Winter Driving Myths Debunked (from MSN)

I saw this on MSN when I signed onto the internet and figured that it was not a bad thing to share with everyone as I think it is important to speak about more than just financial items because those are often so boring.

December 28, 2011 10:39 AM | By John LeBlanc for MSN Autos
Winter driving myths debunked!

1. I can get away driving on all-season tires this winter
No you can't. Despite advertised to work in spring, summer, fall, and winter, all-season tires are best left in your garage between November and April here in Canada. Not only do specific-to-winter tires have deeper grooves to shed snow and slush compared to all-season rubber, their cold-weather tire compounds stays soft enough to supply proper traction below 7C — something all-season rubber can't.

2. Even if I have winter tires, I should drop the tire pressure to increase the rubber contact area on the road
Unless your daily commute involves tip-toeing across a frozen lake, forget about it. There are fundamentally two issues that bust this myth. Firstly, wider tires tend to 'float' on top of the road surface, and letting air out will only make your tires wider. For winter during, you want your tires to 'bite' into the snow and slush. So narrower is better.
Secondly, if you lower tire pressure too much, the sidewalls may flex too much, and cause a blowout. Just be smart and stick to what your vehicle's manufacturer recommends.

3. I should turn off my car’s traction aids when there’s deep snow on the road
Statistics have proven one of the biggest gains in car safety has been the advent of computer-controlled traction and stability control systems. These features can reduce engine power or apply the brakes — or both — to limit the amounted tire spin in adverse road conditions.
The only time you should turn these systems off is when you have come to stop in deep snow, where even with all your systems on, your vehicle is not making any forward progress. In this case only, a spinning tire may gain some traction, If not, it's probably time to call for a tow.

4. I should always gear down when driving in the winter
If you are braking, it is best to let the anti-lock brakes and stability-control systems do their job. Gearing down will only cause the vehicle to transfer more weight to the front of the car, making the brakes' job even harder. And you don't want low gear for accelerating either. Low gears multiply the amount of torque being applied to the wheels. That's why some modern cars with 'snow' settings for their transmissions automatically start the vehicle in second-gear instead of first.

5. I will stop shorter in the winter if my car has anti-lock brakes
This is a tricky one in that it can technically be true in certain situations, although we'd still take a car with ABS over a car without any day of the week.
Yes, a car with anti-lock brakes can take longer to come to a complete stop than a car without. ABS brakes prevent the wheels from locking up by rapidly pulsing the brakes off and on. On low-friction surfaces, this increases the stopping distances marginally.
The upshot of this is that you can steer during a panic stop in an ABS-equipped car, whereas a car with ABS brakes will simply lock the tires up and plow straight ahead.

6. If my car starts to skid, I should let go of the steering wheel and let the brakes stop the car
Never — and I repeat, never — ever let go of the steering wheel for any reason, regardless of season or road condition. This is one of the most dangerous things you can do behind the wheel, as you're surrendering control of the car. Having both hands on the steering wheel will allow you to react to changing conditions and respond to other vehicles. Without your hands present to make steering inputs, you won't be able to react to slides or skids.

7. I can drive faster on snow-covered roads with all-wheel drive
All-wheel drive is useful for but one thing: Getting you started. A car's power is more evenly distributed to four wheels than two, allowing for reduced slippage when setting off. What all-wheel drive won't do is help you stop or corner.
A proper set of snow tires on a two-wheel-drive car is safer than a four-wheel or all-wheel-drive car without proper rubber. Remember, it's not the number of driving wheels that have power, but the number of tires with traction on the road that allows you to stay on course in slippery conditions.

8. I should throw a bag of sand in the back of my car for better traction
Maybe if your winter beater is a 1961 Chevy Impala. But most modern cars are either front- or part-time (FWD-biased) all-wheel-drive. So putting additional weight in the rear would only reduce the amount of traction at the front. Even in a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, today's stability control systems are geared towards a known gross vehicle weight, so any adjustments could cause these systems to not work as effectively.

9. If my car breaks down during a snowstorm, I should leave my car and go get help
Unless you are in the middle of a multilane highway and blocking traffic, you're better off staying the car and waiting for help to arrive. To prepare for such an incident, make sure you equip your car for winter driving with a set of reflector triangles, flares, a blanket, and a fully charged cell phone.

10. I can get by with just using my windshield wipers and rear defroster to clear the snow and ice from my car when starting out in the morning
Ask any professional during instructor: Poor visibility is the biggest cause of driver error. After all, you can't avoid something you can't see. So anything you can do to make sure you can see out of your vehicle in the winter helps. If that means having to put on your gloves and grabbing a proper snow brush and giving your car a good cleaning before heading out into traffic, so be it — you're Canadian. It's winter. Get over it.