Cold Weather Vehicle Care and Driving Tips

Keep your engines running and on the road with a little preparation and winter driving knowledge.

Country roads are often left unplowed

Country roads can present beautiful scenery, but appropriate care should be taken when trying to navigate them.

iStockphoto.com/Ann Taylor-Hughes

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19 Ways to Prepare for Winter 
  • Modern diesels are much easier to start than they were just a few years ago, but be aware that all the problems listed for a gasoline engine are multiplied with a diesel, and there’s one additional fun item: paraffin in non-winterized No. 2 diesel fuel starts to “gel up” at approximately 10 degrees Fahrenheit. See your manual on starting and winterizing your diesel vehicles.
  • Get a timer like one you use on your lamps at night to start the block heater a couple of hours before you leave for work. It will cut your power bill by not having it run all night.
  • Save money by getting a spare set of wheels to keep your studded snow tires permanently mounted. You can find them at a tire dealer or a wrecking yard. This will save you the cost of mounting and balancing summer/winter tires twice a year.
  • Fuel additives will help with both carburetor and fuel injection engines. They can be very helpful with diesel engines, too. Again, consult your vehicle’s manual or a trusted mechanic.

Driving Tips:

  • Do not use the cruise control when there is ice on the road. If the cruise accelerates on ice, you may lose control of the car.
  • Let off the accelerator as you approach a bridge.
  • Just because you have four-wheel drive and studded snow tires does not mean you can still drive safely at 75 mph on ice.
  • Do not run parallel to semis during a snow storm or when driving on ice. Either pass them or stay well behind them.
  • Black ice is nearly invisible and will accumulate on bridge overpasses – especially those crossing water.
  • Carry some emergency items in your car – flares, blanket, candle, matches, tire chains and a small folding shovel like soldiers carry. They may save your life if you go off a rural country road during winter.
  • Getting your children off to school on a snowy day can be an adventure. First, sweep the snow off the car, start the car, turn on the defroster, and then go back in and get the youngsters dressed and ready for school.
  • Never throw hot water on a frosty windshield; it might crack the glass. Use a scraper or start your car early and let the defroster do the job.
  • If you take your car through an automatic wash on a freezing day, don’t try to use the power windows until all the water dries up – wind will evaporate the ice as you drive around.