance crews to plow and salt the roads.
If you live in a remote area, you could get stranded for a long time in a winter storm. Make sure your vehicle has some essentials the help you survive; tire chains, warm boots, a jacket, a blanket and gloves are a good start. If you need to go into survival mode, it helps to have something to help start a fire and a ration of food while you wait for help to arrive.
Finally, while it may seem impossible to keep your car clean in the winter, it is also important. The road salt the crews spread is extremely corrosive. In some areas, road crews spray the road with what is called “brine,” an environmentally friendly chemical/water/salt solution that is not very friendly to your car’s body and undercarriage. To help keep the rust at bay, wash your vehicle once or twice a month. Hose off the frame and wheels, and use soap and water if it’s real bad. Also, consider rubber floor mats to help protect your vehicle’s interior. Snow-covered boots will deposit water, sand and salt onto the floor. Rubber mats catch all this and keep the carpet fresh.
Reposted from Out of Harm’s Way.  Author is Jeff Walker, a collector vehicle insurance specialist for The Chubb Group of Insurance Companies and an avid on and off-road motorcycle rider for over 15 years.