With winter in full force across the country, Americans face some of the worst driving conditions of the year. Plummeting temperatures and inclement weather may turn an otherwise pleasant trip into a white-knuckled ride as motorists navigate ice- and snow-covered roads. It doesn’t matter how regularly you drive through bad weather. When 24 percent of weather-related crashes happen in snowy, icy, or slushy conditions, we could all do with a refresher on winter driving. So buckle up! Below are MoneyKey’s top tips on how to drive safely in snow and be prepared for other winter conditions.
1. Switch to winter tiresThe term “all-season tires” can be misleading – although their name may suggest otherwise, they may not perform at their peak every season. If you live in an area of the country that sees heavy snow, slush, or ice-rain, then choosing to stick with all-seasons may increase your chances of being in a collision. That’s because all-season tires generally take longer to brake than winter tires. Consumer Reports conducted a brake test to compare how long it takes to stop when using winter vs. all-season tires. The results are significant. Here’s how long each tire took to come to a complete stop in snow: Winter tires: 30 feet All-season tires: 36 feet The study shows all-season tires take six feet longer to stop than winter tires. A lot can happen in this 6-foot stretch of a road when you’re driving in snow. Switching to winter tires may give you the time you need to avoid an expensive fender-bender this season.
Winter tires are a must for cold weather — not just snowJust like all-seasons, the term “winter tires” can be deceptive. They are sometimes referred to as snow tires, which may lead some to believe they only need them if they drive in snow. If the area of the country where you live doesn’t get a lot of snow, you may not see the point in switching. It’s a lot of money for something you may only need one or two days a year. However, it’s not always about how much snowfall your state gets, but the temperatures it experiences. All-season tires begin to lose their grip on the road once temperatures dip below 45°F — even if they’re completely clear of snow or ice. Winter tires have a unique compound that keeps them flexible in colder temperatures. Flexibility is an important quality you want in a tire, as it helps the tires maintain better contact with the road. They also have a special tread pattern that not only grips the road through ice and snow but also rain. This special pattern diverts water away from the tires and reduces your chances of hydroplaning, giving you better braking and handling than if you were to drive with just all-seasons. Although you may not see a lot of snow during the typical winter, you’ll probably see a lot of rain. If the temperatures dip below 45°F, you may want to consider switching to winter tires. According to the U.S Department of Transportation, nearly 70% all weather-related crashes happen when pavement is wet and 46% happen when it’s raining. Having a set of winter tires that maintain a better grip on the road may help you avoid disaster in wet and cold conditions.
It’s all or nothing with winter tires!Let’s be honest — winter tires are expensive. Between the cost of the tires themselves and the cost of installation, they could be a significant drain on your paycheck and you don't want to have to take out a loan online to pay for your tires. Some people think they can reduce the cost of replacing their tires by installing only two winter tires. For example, some motorists who have either front- or rear-wheel drive may think they only need to install winter tires on the driver wheels. Although this will save you some money at the mechanic, it's not something most mechanics will recommend. Installing winter tires only on the front, the back or not at all could not only increase your chances of a collision but may end up costing you more in the long run. Some people believe it’s just a matter of taking the time to learn how to drive in the snow with front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, but this isn’t the case. Regardless of your experience behind the steering wheel, you’re more likely to spin out or cause a collision by installing winter tires incorrectly. Installing two winter tires disturbs the balance of your wheels, causing one set to be more powerful than the other. As a result, you could either lose handling at the front or lose braking power at the back. If you live in a snowy or icy part of the country, you should consider buying the full set rather than a mix-and-match of tires as they’re an important safety feature of your car. Contributing to a savings fund all year round may help you cover this seasonal switch. If you squirrel away smaller amounts of money over a longer period of time, you won’t feel the pressure of purchasing these tires. Unfortunately, Mother Nature doesn’t always play by the rules, and she may dump a load of snow well before you expected to need winter tires. If you find yourself short of your goals, look into our as a potential backup. They’re ideal for urgent bills and unexpected expenses you can’t ignore. Our fast and convenient process removes many of the complexities and delays that may occur with traditional personal loans from mainstream banks, so you can tackle important expenses, like your tires, as soon as the first snowfall hits.
