Driving in cold weather can be tricky, and the risks of accidents go up significantly when temperatures drop.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths and false statements out there about driving in cold weather that could put you at risk if you believe them to be true.
From tire pressure to visibility, here are nine myths and statements about cold weather and winter driving that you should stop believing right away.
Let’s tackle these misconceptions.
Cold weather doesn’t affect your car’s battery
The winter months can be rough on car batteries, and the rumours that cold weather doesn’t affect a battery are far from true.
The truth is that cold conditions – especially those below freezing – can worsen the performance of your car’s battery, leaving you stranded with a dead battery in no time.
Cold weather slows down the chemical reaction within a battery, causing it to discharge more quickly.
“When the temperature drops to zero degrees (C) or in the low 30s (F), a car battery loses about 60 percent of its power”-Source: caaneo.com
It’s important to keep an eye on your battery during the winter and make sure it’s functioning as well as it should be, otherwise, you may find yourself stuck without a way to get where you’re going.
You should warm up your car before driving in cold weather
Warming up your car before driving in cold weather may be an act of caution, but it’s actually not necessary.
In fact, for most cars built after the mid-1980s, you don’t need to warm up your vehicle at all. Modern vehicles can run efficiently on a cold engine and also have many protective systems in place to help you drive safer in colder temperatures.
The best practice is just to start your car, wait about 30 seconds for any systems to initialize and then start driving–easing into the accelerator is recommended for the first mile or so until the engine warms up to an optimal temperature, as per Carfax
That being said, some preventive maintenance steps like putting winter tires on your vehicle during winter months are highly recommended to increase safety when travelling in cold temperatures.
It’s better to pour hot water on your windshield to defrost it
“Don’t, just don’t do it.”
The thought of pouring hot water on your windshield on a freezing winter morning might sound appealing but it is actually not a great idea and it just makes me cringe just thinking about people that might do that. If you decide to do it anyway, just make a wish, it might or might not happen!
Hot water will provide some initial heat, but it doesn’t last long and can cause the glass to at least crack, and most likely shatter once frozen.
Instead of using boiling hot water, spraying your windows with alcohol-based products such as rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer will do wonders to speed up the process or with the good old windshield fluid stuff.
But in an ideal situation, invest in a durable ice scraper and let your car heat up before attempting to remove whatever snow and frost may have accumulated during the night.
If you really hate scraping your windshield, then you may invest in a Windshield Snow Cover. You can find many on Amazon.
Whatever you decide – be smart and stay safe while defrosting your windshield!
I have Four-Wheel Drive – I am invincible
Owning a 4WD might give you the feeling of invincibility, but that’s simply not true. When I see these Ford F150s and RAMs diesel engines going about their ways at high speed in winter conditions, I just expect them to go in the ditch eventually, and I would be there to laugh. Sorry.
You still must take extra caution when driving any vehicle and this is especially important in a four-wheel drive.
Beyond just following basic road safety guidelines, certain off-road vehicle protocols, such as lower speeds, particularly traversing up or down steep slopes or through streams and watchful use of the clutch when tackling uneven terrain need to be adhered to for safe maneuvering.
Without these precautions, even an experienced four-wheel drive driver can end up in trouble in slippery conditions with snow tires, sliding on black ice, etc.
So while owning a 4WD may provide some extra peace of mind on tougher roads and challenging terrain, leave your pride at home. It’s important to remember that you are still not invincible and black ice doesn’t have a preference!
Back in the day, we could see many rear-wheels drive pickups using sandbags to add some weight to the back to add better traction.
You can leave your car running while you’re gone if it’s cold outside
Winter weather can easily ruin even the best-laid plans – like going to run a simple errand without having to brave below-freezing temperatures.
But it’s important to remember that while you may be tempted to leave your vehicle running while you’re gone, doing so is actually dangerous and illegal in many places.
When you leave the car running, it increases carbon emissions and causes smog, plus it poses a threat of theft or vandalism and this wouldn’t be the best way to become friends with insurance companies.
To avoid any potential issues with your vehicle, take the time to warm up your car slowly before taking off instead; you get all the warmth benefits but with much less risk!
Besides, gasoline is now so expensive, why just pour it on the ground by idling your car forever?
It’s better to use cruise control in the snow
While it may seem that using cruise control on snowy and icy roads would help to keep you driving at a steady speed, the truth is that it’s actually not safe to do so.
Cruise control can take away your control over the vehicle and prevent you from responding quickly to a hazardous situation on the road.
In the wintertime especially, icy roads require your full attention and vigilance while driving – meaning that you should never use cruise control in snow and ice.
Instead, focus on maintaining a constant speed yourself and avoiding sudden changes in speed or direction – that’s much better than trying your luck with cruise control and you will have better handling.
I have had a bad experience with this. While I was going back home in early January, prime winter time in Québec, the cruise control kicked in and the car started skidding on the cold pavement.
This was one of the scariest moments driving. Always use caution when handling your car in wintertime! That’s a no-brain.
Deflating your tyres results in better traction
One of the most common myths about improving traction on your car in winter is that deflating the tyres will give you a better grip.
This isn’t true – not only does it not provide any additional benefit, but it can actually be dangerous!
Lowering your tyre pressure decreases the amount of contact between the snow and your tyres, which reduces friction and makes it harder to respond quickly in an emergency.
In addition, deflating your tires puts extra strain on the sidewalls, making them less safe and can potentially damage the tyre itself.
The best way to improve traction is to use winter-grade tyres designed for driving on icy roads – this will give you optimal performance, safety and peace of mind!
There is a reason why the manufacturer recommends that you go one size smaller (up to 2) in the wintertime. Check your manual to know what is your limit.
Follow the “three-percent-rule” for the tires in winter-Source: Driving.ca
You don’t need to clear snow off of your roof
Although it might seem like a hassle, it’s actually important to take the time to clear snow off of your car’s roof before you hit the road.
We call it “Rolling Igloos” and it annoys the heck out of me seeing this.
Not only can heavy snow on the roof pose a risk of suddenly sliding off onto your windshield (or someone else’s!) while driving, but even light dustings can cause serious visibility issues.
That’s why it’s strongly recommended that you always clear the snow off of your car before heading out – even if it seems like a minor inconvenience.
Taking the time to do this now could save you from a major headache later.
You don’t need winter tires if the roads are usually dry
It’s winter time, and that means cold weather driving. For some people, winter driving is synonymous with driving with winter tires.
But is that really necessary? Oh Yes!
In Québec, Canada, winter tires are required during the winter months: it’s the law – even if the road is usually dry.
Even if the roads are usually dry, snow and ice may have settled on the surface, inclement weather can make them slippery.
Winter weather conditions can change rapidly – it’s always worth being prepared for any eventuality.
Driving in icy or snowy conditions is never fun, but using proper safety equipment will help minimize your risks. Keep these talking points in mind when driving in winter conditions, so you can stay safe and enjoy the winter weather!
Use season tires. Don’t be stubborn.
In a Nutshell
Driving in winter weather conditions can be a dangerous and stressful experience.
It is important to remember the myths and statements about cold weather driving that we discussed here today, so you can stay safe on the roads this season.
Always use caution when handling your car in icy or snowy conditions – use proper safety equipment such as snow tires, clear off any snow from your roof before heading out, and avoid using cruise control if possible.
I hope I have cleared out some of the most current myths about driving in cold and snowy conditions.