Whether we like it or not, winter is here. No longer do we have to worry about mere cold weather alone. These are the days of black ice, ten foot snow drifts and polar vortexes. Are you ready?
This is the time of year to take stock and review our driving techniques. Being prepared for the changes in the season will ensure we are quick in responding to adverse road conditions.
Every year the average driver slides through at least one traffic light or stop sign before remembering the dangers of winter roads. If not prepared, collisions could quite literally be just around the corner. Don’t let Mother Nature control your driving record. Be prepared and take charge of the road!
Vehicle Operation Tips
The only tried and true winter driving strategy is an abundance of caution. The last thing we should be doing on slick winter roads is rushing or ignoring safety concerns for the sake of meeting a deadline for shaving drive time.
Here are some tips to making sure you stay safe on treacherous winter roads:
- Throttle Control: The best way to determine road conditions without getting out of the truck is by easing into the throttle. Avoid heavy will provide you with that information, but in the most dangerous way possible.
- Traction and Braking: When a road is icy or slick, a large truck’s braking distance can be 4 to 10 times greater than when the road is dry. The best way to compensate for slippery surfaces is to reduce your speed to a third of the posted limit and brake gently.
- Turns: When heading into a turn on a slippery road, normal speed should be further reduced by a quarter of normal. When a hill is combined with a turn and full load, the reduction should be by half.
In the event the vehicle does go into a skid, immediately utilize the following techniques:
- Take your foot off the gas and quickly shift into neutral.
- Steer in the direction of the skid.
- Before the rear wheels stop skidding, shift into drive and gently press on the accelerator.
- Avoid slamming on the brakes.
Utilizing safe winter driving techniques is the first step in ensuring you’re exercising a maximum level of safety on the road. Keeping proper maintenance is the crucial second step. After all, it doesn’t matter how well you drive if the vehicle itself is not ready for the season.
If your vehicle is not properly maintained then how you drive it won’t matter much. Each system within the vehicle requires special attention.
Here’s what we recommend:
- Coolant System
- Check antifreeze strength.
- Check coolant additives and/or water filter.
- Pressure test the cooling system after turning on the heater control valves.
- Pressure test the radiator cap at a minimum 5 psi of pressure.
- Meticulously check all water and heater hoses for hardening, softening, cracks or wear.
- Tighten any loose hose clamps.
- Air Systems
- Ensure all air tanks are drained daily if possible, specifically when the temperature is above freezing.
- If oil is in the drained water, check for a bad air compressor.
- Service air dryer.
- Batteries and Electrical
- Check all battery and electrical connections. If necessary, clean and tighten batteries and starter connections.
- Check the alternator belt.
- General Operations
- Check the condition of windshield washers and make sure the blades remove solution without streaks.
- Check 5th wheel assembles and make sure sliders are moving freely.
- Make sure all chains are in good condition and secured properly.
- Have an extra gallon of antifreeze on hand.
- Always have an ice scraper at the ready.
Remember that when the engine is operating at its normal temperature, the idle speed check temperature should be between a range of 90 and 130 degrees. A final road test to check for leaks is necessary to ensure coolant, oil and air systems are all in good working order.
The most dangerous road conditions exist during the winter months. These are also the months with the highest amount of road traffic. By remaining diligent, practicing safe driving, and maintaining vehicle excellence, we can ensure a safe and happy new year for ourselves and fellow commuters!