2. Check the roads before you leaveWith a look outside your window, you’ll be able to tell if the roads in front of your home are clear, but this quick check won’t tell you anything about the roads to come. There could be a storm heading your way that promises to reduce visibility, or there may be a major accident halting all traffic on the highway. To learn about what awaits you on your trip, you should check the road conditions before you leave. There are a few ways you may do this, including:
- Calling 511. This is a free service provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation. By dialing 511, you’ll have access to the latest highway traffic conditions, road incidents, and weather information.
- Visiting the Weather Network. In addition to providing forecast information, the Weather Network tracks highway conditions in real time on their website. You may also view live weather conditions through traffic cameras.
- Listening to your local AM radio station. Tune your car radio to your local AM news radio station, and you’ll hear regular updates on both weather and traffic conditions as you travel.
3. Prepare an emergency car kitOn social media, it’s easy to hashtag a big storm with fun names like #Snowmageddon, snOMG, or Kaisersnowzer. However, if you live in an area that experiences significant snowfall each winter, you know to take these storms seriously. Flash blizzards can leave drivers stranded on the side of the road. Depending on where you are and the severity of the storm, it may be a while before roadside assistance or emergency services can reach you. This isn’t meant to frighten you into never driving during the winter; it’s just a reminder to prepare for the unexpected. A winter emergency kit is like your personal financial emergency fund. It’s there to help in case something goes wrong. Your kit should include at least some of the following items:
- A first aid kit
- Snacks, like granola bars or fruit leather
- Jumper cables
- Water in plastic bottles, so they won’t break if the water freezes
- Road flares
- Tire chains
- Ice scraper
- Cell phone charger
4. Remove ice and snow from your vehicleThere’s no time to spare when you wake up on a work day to find your street covered in snow. Not only do you have to rush through your normal morning routine, but you have to accommodate a longer commute because of the weather. The last thing you may want to do in the morning is wake up even earlier to shovel your drive and clear your car. The last thing you may want to do in the morning is wake up even earlier to clear your car. Although it may save you time at the start of your day, failing to clear snow or ice from your vehicle can be dangerous. Ice on your windshield and mirrors may not melt by the time you’re ready to join traffic. It could obstruct your view of the road, leaving you blind to pedestrians, other drivers, and hazards in your way. You should make use of your ice scraper and snow brush even if there isn’t anything blocking your windshield. Any ice or snow on the hood, trunk, or roof of your car might blow off once you start driving. Blowing snow may distract drivers around you, while falling ice may cause significant damage to other vehicles. Make sure you always clear your vehicle of snow and ice before you start driving. And if you see someone on the roads carrying a mountain of snow on their car, give them a wide berth. If you’re finding it hard to fit in this extra chore in the morning, checkout this helpful guide for ways to manage your time better. It shares valuable tips like waking up earlier to have a productive morning. You may also want to download the Winter Wake-Up app on your phone. It uses local weather forecasts to adjust your alarm clock automatically and wake you up earlier if there’s frost or snow on the roads.
5. Winterize your carBack in October, the MoneyKey blog shared our top tips . A lot of our advice centered around winterizing your home properly, so it’s prepared for any kind of weather. The same logic applies to your vehicle. Although the chores may differ, your car needs some TLC if you expect it to stand up to winter’s worst. You may be able to perform some of these winterization tasks on your own. Things like topping up on antifreeze and motor oil may be in your wheelhouse, but don’t worry if you don’t know a thing about what’s under your hood. Having your car serviced by a certified mechanic will help prepare your vehicle for any of the challenges of winter driving. A winter tune-up performed by a professional will ensure your battery, cooling system, brakes, and transmission are in their best shape. It may also identify issues that could pose a problem later in the year, giving you the chance to take on proactive care that could prevent costly emergency repairs in the future.
