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Essential Winter Driving Tips For Navigating Roads Safely

Navigating icy roads in winter requires preparation and skill. This article provides essential winter driving tips that ensure your safety and your vehicle’s readiness for the coldest season. From maintaining your car to handling slippery conditions, learn how to face winter roads with confidence.

Key Notes For Those Who Are Short Of Time

  • Perform a winter vehicle checkup—inspect brakes, tires, and battery. Install winter wipers and stock up on antifreeze, de-icer, and washer fluid.
  • Select winter tires—studded for ice, non-studded for snow. Keep tire pressure correct and fuel tank at least half full to avoid freezing.
  • Learn winter driving techniques—steer into skids and carry emergency gear like traction aids, tow ropes, and jumper cables.
  • Respect and keep distance from snow plows and other vehicles in general. Yield to emergency vehicles and stay weather-aware.
  • Stay informed on weather updates and road conditions to adjust your driving accordingly.

winter driving tips

Preparing Your Vehicle for Winter Driving

Securing your vehicle against winter’s chill goes beyond the basic checkup. So, it's useful to discuss the specifics of winter vehicle preparation, which spans from monitoring tire pressure to maintaining windshield visibility and ensuring fuel system readiness.

Checking and Maintaining Tire Pressure

Maintaining the correct tire pressure is very important for winter driving safety. Here are some important things to remember:

  • Tire pressure can drop by approximately 1-2 PSI for every 10 degrees Celsius decrease in temperature.
  • Regular checks during winter are paramount.
  • Maintaining proper tire inflation is crucial for ensuring better traction, handling, and fuel efficiency, especially in cold weather conditions.

To measure tire pressure accurately, use a reliable tire gauge when tires are cold. This prevents inaccuracies caused by temporary increases in pressure due to heat from driving. It’s also recommended to perform monthly tire pressure checks. This helps identify slow leaks and prevent potential flat tires as part of routine tire maintenance.

Ensuring Windshield Visibility

When it comes to winter driving safety, visibility is everything. A clear view of the road can be the difference between a safe journey and a potentially dangerous situation. For this reason, using winter-formulated windshield washer fluid, which can endure temperatures as low as -30 to -40 degrees Celsius, is necessary to prevent freezing.

Filling the windshield washer fluid reservoir with a fluid formulated for low temperatures can prevent it from freezing and avoid potential damage. De-icing windshield washer fluids contain antifreeze to melt snow and ice on the windshield, aiding visibility during winter driving conditions.

Don’t forget to keep additional windshield washer fluid in the vehicle, as usage can increase quite a bit in winter. Make sure it’s also part of your emergency kit for regular top-ups.

Fuel System Readiness

Just as it’s crucial to maintain tire pressure and windshield visibility, it’s equally important to keep your vehicle’s fuel system winter-ready. One of the key tips here is to keep the fuel tank at least half full. This helps in preventing condensation, reducing moisture and the likelihood of fuel line freeze-up during winter.

To avoid fuel line freeze-up in colder months, you can take the following steps:

  • Avoid ethanol-blended fuels
  • Use fuel line antifreeze products or additives
  • Use de-icers
  • Keep gas-line antifreeze in your vehicle’s emergency kit

These measures can help lower the probability of moisture problems and reduce the chances of fuel line freeze-up.

winter driving tips

Selecting and Caring for Winter Tires

Winter tires are not just a car accessory but a lifeline when you’re navigating icy roads. We’ll discuss in detail how to choose and care for winter tires, comprehend their benefits, and make informed decisions between studded and non-studded options.

The Importance of Snow Tires

Winter tires are indispensable for safety and traction on icy roads. While all-season tires can manage mild winter conditions, they compromise on maximum performance capabilities in summer and winter extremes. Winter tires, on the other hand, are engineered to remain flexible in extreme cold, providing better traction than all-season tires, which stiffen and lose grip.

Winter tires are designed to enhance safety while navigating the icy roads of winter. Their unique features include deeper tread depths that provide a better grip on snow, distinct tread patterns specifically engineered to channel away slush and snow, and a high density of biting edges and sipes. These thousands of tiny slits in the tread are what give winter tires their ability to cling to ice, offering drivers a more secure and controlled driving experience during the colder months.

Studs or No Studs?

When it comes to winter tires, there’s the eternal debate – studs or no studs? Both studded and non-studded winter tires have their own advantages for driving in severe snow conditions. Studded tires use metal studs that can dig into the ice, providing superior grip in icy conditions.

Non-studded winter tires, on the other hand, offer improved traction on ice without the use of metal studs. They use special compounds like a multi-cell compound to remove water on ice, similar to the Bridgestone Blizzak. While studded tires are advantageous on clear ice, non-studded tires can provide sufficient traction and are less damaging to road surfaces, making them a suitable option for a variety of severe snow conditions. Before you decide whether or not studded tires are for you, check if they are legal to use in your province or territory.

winter driving tips

Mastering the Art of Winter Driving

Mastering the art of winter driving doesn’t happen overnight, but understanding the techniques can make a significant difference.

Steering Through Slippery Situations

Steering through slippery situations is perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of winter driving. The key is to maintain traction and control by practicing gentle acceleration and deceleration and avoiding rapid movements, especially when making turns. It’s crucial to remember that even winter tires can slide on ice. When experiencing a skid, it’s important to avoid downshifting and release the brakes. Instead, focus on steering in the direction you want to go.

To recover from a slide, follow these steps:

  1. Focus your eyes on the direction you want the car to travel. It aids in steering during a skid.
  2. Turning the steering wheel in the direction of the skid can correct a rear-wheel skid.
  3. Be prepared to make additional steering adjustments as the vehicle may oscillate in the opposite direction after correcting a slide.
  4. Remember, steer smoothly and avoid panic movements to prevent overcorrection of a slide, which can lead to an unrecoverable spin.

