Tips on getting your car ready for snow and how to drive in wintry weather

With some big snowfall expected this weekend, AAA Mid-Atlantic is getting its crews ready to help members who encounter trouble on the road, and offering some tips so people don’t find themselves stranded.

“We get everything; we get the vehicles that are sliding around; we get the vehicles that are in ditches; we get the vehicles that won’t start or have flat tires,” said Fernando Martinez, a roadside assistance supervisor for AAA’s Northern Virginia fleet center.

Martinez offered up some advice for drivers before the snow arrives about how best to handle driving on snow-covered roads.

Before the flakes start falling, Martinez said drivers should do a visual inspection on their cars. Begin by checking the tires to see if they are properly inflated. The proper tire pressure can be found on stickers inside the driver’s door.

Once the tire pressure is right, check how much gas is in the tank. Gas lines get condensation in them, and having a full tank will prevent water from getting in the pipes and keeping your car from starting.

“That water will freeze up during the night, and at that point you have a frozen line and you’re not going to get fuel through there,” Martinez said.

The cold can also finish off batteries that are on their last leg. Martinez recommends drivers check their batteries and make sure they look clean and have no signs of corrosion. If there is doubt about a batteries’ condition, get the battery tested.

Ahead of the snowfall, Martinez said he will put his windshield wipers on his cars in the out position so they do not freeze to the wind shield. Then as the snow falls, he said he prefers to clear off the snow several times during a winter storm.

“I like to go out and minimize as much snow as possible, this way it’s not as much when I have to go somewhere,” Martinez said.

If you must go somewhere in the snow, he recommends checking to make sure your phone is fully charged.

“You can’t call anybody for help if your phone’s not charged,” he said.

An extra phone charger is also a good idea to have on hand. Other items that should be in your car in case of an emergency should include: an ice scraper, a snow shovel, some snacks, bottled water, as well as hand warmers and a blanket to keep you warm if you become stuck.

Martinez also stressed the importance of wearing proper shoes.

“You don’t want to be out there in a pair of flip-flops,” he said.

Once you start driving Martinez said follow the tracks of the cars that have come by before you.

“That’s going to remove a lot of the snow and stuff that might be slippery,” he said.

Also, being in a hurry is dangerous when driving on icy and snow-covered roads.

“You definitely don’t want to speed, that will cause you to lose control,” Martinez said.

If at some point during your drive you lose control, Martinez recommends not turning the wheels in the opposite direction of the slide.

“You want to just turn into the way you’re sliding, eventually you will gain traction again and you’ll be able to go,” he said.

Gently pumping brakes can also help, slamming on them will not.

Finally, snowy conditions result in added dangers for all those who help stranded drivers on the roads. Martinez urges drivers to look out for trucks with lights on and emergency vehicles on the side of the road, and slowly move over to give them space to work safely.

“You want to give them enough room to do what they’re doing out there,” Martinez said.

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