Car Care Tips

Tips to keep your car on the road.

Safety November 25, 2019

The Winter Driving Checklist Every Driver Needs

Winter driving tips

Winter weather can be magical. Snowmen, snow days, and frosted forests are some of the great joys of the season. However, this same weather can wreak havoc on roadways. Black ice, snow drifts and slick roads make winter driving dangerous!

If you can, stay home during severe weather. But if you must venture out, read our winter driving tips to help you arrive at your destination safely.

Prepare Your Car for Winter

Traction & Braking

Proper tires and good brakes can be the difference between getting into an accident or avoiding one—especially on slippery winter roads.

  • Measure the tread depth of your tires to ensure ample grip. Consider replacing tires when only 4/32” of tread remains because this is when your tires start to lose traction and stopping power.
  • Have your brakes inspected to be sure the rotors and pads have enough thickness to get you through the season.
  • Know your vehicle’s capabilities. Does your car have anti-lock brakes (ABS)? Do you have front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive? If you’re not sure, check your owner’s manual.
  • Snow/winter tires are designed to have deeper tread and specially formulated rubber that stays flexible in the cold to enhance traction. Most drivers in Virginia don’t need snow tires to get through our winter weather. However, if you decide to get winter tires, get them installed before the weather changes!
  • Inflate your tires to the proper tire pressure and continue to check tire pressure weekly, because, for every 10-degree drop in temperature, your tire’s air pressure drops about 1 psi. Don’t forget to check the spare!

Read: How Does Cold Weather Impact Tire Pressure? 


Visibility is easily compromised by dark nights. And with daylight savings time, many of us drive home from work in the dark during the winter.

  • Check heaters and defrosters to make sure they are operating correctly.
  • Inspect wiper blades for cracking, squeaking, skipping or streaking. Generally, wiper blades should be replaced every six months. Consider getting winter wiper blades and use cold-weather washer fluid.
  • Test all exterior and interior lights (including hazards) to make sure they are operational.

Get Started & Run Smoothly

Nothing is worse than a stalled car in a freezing parking lot.

  • Have your battery and charging system tested by a certified technician. When temperatures become colder, turning over an engine can take up to twice as much current as needed under more favorable conditions.
  • Follow the recommended oil change interval outlined in your owner’s manual. Engine oil thickens in cold weather and dirty oil can spell trouble when this happens.
  • Inspect belts and hoses as changing weather tends to cause them to crack, tear or swell.
  • Clean, flush and put new antifreeze in the cooling system. As a rule of thumb, this should be done every two years.
  • Have the exhaust system checked for carbon monoxide leaks, which can be especially dangerous during cold weather when windows stay closed and engine idling is common.

[Stop by your local Virginia Tire & Auto this winter for our Snow Survival Service! It includes a tire safety check and rotation, nitrogen top off, brake inspection, battery check, buy one get one free windshield wiper blades and fluids top off—all for just $19.99.] 

Winter Driving Safety Tips:

Before you go:

  • Add cold weather gear to your vehicle safety kit and make sure your kit is fully stocked, including:
    • Winter boots & socks
    • Hat & gloves
    • Jacket
    • Non-perishable food & water
    • Ice scraper/snow brush
    • Shovel
    • Kitty litter or sand
  • Clear all snow and ice from your vehicle. Don’t forget about the sideview mirrors and any external cameras.
  • Make sure you have at least a half tank of gas.
  • Check your tire pressure.
  • Test all lights and windshield wipers to make sure they are operating correctly.
  • Check the weather and road conditions! If the forecast is stormy, consider staying home. If you must travel, make proper precautions and tell someone else your travel plans so they can check on you.

Read: How to Check Tire Pressure and Inflate Tires

On the roads:

  • Always look and steer where you want to go.
  • Do not use cruise control.
  • Leave lots of room between you and the vehicle in front of you. We suggest increasing your following distance from the usual 3-4 seconds to 6-10 seconds.
  • Drive at decreased speeds. Accelerate and decelerate slowly and brake gently to avoid skidding.
  • Avoid jerking the steering wheel and making tight turns.
  • Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
  • Be extra careful on bridges and overpasses because they freeze first.
  • Avoid stopping if you can. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it. The amount of inertia needed to start moving from a dead stop often causes trouble on slick roads.
  • Don’t stop while you’re going up a hill. When approaching a hill, get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you start climbing. If there is a vehicle in front of you, give them time and space to get a good distance in front of you before you attempt the hill.

Get the grip back:

  • Turn the wheel further in the direction you are trying to go to counteract understeer.
  • Steer in the direction that the back of your vehicle is sliding (steer into the skid). Beware of correcting the steering too much, as this may cause the vehicle to slide back in the opposite direction.
  • For manual vehicles, simultaneously remove your foot from the brake or accelerator pedal, fully depress the clutch, and straighten steering to help your vehicle regain traction.
  • If you are trying to stop but start sliding, you need to know whether your car has an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS). If you have ABS, press and hold down the brake pedal. The system will automatically keep the brakes from locking up. If you don’t have ABS, you should manually pump the brakes to prevent the brakes from locking and causing you to skid more.

Let Virginia Tire & Auto Help You Stay Safe This Winter

Prepare your vehicle for winter this year with the Snow Survival Service at Virginia Tire & Auto. For $19.99, certified technicians will check your tires, brakes, battery, fluids and more to prepare your car for the cold. Schedule an appointment at one of our 17 locations today!


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