How to drive in the snow

Yes, seriously, let’s discuss how to drive in the snow.

This post comes courtesy of my neighbor who had to have his four-wheel drive Nissan pickup truck pulled out of the snow today. Yes, we had a bit.

These are tracks Kevin cut through the snow today so that Kreeli could get through. She was having difficulty last night when it had just gotten to the top of her legs (and even fell twice because of it), but how it’s really deep on her. However, she’s not sticking to the tracks all the time either. Yes, she does love snow and comes in covered. I tried to take a picture this evening (shortly after this picture was taken), but she wouldn’t stay still.

Anyway, yes, there’s some snow.

After I got irritated watching my neighbor try to get his truck out of the snow, I went out and asked if he needed help. He’s a nice guy, really, but sometimes a little too macho for his own good I think. He jumped in his truck and hit the gas. Of course, hitting the gas on snow is the last thing you want to do. All it does is get snow in your tread and scatter the snow that you could be using to gain traction. Then, he was trying to dig his tires out because he was burying them. He was going back and forth with his truck. Yes, good thing, but again, he was always trying to accelerate which was killing his traction. Finally, I got tired of watching and went out to ask if he needed help.

Of course, he didn’t. He gave me some story about being embarrassed because his truck wasn’t going into four-wheel drive. Sorry, I watched all four tires spinning, so I know the truck had engaged. Whatever. I bit my tongue on that one.

So, I continued on and cleared off my Xterra in case he did want me to pull him out. I told my neighbor that I was sweeping off my car in case we needed to go out somewhere. This way, we didn’t have to worry about getting it out in an emergency. Once it was cleared off enough for me to see and the engine warm, I backed it right out of the driveway, even going easily over the bump in the road where the snow plow piled up the snow on the side. No fuss. No getting stuck.

That’s when my neighbor decided to call someone for help. I almost just told him to let me give it a shot, but I got the feeling he was very embarrassed by then. Of course, my own bravado was getting the best of me. I decided to get my Chevy Malibu out too. I went over and started it up.

Now, the snow was very deep and it’s all the way around this car. Not to mention the ridge the snowplow created when clearing the roads — I’d have to break through that too. The Xterra I knew I’d be able to get out of the snow because it was a straight shot backwards to the street. But I was starting to wonder if I’d be able to get the Malibu out. It is only a two wheel drive after all. But, I wanted to prove that you don’t step on the gas. I wanted this to be a fine lesson.

So I cleared off the windows as best as I could. I still had a stripe of snow running down the middle because I was too short to reach it and get it scrapped off with all the other snow involved. I figured I’d pull it out and then back it back in.

I got in the Malibu and prayed I wasn’t about to get stuck myself. I’d hate to ask for his help now.

After reversing the car back a couple of feet, I put the car in low and touched the gas pedal like it was a gentle lover. The Malibu purred forward and out onto the street. No sliding. No slipping. No hesitation.

Of course, once I was there, I couldn’t just back it in. I could hardly see out the front window let alone the back and certainly not my mirrors. So I carefully drove around the block and pulled back in. I went back and forth a bit to smash down some of the snow in case I needed to get out again.

Kevin even praised how easily I got out.

By this time, my neighbor’s friend arrived to pull him out. It didn’t take them long. One simple pull. He was very close the whole time but didn’t realize it, all because he wanted to step hard on the gas.

Okay, so driving in snow.

