The classic New England winter is here, and many of us have taken up common winter car rituals, such as scraping windshields, warming up cars before driving them, and putting on snow tires. However, some of these practices aren’t as helpful as many of us think they are.
Most people are unaware that seemingly common and helpful winter driving ‘tips” can actually be time-wasters, money-wasters, or simply unsafe. To see if you’re falling for any of these winter car myths, check out the list below.
Let’s discuss a few of the most common myths, and what changes you can make to improve your safety.
You need to “warm up” a car before driving. Many car owners believe that you need to allow a car to idle and “warm up” before driving. Although engines do run somewhat less efficiently in cold weather, modern cars do not need a lengthy warm-up period. Instead of spending several minutes to warm up, a mere 15-30 seconds is sufficient to get the engine going. Many people like to let their car warm up for comfort reasons (especially with a remote starter). If this is you, simply be careful not to let the car warm up for an extended period because it wastes gas, increases emissions, and is unnecessary for the engine's health.
Deflating tires improves traction. Another myth is that deflating tires will help the car’s traction on icy roads, since more of the tire will be in contact with the road. However, this is not a good — or safe — idea. Tires are designed to be inflated to a specific pressure. Any deviations can affect the way your car steers, cause your tires to wear out faster, and increase the likelihood of a flat. None of these results are ideal in icy (or any) conditions. Additionally, tire pressure changes during temperature fluctuations. Keep an eye on the tire pressure as seasons change and make sure they are at the proper pressure at any temperature!
Weight in the trunk or bed can prevent sliding in snowy/icy conditions. Some people put snow in the back of their truck or car to help prevent sliding on ice. This can be helpful — but only in specific situations. If a car is rear-wheel drive, this tactic can be effective. However, if the car is a front-wheel drive, the additional weight can actually throw off the car’s weight distribution and make your car more difficult to handle in snowy conditions. Even with rear-wheel drive vehicles, the weight can decrease fuel efficiency. Snow tires are a better alternative for improved traction.
Four-wheel drive cars are completely safe to drive in the snow. Four-wheel drive vehicles allow for better control in snowy situations. However, they are advantageous for steering more than braking. Think of four-wheel drive as a tool, rather than an invincible shield. Cautious driving is still necessary — and avoiding especially dangerous altogether conditions is a must.
Parking brakes can help in emergency sliding situations. Pulling the parking brake when sliding can seem logical in a panic-inducing situation, such as sliding on ice. However, pulling the brake can do more harm than good. First, parking brakes can freeze, so they might not even be usable in these situations. Second, using a parking brake can disengage your car's anti-lock braking system, which can cause the situation to become even more dangerous. If you cannot stop while sliding, steer away from hazards as much as possible.
Being aware of how to best care for your car and your safety in the winter is important to maintain an economical, comfortable and safe winter driving season.
How You Can Prepare For Winter
If you have questions about the best way to care for your car in the winter, ask us at Living the Dream Auto Care. We are more than happy to debunk any myths — and offer helpful tips.
We are also happy to help prepare and care for your car this winter, whether you want a tune-up, snow tires, or a remote starter. Simply schedule an appointment online or call (339) 237-5151.