Winter Driving in the Pacific NW
The 2016-2017 winter season has been graced with La Nina's presence. Although the snow-sporters up at Hood and Bachelor are loving the early and immense amounts of snow, us down here in the main-land have to get to work somehow on these snowy days.
Here are a few of our tips to help get you there safely:
KNOW YOUR CAR
Whether its a Jeep or a BMW, there's a way to get around in the snow.
- Know your brakes. Take your brakes stopping distance on dry pavement, and multiply that by 10.
- Know your tires. They don't have to be studded tires, they don't have to be winter tires. But they can not be bald. Braking means nothing if your tires are rubber ice skates.
- Know your lights. If the car behind you can't tell that you're braking because you only have one brake light, that's a problem.
- Replace your wipers. Start off with a fresh pair every winter. Scrape your windshield before using your wipers, as the ice will gouge the blade leaving streaks in your vision.
- Chains are helpful! Chains go on driving wheels (FWD and AWD cars, chains go on the front. RWD chains go on the rear). But be sure they are on tight, they will fly off and they will damage your car.
- Use your gears! If you drive a manual, or if you drive a car with sport-shifting ability, use your gears to slow down rather than your brakes.
SAFE & SLOW
It's always best when the road conditions are less-than-par to just take it easy.
- Keep your distance. In snow and ice, braking suddenly or braking at all becomes a huge risk of skidding and sliding. The more distance in between you and other cars, the safer you'll be.
- Don't stop on hills. Keep your momentum but don't stomp on the gas to get up there, that only invites traction loss.
- Use EXTREME caution on bridges. Bridges always freeze quicker than roads because they lose heat and freeze from both sides. So even if I-5 is fine, the Fremont Bridge could pose a threat.
- Don't slam on your brakes. If the light turns yellow and you slam on your brakes to stop, chances are you'll just end up in the middle of the intersection at the end of your slide anyways.
- Cruise Control is a no-no. Sure the roads are empty from people and you have a clear view of the road. The unknown is a crouching tiger, waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting driver.
- Test the roads. In your neighborhood, where there aren't any cars, people or significant objects, test out how bad the road is and how your car will react.
You can never have too many tips, right?
- Don't set your parking brake. Freezing temperatures could freeze your parking brake in place, and good luck getting it unstuck.
- Avoid parking on hills. This and the parking brake scenario go hand and hand. But if you do park on a hill, angle your wheels pointing away from the curb. In case of sliding, that slides your car into the curb, rather than into traffic and down the road.
- If you're stuck in the snow while parked, turn traction control off. This allows wheels to spin and bring motion back to your car.
- Don't get cocky. You aren't the best snow driver in the world and neither is anyone else on the roads you're sharing, I promise.
- Look in the direction you're steering. Sounds stupid, but your car can lose control in that one second you're looking left and BOOM, your front end met a parked car's rear end.
- Avoid driving. It sounds cliche (that's why we saved it for last), but the safest way to drive in the snow, is to not.