  1. Brush the snow off your car. As much as you can. Don’t be like me above, but I really wasn’t planning on even going around the block. When I did realize this, I should have stopped and brushed more snow off. Instead, I drove super slowly and cautiously. And I counted down each direction because I really didn’t want to be out on the road like that. So, brush the dang snow off your car. You need to be able to see all around you. Other people are idiots. A lot of accidents could be avoided by just understanding what’s coming and how to handle the weather you are driving in.
  2. Don’t step hard on the gas when you are starting off! On snow and ice, acceleration is not your friend.
  3. On most automatic cars (sticks are different and you always start at first gear anyway), there are 3 forward gears. They are generally labeled D (for drive, though sometimes it is an O for overdrive), 2 (for second gear), and 1 (for first gear). The best thing to do is to put it in reverse (yes, that’s the R) and go back a little bit. Reverse is a powerful gear, especially when you use it right. That’s why I wasn’t worried about getting the Xterra out of the driveway. Then, put the car in 1 (first gear, a.k.a. low) and accelerate forward gently. Not hard. See #1. If you are staying in overdrive, then you are already failing in snow. Use first gear for getting started and up to about 25 mph (if you hear the engine getting cycling hard, it’s time to shift). Once you are traveling along, use 2nd gear for 25-45 mph (or listen to the engine to tell you when to shift). If conditions allow and you need to go faster than 45, then shift to overdrive (the D).
  4. When you are out on the road and moving forward, you need to find the sweet spot. This is not the center of the road where the plows have been. No, the sweet spot is actually your speed and is the most important thing to keep you on the road. It is where you have enough traction to drive safely and enough speed to help you keep this traction. Going both too fast or too slow can cause you to slide all over the road. Both are dangerous, not only for you but for all the other people driving around you. You must know your car and how it handles because every car had a different sweet spot and it even varies with the storm. You have to find it each time you are out on icy roads. Don’t just look down at your speedometer during one storm and determine that 35 is the sweet spot and try to do that during every storm. Find the sweet spot and pay attention for everyone else who doesn’t know what that even is. Let people go around you. There’s always some idiot that still thinks they can drive the speed limit. Trust me, the sweet spot is rarely going to be at the speed limit (though sometimes it has been, but it’s usually the 25-25 mph limits). Go around people who are poking along. They might be in their sweet spot for their car, or they might be driving scared.
  5. Never drive scared. If you find yourself getting fearful of the conditions when you are behind the wheel, pull over and stop. Never, ever drive scared. I once had someone driving beside me who was going too slow for the road conditions and she nearly slid into me because her car didn’t have any traction on the road. I could tell by her face that she was driving scared in the snow. Then, she thought going slower would help. Instead, she nearly slid through the next intersection.
  6. Pump your brakes as you come to a stop. Long before you even need to stop if you can, start pumping your brakes. As you get closer to your stop, you will be pumping more frequently. This helps slow your car gently so you will slide less.
  7. Slow down. The speed limit is for when weather is clear and sunny and the roads are good. When the weather gets back, be it rain or snow, slow down. Don’t be an idiot. It is always better to slow down a bit and get there alive rather than not getting to your destination at all because you’ve had to be put in a body bag.
  8. Pull over for emergency vehicles. This doesn’t matter if the weather is good or bad. Pull over. It doesn’t matter where you’re going, if you’re late, if you get stuck, or whatever you think is important in your life at that moment. Pull over. They are heading to an emergency and their job to save lives is more important than anything (yes, anything!) that you might be having going on at that moment. They always take precedence. They might be having to go rescue a toddler who has been thrown from a car because their parents didn’t buckle them in. Just sit with that image for a moment. Our first responders have to deal with seeing things that most of us are lucky that we will never have to experience. Move the F*&# over for them!

Well, now that I’ve given a good rant and written things I often keep out of my blogs, here’s a short list for driving in snow:

  1. Clean you vehicle of snow as best as you can.
  2. Don’t step on the gas.
  3. Use first gear to start, shift up as conditions allow.
  4. Find the sweet spot with your speed.
  5. Never drive scared.
  6. Pump your brakes to stop.
  7. Slow and steady.
  8. Pull over for emergency vehicles.

Before you discount these, please keep in mind that I never put studded tires or even snow tires on my car. I always have the all season tires put on. I’ve never used chains, even though I have them. I have driven through whiteout conditions. So far, I’ve never slid off the road. I have only called in once to take a snow day from work and that was when my husband got the car stuck in the driveway — he didn’t think that I could get the car out. I don’t like driving through rain and snow, but I can do it and have done it for many years. The thing is to go slow and have patience. And, to know how to properly operate your car in slick conditions. Obviously, that is not taught and why I had to write this blog.

Please be safe out there. I’ve seen many of my friends posting on social media that they don’t often get snow, let alone the amounts we’ve already seen. I know there’s supposed to be a lot this week too. It’s a good thing because we need the moisture.

And, it was a good thing that I cleaned the cars off as best as I could because shortly after I got back inside, we had to run out to get some medicine for Temmy’s eye. She has pink eye and I’d been watching it for a couple of days. When I got in, it was starting to swell and get gunky again. So, Kevin and I piled into the Xterra and made the trip down to get her some medicine.

Let me just say, that a lot of people should have read this blog before getting in their car. Sad, but true.

We had no issues.

And Temmy’s eye is already starting to improve.

Onward to other adventures!