One of my favorite holiday memories from growing up was our annual December drive from Massachusetts down to my Grandma’s in Washington, D.C.
My dad would shiver in the cold, wedging seven people’s stuff in our maroon station wagon, we’d all argue over who had to sit in the middle seat up front, and then settle in for a long drive down I-95. At eight years old, I never considered the stresses of the holiday road trip, or the winter driving tips that helped us arrive safely.
Nine hours and many bathroom stops later, we’d pull into my Grandma’s apartment complex, rush for the elevator, and stampede down the hallway to the great annoyance of her neighbors. Jingling the bells on her front door, we’d charge into her warm, cookie-scented apartment, and exult. Christmas was here!
We hope you all have such happy memories of seeing family and friends, and holiday road trips . . . but we also know that winter driving with snowy and icy roads can turn the night before Christmas to the nightmare before Christmas real quick. So with that in mind, we asked our claims team (who know a few things about cars and accidents) for their top winter driving tips. Here’s what they said:
Winter driving tips from the HiRoad claims team
Jeff: how to get unstuck in the snow (and what to do if you can’t)
Part 1: If you get stuck in the snow, rock your car to get out
- Turn the steering wheel left and right to clear the area around the front wheels.
- Turn off traction or stability control if you have it.
- Shift back and forth between reverse and drive, spinning the wheels as little as possible. To prevent transmission wear, wait until the wheels stop before shifting gears.
- Release the gas while shifting, and press lightly on the gas when the transmission is in gear.
- Slowly going forward and back causes a rocking motion that could free your car.
Part 2: If you can’t get your car out of the snow
First, call for a tow using the Incidents tab of your HiRoad app (if you chose Roadside Assistance coverage, this will already be covered), then do the following to stay warm and make the tow easier:
- Clear the snow from around your car, especially any blocking the exhaust pipe. (Then check once in a while to make sure it’s still clear.)
- Open a window about 2” on the side of your car that is away from the wind, to bring in fresh air. Fully open the air outlets on or under the instrument panel.
- Adjust the climate control system to circulate the air inside the car, and set the fan speed to the highest setting.
- If you’re waiting a while, just run the engine briefly to warm up your car, then shut the engine off and close the window most of the way to save heat. Repeat until help arrives, but only when you feel really uncomfortable from the cold. (Moving to keep warm also helps.)
- If it takes some time for help to arrive, when you run the engine occasionally, push the gas slightly faster than idling, to keep your battery charged.
Katie: make a winter weather safety kit
Make yourself a winter weather safety kit to keep in your car during the snowy season. I have a bag with these items:
- Extra winter gear and blankets
- Granola bars and water
- Melting salt for icy areas (kitty litter for traction can also be handy)
Also, it doesn’t hurt to have a charging device for your phone just in case! (These things are on top of the ice scraper and jumper cables you probably already have in your trunk.)
We also wanted to pass on a few other general tips, because whether or not you’re going on a holiday road trip, winter driving can require some extra attention:
- It’s the most obvious, but can be easy to forget: just slow down!
- Give extra space to cars in front on wet, snowy, or icy roads.
- Be extra gentle on the gas and brakes.
- Check your antifreeze levels.
- Check tire tread/swap to snow tires.
- Rear-wheel drive car? Consider putting extra weight in your trunk for traction.
We hope you have a great holiday season with friends and family, and wherever you’re headed, be sure to pack these winter driving tips — and thanks for taking the HiRoad.
P.S. if you’re headed on a vacation, just make sure you’re still categorizing your trips like normal in your HiRoad app, so you’re still getting rewarded for your mindful driving. If you have questions, as always, chat, call, or email us.