What’s the condition behind the almost universal attraction for drivers to watch snow blow off their cars and trucks as they head out on winter roads? Is it something akin to a child’s fondness for splashing in mud puddles or sticking their tongues to frozen metal gate posts? Is it laziness or from being rushed? No matter what the reason, we’ve all seen vehicles on the road covered in snow with barely a porthole-sized section of unfrosted glass through which we see the driver huddled down, chin on the steering wheel, desperately trying to navigate his or her course – and sometimes, more than we’d care to admit, it’s us behind that wheel.
If you haven’t been given enough reasons to take the few minutes required to clear your vehicle of snow and ice before pulling out of your parking spot, here are a few you might not have considered.
A snowbrush is an obvious part of a winter driving kit.
What other time of year would anyone ever consider it safe to operate a vehicle on a public road when better than half of the windshield, door glass or rear window is opaque? Ice- and snow-covered roads provide enough of a risk to safe driving, so why compound that risk by operating your auto without clear vision forward, to the sides or rear? Then there’s the danger to other drivers and pedestrians. Snow blowing off your vehicle reduces visibility for other drivers but it doesn’t end there. Ice can also form on vehicle surfaces and when the interior warms up; the bond between the ice and the roof panel weakens and with little warning, large sheets of ice can be blown off the roof onto following vehicles. While we might think there’s little risk of these ice sheets causing any damage, many windshields are shattered every winter due to this carelessness. And of course, if a driver swerves to avoid a large sheet of ice heading toward his or her car, there’s the risk of colliding with another vehicle.
Every winter, drivers are faced with repair bills caused by not clearing snow and ice off their autos. When heavy snow and slush slides forward down the windshield during braking, it can mangle wiper blades, arms and damage the linkage and motor. The same can happen to the rear wiper. Wiper systems can also be damaged when snow isn’t cleared away from the bottom of the windshield. A pile-up here can prevent the wipers from completing their sweep-cycle, leading to overheated motors, stripped arm fasteners and broken linkages. Then there’s the damage to roof racks and decorative trim. Another area to consider is the vehicle HVAC system. Most vehicles’ fresh-air intakes are located just below the front wipers. When loose snow isn’t cleared off before starting the vehicle and turning on the heater, this snow can be drawn into the system, where it can waterlog a cabin air filter or cause problems with heater control doors and linkages.
While all-wheel drive certainly helps with traction, it won’t help if your vehicle lacks winter tires and is going too fast for the road conditions.
Clear the snow away from the driver’s door area before opening it; this avoids sucking in a drift of snow onto the seat and flooring when you swing it open. This means the best place to keep your snowbrush overnight is just inside the door of your home.
Don’t beat on ice that has formed on the vehicle’s body to break it off, as this will only lead to trim, body metal and paint damage. It’s much better to let the engine’s heat do the work from the inside out.
Don’t forget to clean off exterior lamps. It is just as important to be seen, as it is to see others around you, so take an extra minute to make sure your lights are clear. This can improve your safety when you drive.