How to Drive on Snow & Ice Without Chains

by Ma Wen Jie

With a little care and understanding of how cars react with minimal traction, driving safely in winter conditions is simple for most drivers. The important thing to remember is to take it slow and easy when driving conditions are slippery. Sudden movements can be magnified by the car's mass, sending the car sliding out of control. Another very important aspect of driving on snow and ice is to have good tires on your car. In most cases, good radials with good tread are adequate.

Starting From a Stop

Engage traction control, if available, and gently accelerate. The traction control will sense wheel spin and automatically apply an appropriate amount of acceleration.

Apply the gas slowly if your car doesn't have traction control. Picture an egg between your foot and the accelerator to help keep you from stepping too hard on the gas.

Let up on the gas if the wheels start to spin. Spinning the wheels will make the road surface under the tires more slippery and make starting out more difficult.

Recovering From a Skid

Let up slightly on the gas and try to steer out of the skid. Cars with traction control recover from a slide more easily.

Leave the gas partially depressed to keep the engine from acting as a brake and making the skid worse.

Apply gentle pressure to the brakes while maintaining the same pressure on the gas pedal. This will help prevent engine braking from increasing the skid and allow you to steer the car back on course.

Stopping on Snow and Ice

Apply the brakes normally for cars with anti-lock brakes (ABS). A computer in the car will sense wheel lock and lessen braking pressure to bring the car to a stop as quickly as possible.

Gently pump the brakes repeatedly if your car doesn't have ABS. Be careful not to lock the wheels and throw the car into a skid.

Release the brakes and resume pumping if the car goes into a slide.

Items you will need

About the Author

Although he grew up in Latin America, Mr. Ma is a writer based in Denver. He has been writing since 1987 and has written for NPR, AP, Boeing, Ford New Holland, Microsoft, RAHCO International, Umax Data Systems and other manufacturers in Taiwan. He studied creative writing at Mankato State University in Minnesota. He speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, English and reads Spanish.

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