6. Budget for the winterAlthough preventative maintenance often costs less than emergency repairs, a visit to your mechanic isn’t always easy to accommodate if you’re on a tight budget. Part of the challenge lies in pinpointing what this tune-up will cost, as it depends on the age and condition of your vehicle. You may also want to think about how you drive. Things like gridlock, road conditions, and even other drivers may affect how much you’ll pay in maintenance and repairs. Speak with your mechanic before you schedule a winter tune-up and call around to see how much their quote compares to other auto repair centers in your area. This may help you decide if a tune-up is something you can afford this winter. It’s a good idea to use their estimates when reviewing your car care budget. You should also compare these ballpark figures to what you actually spent on your vehicle last winter. Together, these numbers may help you determine how much a tune-up could cost you.
7. Use our savings guide to helpIf there’s a major discrepancy between your auto costs and your income, you may think you have to put off important maintenance for another year. But this isn’t necessarily true. If you aren’t sure how you might avoid essential maintenance, we recommend you review our The guide provides tips on how you might make adjustments in other areas of your budget to save money for your vehicle. When you’re able to contribute to this savings fund regularly, you’re more likely to cover essential repairs and maintenance on your own without turning to a personal loan first. Although lines of credit and installment loans are helpful for essential repairs, they’re best used as a backup to support you when your savings fall short of your needs. You may also want to speak with your mechanic about your situation. They may be willing to give you a deal that fits your finances, or you may be able to come up with a payment plan that works for both of you.
8. Make basic repairs on your ownIf, even with saving, your trip to the mechanic is taking up too much of your budget, you may be able to reduce what you pay in repairs by taking a DIY and proactive approach to your vehicle maintenance. Depending on your confidence and skills, you may be able to learn how to do the easy fixes yourself. Your owner’s manual is a great resource for tasks like changing your oil or installing new windshield wipers. YouTube and other online resources like Udemy are excellent places to visit when you want to double check if you’re doing something correctly. However, you should leave YouTube behind when you want to take on more complex tasks. Things like changing a tire or installing tire chains for the winter may require training and special equipment most people don’t have in their garage. You may be able to take on these more challenging tasks with the help of a local high school or community college. Check to see if they offer adult auto classes that teach you how to install tire chain accessories or change spark plugs in a safe space with an experienced mechanic overseeing your work. Although you’ll invest more of your time in these DIY repairs, these courses may end up being less expensive than work completed by a mechanic.
9. Be patientTry as you might to be punctual, real life can throw a wrench in your plans. Before you know it, you’re late for an important meeting, a date, or your child’s dance rehearsal, and you haven’t even turned the key yet. In an attempt to make up for lost time, it might be tempting to put the pedal to the medal, but it’s better to take it slow in the winter. From accelerating and braking to changing lanes and turning — every driving maneuver takes longer to complete. Even if you have winter tires, you won’t be able to steer or stop as smoothly as you do in perfect summer conditions. If you don’t give yourself enough time to drive carefully, you could lose control of your vehicle, skid, and potentially cause a collision. Under normal driving conditions, suggests leaving at least three seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you. As conditions deteriorate, you should leave more room to accommodate how much longer it will take you to brake. As an extra precaution, you may also want to check in with this guide to learn how to handle your car in the worst case scenario. These tips on how to respond when your car skids may help you avoid disaster this winter. Inevitably, cautious driving will add some time to your commute, but try not to think about how late you are and focus on the road instead. Adjust your driving for both the suggested speed limits and the conditions of the road, as they may affect how slow you have to drive to arrive safely at your destination.
The bottom line: exercise cautionIt doesn’t matter if you live in Minnesota or Missouri, winter creates poor conditions for drivers. As much as you would prefer to stay at home and avoid the roads at all costs, real life doesn’t always let you. You may have work and other responsibilities demanding your time and attention, so driving through snow, ice, and other winter conditions may be a necessity. If you find you need to drive when the weather turns nasty, remember these tips before you hit the road. They may help you avoid a costly collision this winter. If you do find yourself facing an expensive repair or medical bill you can’t afford, contact us to learn more about how we can help. From maintenance that costs more than you expected to over-priced repairs and essential medical care following a crash, we may be able to help boost your cashflow in a way that lets you take on these costs quickly and conveniently. Until then, be cautious when you hit the roads this winter and stay safe!
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