It isn’t only snow and ice that can pose risks to Michigan drivers during the winter, but also brutally cold temperatures. When temperatures dip below zero as they have in recent days, Nick Jarmusz, director of public affairs with AAA, said drivers should never hit the road with a tank that’s close to empty.
“Keep at least a half-tank of gas in your car at all times during cold weather to avoid engine freeze-up,” Jarmusz said. “That way, if you do get stranded, you have enough gas to periodically run the engine to keep the car warmed up.”
In addition, Jarmusz said it’s best to check your vehicle’s battery before a cold spell. Faulty batteries cause more car-starting problems than any other factor. He said, at zero degrees, even a good battery has about 35 percent less starting power.
If a car is to break down, state courtesy vans and police are often on the lookout for stranded drivers. If your car freezes up or breaks down, or if you get in a wreck, Jarmusz strongly recommends staying with your vehicle.
“If you start venturing away from your car, the elements are going to be a bigger danger to you than if you were to stay and wait,” he said. “If you’re on a road you can either flag down help or wait for an emergency vehicle. If you have your cell phone, you can call for help.”
Perhaps most importantly, Jarmusz said, is to take precautions before even beginning a drive. When roads are slippery, he said, front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive can help a great deal to get a vehicle going – but once it’s at cruising speed, they do nothing to help you slow down or stop. Also, he said “no” to cruise control on snowy or slippery roads.
“It maintains a specific speed, and if you begin to slide, the vehicle is going to want to keep the wheels spinning at the same rate, in order to maintain the same speed,” says Jarmusz. “What it’s going to do is contribute to loss of control, and if you run into a less-traction situation, the wheels are going to keep spinning.”
If your vehicle has anti-lock brakes, he said applying constant, firm pressure is best to bring the vehicle to a controlled stop under slippery conditions.