You hunkered down for the storm, and traffic reports are coming in about hazardous road conditions. You already bought your wine, and snacks, and are prepared for Netflix and chill for the next two days. You don’t plan on driving in this mess. Right? Some of us get caught off guard when it starts snowing two hours before our shift is over, or we’ve already been stuck on the highway during rush hour when the flakes begin to fall.
Gonna white-knuckle it all the way home aren’t ya? Let’s take some of the stress out of winter weather driving by familiarizing yourself with some of the factory features your vehicle has, and some driving techniques every sheCANic should know to get safely on her way!
Most vehicles these days have features such as ABS (antilock braking system), TSC (traction control system), and the various forms of stability control systems (ESC/DSC/VSC). And lets not forget AWD and 4WD. These systems are very helpful in slippery conditions but shouldn’t lead drivers into thinking that there’s no excuse to stay home. If your area has declared a snow emergency and requested all non essential personnel off the roads, STAY OFF THE ROADS. If you happen to be essential personnel Doctor, nurse, EMT, Firefighter, Police, or WaWa employee, by all means, let’s get you to work!
What does ABS, TSC, and all those others acronyms do for our cars? The whole system involves sensors, computers and warning lights to help drivers from loosing control of their cars when driving recklessly or in wet and slippery conditions. Traction control is engaged if your car starts to loose control while speeding up or accelerating. ABS is engaged if you start to loose control of the car while braking. A more advanced system, known as Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), can actually operate the brakes individually to help assist in steering the vehicle through a skid. This system can even reduce engine power until traction is regained.
To make the most of these factory options, having a good pair of multi seasonal tires (denoted MS, M&S, or M+S on a tire) and properly functioning brakes are paramount. These systems are becoming more and more advanced, but driver awareness is key to safe operation in any conditions. Some drivers are familiar with ABS and TCS, but for those of us who have never experienced this system in action, it can be described as a hard pedal accompanied by a buzzing sound or vibration.
If you’ve never experienced your ABS or TCS at work, seek out a LARGE, empty gravel parking lot or LONG gavel driveway that is free of obstructions. You can also go to a large empty parking lot on a very wet, rainy day if you don’t want to deal with flinging gravel.
Make sure to wear your seatbelt, and keep both hands on the wheel. Accelerate to about 15-20 mph, and then slam on and hold down your brake pedal. Your pedal may feel hard, and you’ll most likely see warning lights on your dash indicating ABS or TCS is active. Once you’ve experienced this sensation, you you’ll be more comfortable with how your vehicle handles when this system engages. You can also test out your TCS by accelerating fast from a dead stop on gravel. Again, you’ll see lights on your dash indicating low traction. *side note* Some sportier vehicles have a TCS button, so as to disable this feature for optimal dry pavement showing off. You know who you are.
AWD and 4WD are available features on most SUV’s , crossovers, and trucks. Some passenger cars even offer AWD. These systems are effective for loose ground, mud and snow. They offer more traction when driving and steering, but bring nothing to the table when you hit the brakes. 4WD can either be a push button system with a high or low option, or a gear shifter on the floor with locking front hubs. AWD can be “Full Time” or “On Demand”.
So ladies, you may be wondering what you should do if you are out on the road and encounter some slippery adult situations.
- For starters, plan out your route if you can, before you hit the road.
- Let someone know when and where you are going, and confirm that you will check in with them upon arrival.
- Remove all snow and ice from you car! A sheCANic has an ice scraper and brush stored in her car to remove ice and snow! Have you ever driven on a highway and seen a huge sheet of ice fly off a tractor trailer toward the unlucky cars behind it? Scary stuff!
- Make sure you have enough window washer fluid to remove white salt and sand from the windshield!
- Do not speed. As a matter of fact, go at least 10 mph slower than the posted speed limit, or slower. Allow yourself extra time to travel when the roads are bad.
- Ease onto the gas pedal, and accelerate slowly till you reach your desired speed.
- Keep your eyes on the road, just further ahead, so you can better judge your stopping distance and when to slow for turns.
- If you begin to slide, take you foot off the gas, keep both hands on the wheel. Turn the wheel to the direction the vehicle is sliding, and hold down the brake pedal hard, and continue to steer as best you. Many times, the front end of your vehicle will slide when you accelerate, and your back end will slide out or “fish tale” when you brake. This is where speed is a factor. Go SLOW! That goes for corners and turns as well.
Snow is more forgiving than ice, and sometimes the days after a large snow are more treacherous with all the melting and refreezing. If you happen to see a large, untreated parking lot, maybe take a few moments to “practice” snow and/or ice handling. BUT…. Be sure it’s a parking lot that does not have parking blocks, or too many curbs and lamp posts that you could slide into. And for that matter, get your fellow sheCANics with ya and take turns owning that parking lot.
Inclement weather may only be around for a short period of time depending on where you live, but no one wants to be caught off guard on their way home from work, school or the salon. Make your trip one block at a time, one road at a time, or even one mile at a time. If you feel you can’t drive safely in bad weather, make alternative arrangements.
Stay calm stay safe stay alert SheCANics!
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