The icy throes of winter are upon us, and given the freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall, it’s a good idea to give your car a little extra TLC before going out on the road. When it comes to winter car maintenance, there are a slew of articles out there on how to keep your car running all winter long. Unfortunately, many commonly-held beliefs can actually cause damage to your car and your wallet. Nobody likes to be stuck on the side of the road in the middle of winter, so that’s why we’ve compiled a list of the five most common winter driving myths and how to avoid making these mistakes.
1. Idling Your Car Will Warm It Up Faster
This commonly held belief has been in the ethos for decades with little supporting evidence. In reality, idling your car in winter wastes gas and causes damage to your engine’s pistons and cylinders. Your car only requires around 20-30 seconds to get the oil flowing to properly lubricate the engine, after which driving it will continue to warm up your vehicle until it’s running at optimum temperature. This is the safest, most effective way to warm up your car before a cold, winter drive.
2. Deflating Your Tires Leads to Better Traction
Another long-standing winter driving myth is the idea that deflating your tires will increase traction on icy roads. This couldn’t be more wrong! Both air and rubber shrink in the cold, and deflating your tires will compromise the structural integrity of the tire, which leads to severe wear and tear and puts you at risk of a blowout. Tire traction is a major concern for winter drivers, which is why we recommend changing your tires between seasons. Snow tires are a great investment for those who have a long commute, as they have wider treads for better traction and are built to withstand cold temperatures. Bottom line: never drive your car in winter with tires that do not meet the manufacturer’s specifications.
3. Pouring Hot Water on Your Windshield Will Melt the Ice
This myth is more like a science experiment gone wrong. Glass, even auto glass, is subject to cracking or shattering when exposed to extreme temperature changes, such as frozen solid to boiling hot. Nobody likes spending an hour meticulously scraping a frozen windshield, but boiling water is not the solution. Instead, make your own homemade de-icer by mixing together two parts rubbing alcohol and one part water, then generously apply the mixture to your windshield. This method will not only save you money; it will save your windshield as well.
4. Disconnecting the Battery to Save Power
This myth may seem logical on the surface, but disconnecting your battery won’t necessarily conserve power, and in fact, may cause more damage in the long run as alarm power and computer memory can be lost. Unfortunately, there’s no simple fix for saving battery power in sub-zero temps, but we strongly recommend having a portable battery charger on hand, especially if you have a winter road trip on the books, because nobody likes being stranded on the side of the highway without a jump.
5. Rear Wheel Drive vs. Four Wheel Drive
This final myth is really a two-parter: firstly, it’s time to debunk the myth that rear-wheel drive cars can’t handle snow and ice. True, they may struggle more than their four-wheel drive counterparts, but by equipping your rear wheels with snow belts or chains, you can boost traction considerably without having to leave the car in the garage until spring.
Secondly, four-wheel drive vehicles – while naturally better equipped to handle icy terrain – have no greater advantage when it comes to stopping than any other car. That’s right, when it comes braking on an icy patch of road, all-terrain vehicles become no-terrain vehicles and are just as likely to skid off-road as any other car. Always practice cautious driving while out on the road in winter, so you can stay safe and keep your car out of a ditch.
There’s no doubt about it, winter driving can be a real challenge, even for the most experienced of drivers. Stay safe on the road this winter by following proper maintenance practices. Do your research so you can tell the difference between fact and fiction, and with this list of winter maintenance myths busted, you’re well on your way to safe driving all winter long.