When I moved to the snowy north from sunny South Cal in the 70s, I had to quickly learn how to drive on icy roads. The big challenge with driving on icy roads is that your tires have nothing to grip up. Without traction, cars will slip and slide through intersections, on hills, and even over slight inclines.
It wasn’t until my second winter in my new home that one of my neighbors clued me into the various ways to increase tire traction on icy roads. Some of these tips include purchasing special supplies or equipment, a few involved changing how I drove my car. If you are slip sliding your way through an icy winter, here are some tips that can help.
Install studded snow tires. Studded tires are special winter tires that have small metal “studs” imbedded directly into the tire. These studs can grip the surface (acting a little like soccer or golf cleats) to pull your car through snow or ice. The downside with studded snow tires is that they can only be used during the winter months. Most northerners have two sets of tires (studded for winter, all-weather for summer) which can get expensive for families on a budget.
Install snow chains. A cheaper solution is to purchase a set of snow chains that can be placed over the rear tires of your car. For driving in icy weather and snow, I actually prefer the chains since they do such a great job of gripping the surface. Chains are easy to install and can be found at most hardware or automotive stores for under $100.
Weigh down the car. For those of us who drive RWD pickup trucks or wagons, loading a hundred pounds of bagged sand in the rear can also help increase traction and prevent slipping. This doesn’t work on other car models since the increased weight will also increase braking distance. Traction sand can be found at most hardware stores for under $5 a bag.
Avoid hills. Without studded snow tires, climbing an icy hill or slope will be almost impossible. The best solution here is to avoid taking hilly roads and stick to the flats. For those times that you can’t avoid a slope (such as over a railroad track), maneuver your car slightly to the right to put the two right-most tires into the snow. Unpacked snow provides more traction than ice and will give your car the extra boost it needs to climb over the bump.
More by this contributor:
How to stop your car windows from freezing up.
How to open a frozen car door.
10 reasons why driving a jalopy makes financial sense.