5 Myths About Driving in Winter That We Need to Bury for Good
No one really likes driving when it’s ten below, or if the road is coated with slush and snow. To make it worse, there are the traffic jams, fender-benders and slip-and-slide conditions we all have to hate. That’s why the world’s driving geniuses have contributed their wisdom on reaching your destination when the world is blanketed with snow. But not all of them are accurate. In fact, a good number of these myths about driving in winter can actually backfire if you were to listen to some of them. So just what are we talking about? Let’s take a look.
1. All-Wheel Drive is Invincible in Snow
A lot of people overestimate the power of all-wheel drive (AWD). Thanks to glossy ads in magazines and T.V. commercials, manufacturers have unintentionally misled the masses to believe that all-wheel drive means better control in winter conditions. However, this drivetrain system only improves performance, not safety.
An AWD-based vehicle gives you better acceleration, but has no advantage in steering or braking – both of which take priority over acceleration in snow and ice. The side effect of these misunderstood claims, is a heap of drivers who speed and turn as if their car has immunity to slippery roads. That false sense of confidence often leads to fender benders, run-off-road collisions and even rollovers. So what’s our advice? Don’t believe the hype! Rely on high-quality winter tires and careful driving instead.
2.You Don’t Need to Brush Snow Off the Top of Your Vehicle
It could be laziness or it could be a style thing, but some folks avoid brushing the snow blankets from the roof of their cars. There’s actually a myth saying that clearing snow off the roof is unnecessary. It’s hard to say who promoted that view. And while everyone is entitled to their opinion, leaving snow on a car’s rooftop is a bad practice to adopt.
First of all, it’s dangerous. Driving at relatively high speeds with wind gusts will blow snow onto the windshields of others, reducing visibility. Even worse, ice can form under the snow blankets, blow off in the direction of other drivers, and prompt other drivers to swerve to avoid impact. Such a response can obviously lead to an accident.
Secondly, leaving the snow on the roof will send the cops your way. The consequence of getting pulled over by police might be as light as a verbal warning, but it can also be as serious as receiving a fine or demerit points. Finally, there’s the issue of repair costs. Heavy snow left uncleared can damage wiper units (blades, arms, linkage and motor). Additionally, the snow can damage roof racks, trim, and even your HVAC system since if it enters the fresh-air intake and waterlogs in your cabin air filter.
With all what we’ve said here, it’s worth brushing the snow off of your car, even if it’s the last thing you want to do. You’ll avoid the law, the accident risks and the unnecessary police pullovers that may ensue.
3. A Winterized Vehicle Does All the Work for You
Closely related to the overconfidence given by all-wheel drive, is the issue of relying too much on a car’s features. Again, whether it’s a function of laziness or misleading advertising, you have a slew of drivers who think a winterized car gives them the green light to drive however they please. But they’re terribly wrong. For example, there are people out there who speed on ice just because they have winter tires. Or they brake sharply because of their car’s ABS.
If you think this way at times (and it’s normal), remember this: no safety feature can reduce the risk of an accident by itself, or even together with others. The ultimate safety measure is good judgement. Learning how to control your speed, use defensive driving techniques and avoid risky movements in combination with safety devices, is wiser than having safety features turned on while driving carelessly. After all, computers and gadgets can fail.
4. Deflating Your Tires Improves Traction
The advice to deflate your tires in the winter might not make much sense, especially when the experts tell you to keep them inflated. A slight deflation of a tire might widen its contact patch (which in theory, gives you better traction). But don’t take that to heart. The science (and engineering) behind the principle of keeping your tires properly inflated still stand.
Underinflation creates rolling resistance, which not only damages tire treads, but also decreases fuel economy. It is one of the reasons why gas in the winter – which is generally a bit cheaper than gas in the summer – can still cost you more than it would at other times. But you shouldn’t be too keen on overinflating them either. Too much air causes the tire to ride on the centre of its tread, which means there’s less contact with the road and a reduced grip.
The lesson here is keep your tires inflated at the proper level. Following your driver manual is the easiest way to do this, but you can also keep this in check by visiting a tire specialist or mechanic.
5. Using Fog Lights in Heavy Fog, Snow or Rain is a Must
You’d think it is smart to turn your fog lights on in low visibility. Technically it is. And although it doesn’t really qualify as being a myth, the idea that a driver must use their fog lights is certainly a misconception. Yes, it goes against what you’ve been told. Flipping those lights on can actually reduce visibility since it intensifies the glare, for both yourself and other drivers.
It’s okay if you’re confused. What you need to know is how and when to use your fog lights. For example, extremely low visibility, where you can’t see more than 100 metres ahead of you, necessitates the use of fog lights. It’s even wiser to switch them on if these conditions persist when driving in winter at nighttime. However, if it’s not a struggle to see the road, keeping the fog lights off is a good idea.
Through One Ear & Out the Other
Like anything else, driving in winter has its share of myths and misconceptions. And you may put your safety at risk if you follow them. If we had the power, we would delete them from every archive, computer and database on the planet. But we’re not Anonymous. All we can do is present these myths to you, dish out the reasons why they’re untrue, and ultimately, leave you to decide whether you want to follow through or not. We hope that you remember these points when you hit the roads this winter (and all winters in the future). If you choose to believe these myths anyway, we wish you the best and hope you stay safe!