Back to articles

Master the art of (safe) winter driving


Those snow-covered streets might look picturesque, but driving on them can be another story. This time of year, it’s worth taking a few extra precautions before hitting the road. Here’s how to be prepared—and stay safe—when the going gets cold and slick.

Give your car a cold-weather checkup

Most vehicles need some extra TLC during the winter months. A little bit of maintenance up front will make it easier to manage chilly temps and slippery roads until spring. Be sure to:

  • Get a tune-up. Ask a pro to check your car for leaks, worn hoses and other parts that might need to be fixed or replaced. See that the battery has enough juice, too, since the power can drop along with the outside temperature.
  • Be bright. Replace any burned out headlights, taillights, turn signals, emergency flashers and interior lights.
  • Check the cooling system. Make sure it’s in working order and has enough antifreeze.
  • Winterize your windshield. Replace worn wiper blades and add new washer fluid. Use adedicated winter de-icer for maximum melting power.
  • Prep your tires. Using snow tires? Put them on before the winter weather hits. Check your tire pressure too. FYI: The correct pressure number can be found on the driver’s side door or in your owner's manual—not on the tire itself.
  • De-gunk before you drive. Snow, ice, dirt or salt can make it tough for you to see—and for others to see you. Get in the habit of cleaning your lights and sensors before heading out on the road.

Stock up on supplies

No one plans on getting stuck in a storm—but things happen. Be prepared by keeping a few key items on hand. It’s smart to have:

  • A snow shovel and ice scraper.
  • Jumper cables, a flashlight and flares.
  • Sand or kitty litter, in case your vehicle gets stuck in the snow.
  • Warm blankets.
  • A phone charger, water, snacks and any medications you might need, especially if you’re taking a long trip.

Put safety first

A little extra vigilance can go a long way, especially during the winter. These smart seasonal tactics can help you steer clear of trouble.

  • Get familiar with your car’s winter features. Make sure you know how your vehicle handles in slippery conditions. First read the driver’s manual. Then take the car for a snowy test ride in an empty parking lot.
  • Brush up on the brakes. Do you know whether yours have an antilock system? More importantly, do you know how to use it correctly? Refer back to your driver’s manual for that information and test them out to be certain you know how they work.
  • Drive slow and stay back. When it’s icy, increase your following distance to 8 to 10 seconds from the car in front of you.
  • Watch for hidden ice. Be extra careful around bridges and overpasses. They tend to freeze up first.
  • Resist the risk. Wait for dangerous conditions to improve before hitting the road. When you do head out, allow yourself extra time to take it slow.

Want more winter tips?

Don’t let bad weather put the axe to your exercise routine. Instead, stay active with these alternative indoor fitness ideas.