It’s funny, Colorado is notorious for our winter weather, especially in the mountains. And yet, so many people still do not heed both common sense and well-publicized warnings on proper driving techniques and especially having appropriate winter-rated or minimally good all-season tires on their car or light truck.
In the mountains, the new laws require you to have winter-rated tires when the weather is bad or, if you block traffic because of bad tires, you can get a healthy ticket from your local police to the tune of $650. Ouch!!! Many of the travelers I’ve pulled out ditches with my old pick-up are all-wheel drive (AWD) or 4X4 vehicles not driven with enough respect for the slick roads they’re on. And what’s sad and preventable is that often times they just have bad tires with poor tire traction! And now they have to deal with the costs of vehicle damage from ‘fender-benders’ or worse traffic accidents. See my next ‘blog’ on Colorado’s newer traction laws coming soon.
Good M&S (mud and snow) rated tires make winter driving much less stressful!
It never ceases to amaze me the number of vehicles, usually all-wheel drive (AWD) or 4-wheel drive units, in the ditch with their bright red brake lights showing up through the snow. “You’re killin’ me, Smalls.” 🙂 The challenge with many people that drive in our winter weather is not being cautious enough for the conditions, or (conversely) being overly (and unnecessarily) cautious and jamming up traffic or just driving on low traction tires and creating bad and unsafe situations for all those around them.
Many all-wheel drive vehicle owners expect to have better traction (which they can WITHIN REASON) and end up driving outside of the vehicle’s capabilities especially in bad weather. But don’t get me wrong, they are NOT the only offenders. Plenty of 2-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive vehicles and just cars and trucks with crappy tires line the shoulders and ditches after many Colorado snow storms, on the Flats and in the High Country both.
And while it is true most of the time that AWD and 4X4 vehicles have potentially better traction in most conditions, that doesn’t mean that they can stop generally any better than any other car. Anti-lock brakes and enhanced braking systems in today’s cars certainly helps. But the majority of people who drive poorly in slick conditions assume that all wheel drive means that they are the All-Knowing And All Powerful Oz of The Roadways. That is a misnomer.
Many cars today also have special traction settings that can assist with drive-ability in slick conditions. Always check your owner’s manual for more details. But while all-wheel drive and 4 wheel drive vehicles generally do well in most conditions,, when driven within their limitations, they are better for acceleration in slippery conditions than they are for braking and ultimately stopping in slippery conditions.
Another tactic some folk use, especially if their vehicle don’t have an enhanced traction system, is using your vehicle’s gears and downshifting/using lower gears, with manual and automatic transmissions, in treacherous, slow driving conditions. This can help slow the car down by using the backside of the engine compression. This not only controls the tires’ rotational speed, it’s usually a good practice in extremely bad driving conditions to maintain control when the roads are super slick or icy. This is not usually for higher speeds, just in slower stop & go traffic. Check with your local, reputable technician if you have questions.
Good, basic things to make driving in winter low stress include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Check ALL your tires for good traction and air pressure (see the door jamb or owners manual for proper psi).
- Shoot for traction (tread depth) better than the 3/16” minimum depth. Anything less than 4/32” (1/8”) is really, really pushing it in most adverse conditions.
- Remember the “Quarter Test?”
- Make sure all your fluids are clean and topped off and the oil is full and in good clean shape. Makes for easier starting and performance.
- Especially make sure you have plenty of washer fluid and good wipers on your car. Keep an extra gallon in your truck with a good roadside emergency kit (see out website for what that looks like).
- Make sure your engine cooling/vehicle heating system works properly so that your defroster and heater both work well to give you a fog/ice-free windshield and keep you warm.
- Big thing is…Slow down to a responsible speed and get where you’re going SAFELY!
- And if you’re not comfortable driving in bad conditions…it’s simple…DON’T!
Be smart and be safe out there. If you need some help checking your tires or your car for winter worthiness, stop in and see us at Pride Auto Care, 3 locations in the south Denver metro. Let’s enjoy Colorado roads together…throughout the year.
Al Pridemore, Co-owner
“Happy Customers Driving 30 Years of Local Pride.”
Proud Sponsor of the Debbie Jackson & Darrell Pridemore
Memorial Scholarship Foundation (a 501c3 org.)
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