Chains 101 & Winter Driving Tips

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How to drive in snow and ice

Several inches of snow are forecast down to the Willamette Valley floor this week, so AAA Oregon/Idaho warns drivers to be prepared for winter driving conditions. 

“Make sure your car is prepared for winter weather, make sure you’re prepared to cope with colder temperatures and hazardous road conditions, and take it easy behind the wheel," says AAA Oregon/Idaho Public Affairs Director Marie Dodds.  "Treacherous conditions during the morning and/or afternoon commutes could really cause problems for drivers."

Whenever Mother Nature brings freezing temperatures and precipitation, the number of calls to AAA Oregon/Idaho goes up. 

The most common problems in cold weather are dead batteries, frozen locks and vehicle extrications.  “During a snow event, we can easily receive two to three times the normal number of calls,” adds Dodds. 

Following are a few tips to help you face winter driving conditions from Earl Baker, AAA Oregon/Idaho Approved Auto Repair Coordinator:

Car Preparation:  Be sure the battery is fully charged; check all fluid levels, including anti-freeze; check ignition wiring; be sure all lights operate properly; be sure tires and brakes are in good condition; and be sure the windshield wipers and washer work properly.  Most importantly, try to keep the fuel tank at least half full at all times.  Adding weight in the back of rear drive vehicles, including pick-ups, will improve traction.

Winter Driving Kit:  In emergencies, the following items are invaluable:  tire chains, abrasive material such as sand or kitty litter, a small shovel, a flashlight, an ice scraper, rags or paper towels, blankets, flares or other warning devices, and booster cables.  Bring an extra jacket and gloves in case you have to spend time in the cold putting on chains.  Pack bottled water and some snacks, such as energy bars.  And be sure your mobile phone is fully charged before you hit the road. 

Drive Smart:  Slow down on snow and ice covered roads; know what type of braking system you have and how to apply brakes properly (for example, don't bump anti-lock brakes); make gentle stops and starts to prevent skids; dress according to weather conditions; and let others know your travel plans, including destination, route, and expected time of arrival so they can alert authorities if you don't make it to your destination. 

Many newer vehicles have traction control systems. You can use traction devices, such as snow tires and/or chains, on these vehicles, but you need to apply the traction devices on all four wheels, as each wheel has the job of acquiring traction through the brake system and each wheel needs to be treated equally.