Winter-time is high season for 4X4 driving – and there’s no other vehicle you’ll want to be in if you’re headed up the mountainside for some impromptu good times. Whether you’re into skiing or snowboarding, hunting or general winter road trip exploration, having a heads up to the best techniques for winter driving can be a real game changer. If a heavy-duty weather trek is on your horizon, heed these quick tips for a safe, successful journey.
- Periodically examine the tread on your tires to make sure they have the proper traction to tackle wet, rocky and slippery mountain roads. If you’re on a serious adventure, you’ll likely be veering off the main highways. Expect a more narrow, twisting climb that can test conventional driving habits – especially in the winter months – and know that ancillary roads are unlikely to be ploughed, making good tire tread all the more important.
- When driving, make sure to leave extra distance to brake on snowy slopes and to combat unexpected black ice. When dusk comes around, temperatures quickly drop and water on the road from snow run-off can instantly ice up – creating a whole different type of driving experience than you had in daylight. Caution always pays off.
- Anticipate that it will always take any vehicle operator – and especially newbie winter road drivers – far longer to slow down. Take it nice and easy, especially on downhill slopes.
- Expect obstacles in the roadway. Winter storms bring more than snow – fallen rocks, tree branches, stumps and road signs (which may be partially obstructed) are hidden driving hazards that can suddenly pop up in the roadway.
- Take sharp turns slowly – refrain from slamming on brakes to prevent locking and skidding.
- Replace wiper blades regularly, as advised, to ensure maximum visibility, especially if you’re facing blizzard, heavy fog or snow cloud conditions. In general, plan to purchase new blades every six months if you live in inclement weather regions.
- If you make frequent journeys in snow-heavy conditions (or live in a mountainous community year-round), consider an essential investment in snow tires. They’re more effective than regular tires and are equipped to handle a wider range of winter driving conditions.
- Even with a four-wheel drive, chains are excellent – especially in icy snow conditions. Make sure they’re the real deal (not cheaper, flimsy alternatives) – and secure them tightly.
- If you’re driving your pick up, consider throwing some sand bags or extra gear in the bed of the truck to ensure you have proper weight on your rear tires, which is essential for smooth and controlled driving on more treacherous roads. Unbalanced vehicle weight can prompt more “spin outs” and loss of control in ice and snow…definitely something to avoid at all costs.
Possibly the most important icy mountain road driving tip for “flatlanders” to remember, is to exercise extreme patience. Mountain driving in icy conditions is not a time to be in a hurry, no matter how urgent the engagement is at hand. Even when driving slowly, you can be going significantly faster than your truck or the road is conditioned for. Think of patience as a measure of the value you place on life or injury.
Additionally, before embarking on any extended winter road trip, always do a quick physical check of the basics: Ensure that your pick-up or Jeep is stocked with enough anti-freeze, that you have a functional windshield scraper, winter gloves, cat litter to help you grind out of a tough spot, and a high-lumen flashlight with fresh batteries for applying chains or troubleshooting. For more great tips, check out this article from PickupTrucks.com.
Any pick up or Jeep lover knows that taking the mountain with the right vehicle and accessories really completes the experience. Enjoy the drive and happy road tripping this January and beyond.
Team Bullet Liner