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5 Winter Driving Tips

5 Winter Driving Tips

Minnesotans are no strangers to long, snow filled winters and are well adapted to driving in wintry conditions. However, every year the state sees a spike in snow and ice related traffic accidents and with winter in full swing and Jack Frost bringing another cold front Minnesota's way, it is the perfect time to refresh those winter driving skills with our X top tips for driving in winter.

Drivers have a lot to think about and take into consideration while on the road during normal conditions, but during the winter months this mental checklist expands exponentially. Snow, ice, black ice, freezing temperatures and ground blizzards are just some of the hazards drivers must overcome in winter. So it is no wonder that there are so many more traffic accidents at this time of year, but with a little planning and thoughtfulness the chances of having an accident reduce significantly.

These top 5 winter driving tips from Babcock Auto Care will help to keep you, your family, and other road users safe during your wintry travels.

Check the forecast

This one should go without saying, but it is always a good idea to take a look at the weather forecast and road conditions before you start travelling. By doing this you are arming yourself with the latest information about what weather conditions to expect and will be able to plan an alternative route should there be any major road closures.

If there are particularly severe weather conditions forecast it is best to avoid driving if possible, but if it is unavoidable the following tips will help you and any passengers safe should you break down.

Prepare an emergency kit

Breaking down is never enjoyable but during the winter months it can have serious consequences if you are not prepared. Put together a winter emergency kit towards the end of Fall and to store in your car, this way you won’t have to worry about it or rush around when the snow starts to fall. Every kit should contain certain essentials:
    • A first aid kit;
    • Torch;
    • An ice scraper and at least 1 gallon of antifreeze;
    • Jumper cables;
    • A shovel;
    • Mobile phone charger;
    • Blankets and spare clothing;
    • Snacks with a long shelf life, such as jerky, and something warm to drink in a thermos.
With these essentials you can confidently tackle most breakdowns and comfortably await rescue.

Make sure your car is ready for winter

This is an important one. Hopefully, you have kept up to date with a regular maintenance schedule and are well prepared for tackling winter road conditions. We highly recommend that you book an appointment for a seasonal vehicle inspection just in case, give us a call on (507) 316-6938 or visit us to make an appointment or simply for more information. When you bring your vehicle in for a seasonal inspection our expert technicians will perform a series of checks on various parts of your vehicle to ensure that it is roadworthy, these include;
    • Tires. Our technicians will check the condition of your tires and will recommend fitting a set of winter tires if you haven’t already. Winter tires are specially designed to to increase traction in lower temperatures and other cold weather conditions;
    • Lights. The certified Babcock technicians will make sure there are no electrical issues which could cause your headlights and tail lights to short out, they will also check for cracks or any other damage which could limit visibility while driving;
    • Battery. Your car's battery is the heart of your vehicle, our technicians will test your battery and may recommend and install a replacement if needed;
    • Brakes. Your brakes are a vital safety feature of your vehicle, if they are not functioning as intended the safety of yourself, your family, and other road users is put at great risk. Being confident in your vehicle's brakes is even more important in winter as road surfaces are slippery and braking distances increase. Our expert technicians will inspect your brakes to ensure that they work correctly to keep you safe during your travels.

Allow extra time for your journey

If you have no choice but to drive in wintry conditions, regardless of whether it is a long or short journey, be sure to allow extra time for your journey. Keep in mind that you, and other road users, will be travelling at much lower speeds than usual due to the poor road conditions. You may also encounter conditions such as ground blizzards, remember to check the weather forecast before leaving, or the road you were intending to use may be closed. During winter months there are any number of events and weather conditions which can add extra time to your journey, so plan ahead as its better to be early than late.

Change your driving style

As mentioned in the previous point, winter conditions force us to change our usual driving style by taking slower moving traffic and road conditions into consideration. The first thing you should do actually happens before you even start driving, clear your windshield, windows and mirrors of any ice and snow so that you can actually see. This may seem like common sense but a lot of accidents are caused by people only clearing a small window for the driver to peer through. Remember to also remove any snow which has gathered on the roof of your vehicle, otherwise it may slide down onto your windshield and obstruct your view of the road or may be thrown from the roof onto vehicles following behind you.

One of the most important factors of driving in winter is to remember that vehicle stopping distances are drastically increased on wet or snow and ice covered roads, at Babcock Auto Care we recommend that you keep a distance of at least three car lengths between you and other road users.

Don’t brake suddenly. If you need to stop, or slow down, quickly it is tempting to simply slam on the brakes but during winter this is an easy way to lose control of your vehicle. Should you need to stop quickly, pump the brake pedal instead. For corners or bends in the road, try slowing down as you approach rather than braking in the middle of the turn, this will help reduce the chances of your vehicle spinning out of your control.

Vehicle skid. No matter how carefully you drive the possibility of your vehicle skidding on an icy road surface remains. In this situation the best thing to do is try to keep calm, take your foot off of the accelerator pedal to reduce your speed, look in the direction that you want to go and turn the steering wheel in the same direction.

If possible, keep your gas tank half full at the very least. It isn’t fun running out of fuel at the best of times but during winter this could have disastrous consequences.

Drive in a lower gear and accelerate slowly to have more traction on the road. This will help to reduce the chances of your vehicle entering a skid or sliding on the ice. If your vehicle has a cruise control it is best that you forget that it has this option during winter, with cruise control activated it is much harder for the driver to notice a loss in traction in time.

As Minnesotans, we know all too well that the hazards of driving increase exponentially during the winter months. However, with a little planning and a winter-ready vehicle you and your family will be able to enjoy everything this time of year has to offer with confidence.

So there we have it, our top 5 tips for driving in winter. Did we miss anything or do you have any tips you would like to share with our readers and customers? Get in touch and let us know!

Give Babcock Auto Care a call on (507) 316-6938, visit them at 5335 Highway 52 North, Rochester, MN, 55901, or schedule an appointment online for a vehicle inspection, tire change, or any other auto service. The team at Babcock Auto Care will be happy to help and answer any questions you may have. Winter may already be here but it is never too late to make sure that your vehicle is in the best possible condition to tackle icy and snowy roads!


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