Cruise Control Considerations

Cruise control is a popular feature for long drives, but it requires careful consideration during winter. It should be avoided on wet, icy, or slippery roads to maintain direct control of the vehicle. Driving near overpasses or in shaded areas where ice may be present requires avoiding cruise control due to rapidly changing road conditions.

Unintended acceleration during wheel spin on slippery surfaces caused by cruise control can lead to the loss of control of the vehicle. Thankfully, electronic stability control systems in modern vehicles will disengage cruise control automatically in the event of wheel slip or if the vehicle begins to spin. So, while cruise control can be helpful, it’s crucial to understand its limitations in winter conditions.

winter driving tips

Building the Ultimate Car Emergency Kit

Having a car emergency kit is not just a precaution, it’s a necessity for winter driving. It can make a significant difference in an unexpected situation.

We’ll discuss the essential items for your car emergency kit, including a first aid kit.

Must-Have Items for Your Kit

A well-prepared car emergency kit can be a lifesaver during winter driving, especially in more remote locations. You should consider including the following items:

  • Traction assistance items such as sand, salt, or non-clumping cat litter for generating traction
  • A tow rope for potential vehicle rescues
  • Jumper cables or a booster for a dead battery
  • A fire extinguisher for safety
  • Visible warning light or road flares for signaling
  • Extra fuses for electrical system contingencies
  • Wool or other warm blankets, in case you get stuck for a longer period

In addition to these, don’t forget to pack hand and foot warmers, bottled water, and energy-boosting non-perishable food items like granola bars. These personal safety and comfort items can make a significant difference during a roadside emergency in winter. With a well-prepared emergency kit, you are ready to tackle any unexpected situations that winter driving might throw your way.

winter driving tips

Safe Maneuvering Around Snow Plows and Emergency Vehicles

Navigating around snow plows and emergency vehicles in snowy and icy conditions is something every winter driver should master.

We’ll detail the strategies for safely navigating around snow plows and yielding to emergency responders.

Respect the Plow

Snow plows play a crucial role in ensuring our roads are safe for driving during winter. However, driving near them can significantly reduce visibility due to blowing snow. It’s important to wait for snow plows to finish their job before attempting to pass since roads are plowed in sections and the roadway ahead may be unsafe.

Remember, when driving in snowy conditions, it’s important to:

  • Not pass snow plows in formation, as it is illegal and can result in receive a $324 fine and 3 demerits in Alberta.
  • Maintain a safe distance behind snow plows due to potential poor visibility and the heavy equipment they carry.
  • Be aware that snow plows may extend a wing up to 3 meters to clear multiple lanes, increasing risks for nearby vehicles.

In short, respect the plow for a safe winter driving experience.

winter driving tips

Yielding to Emergency Responders

Emergency responders are vital for maintaining safety on the roads, particularly during the harsh winter months in Alberta. Adhering to the Alberta Traffic Safety Act is essential when yielding to these vehicles. When you hear a siren or see lights flashing from an emergency vehicle, such as an ambulance, fire truck, or police car, you are required to:

  • Immediately clear any intersection
  • If on a road with one or two lanes, move your vehicle to the right side of the road
  • On roads with three or more lanes, take your vehicle to the nearest side of the road. If you're in the center lane, ensure you move to the right side
  • Stop your vehicle until the emergency vehicle has passed, always checking for any additional emergency vehicles that may be approaching

It is also critical to note that following within 150 meters of any emergency vehicle that has its siren or lights operating is prohibited.

Adapting to Changing Winter Weather Conditions

The unpredictability of winter weather can exacerbate driving challenges, especially during bad weather conditions. However, with a strategic approach, you can adapt to fluctuating winter weather conditions. It starts with staying updated with the weather forecast. This can provide essential information on the weather conditions to be encountered, which aids in proper dressing for the cold.

Staying informed with ongoing emergency weather updates and road closure information through channels like local weather services or 511 Alberta can inform travelers about current conditions and assist in making safe travel decisions. Moreover, before embarking on a journey, checking updated road alerts and advisories for the planned route is essential to prepare for any disruptions or hazardous driving conditions.

winter driving tips

To Conclude

Through this extensive guide, we hope that the information provided will help you navigate the icy roads safely. Safe travels!

Why You Can Trust Our Opinion

At CMP Auto, safe winter driving is more than just advice – it’s our expertise. As a leading GMC, Chevy, and Buick dealership in Calgary, we’ve experienced the winter conditions firsthand. Trust us to guide you through safe winter driving.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I improve my driving in snow?

To improve your driving in snow, drive slowly, leave plenty of distance between vehicles, and consider getting winter tires for better traction on wet, slushy, or icy surfaces. Remember to check your tires and tire pressure regularly, especially in colder weather.

How should you drive safely when it is snowing?

To drive safely when it's snowing, remember to drive slowly, maintain a safe distance between vehicles, and consider getting winter tires for better traction on icy roads. Stay safe on the road!

How important is tire pressure while driving in winter?

Proper tire pressure is crucial for safe winter driving, as it ensures better traction, handling, and fuel efficiency.

What should I include in my car emergency kit for winter?

Make sure to include traction assistance items, vehicle maintenance items, and personal safety items in your car emergency kit for winter. This will help you stay prepared for any unexpected situations on the road.


At CMP Auto, we want to help answer all of your winter driving questions. Whether you are looking for a vehicle that is equipped to handle the worst weather that winter can bring, or if you simply want to know what windshield wipers you need, we are here to assist you. To get answers to your winter weather driving questions, stop by our dealership (located at 1313 - 36th St. N.E. in Calgary), or contact us by phone at 403-207-1000.


Essential Winter Driving Tips For Navigating Roads Safely

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