Sandy Says: Winterized!!!

Giving up an ancient, four-wheel-drive SUV for a newer, lighter model might not have been such a good idea after all!

I live in Cleveland, Ohio. We usually experience our first snow sometime in October and our last snow sometime in April. I know how to drive in ice and snow.

At least I thought I did.

For the past dozen years, I've driven a Chevy Blazer. Its V-8 engine was heck on gas mileage, but it was constructed of solid steel, weighed a gazillion pounds, had over 120,000 miles, was littered with plenty of nicks and dents and had four-wheel drive. I loved it. There was no snowy, icy hill that Blazer couldn't climb. It was rock solid on slick roadways that others couldn't navigate. The fact that it was so old and long-paid-for added to my driving confidence. If it got dinged, who cared?

But all good things must come to an end and I had to say goodbye to the Blazer. With everything I do in my life, I needed another SUV, so I bought a Kia Sorento. Great gas mileage, heated leather seats, backup camera, satellite radio, Bluetooth … what's not to love? Winter, winter is not to love.

I bought the car in the summer and the Blazer's air conditioning hadn't worked in years, so I was thinking "AIR CONDITIONING!" not "Does it have four-wheel or all-wheel drive?"

My bad.

We had our second snow of the year this week. I stayed home until the roads were clear because the first storm of the year added 1,000 grey hairs to my head. I was the person I always yelled at to get off the road; driving 40 mph in the slow lane on the highway, white-knuckled and terrified.

I need to relearn how to drive in the snow and ice, so I turned to the American Automobile Association (AAA) for driving tips. Some general safety and maintenance tips offered by AAA included:

  • Avoid driving while you're fatigued. 

  • Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.

  • Make certain your tires are properly inflated.

  • Never mix radial tires with other tire types.

  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.

  • If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.

  • Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).

  • Wear your seatbelt.

More importantly, the AAA winter driving tips included:

  • Always look and steer where you want to go.

  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. 

  • Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to 10 seconds. 

Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.

  • Don't stop if you can avoid it. There's a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.

  • Don't power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. And don't stop going up a hill. There's nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. 

The final tip was my favorite: Stay home. If you really don't have to go out, don't. Don't tempt fate: If you don't have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

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