Take a deep breath. Can you smell it? Spring is almost here! You may remember that season: Plants are blooming, grass is growing, winter coats are being put away and the most important part; windows are down while we’re driving. I can almost feel it now! Making the transition from winter driving to spring driving can be tricky if you live in a colder winter climate. Let’s take a look at a few things to make this transition easier.
1) The first error many drivers make is removing their winter tires too soon. Just because you have a few milder days doesn’t mean your all-season tires can come back to life. Winter tires have a softer rubber compound compared to all-season tires which remains flexible when the temperature drops. It doesn’t have to hit freezing temperatures for winter tires to stay useful. Once you know the temperature will stay above 45° Fahrenheit or 7° Celsius, it’s safe to remove those winter tires.
2) During the transition period from winter to spring it’s also a good idea to give your vehicle a good cleaning. Try to get under the vehicle as much as possible, especially around the wheels and wheel wells. The road salt that generally coats the roads in winter weather can really do some damage to the body of your vehicle. Cleaning inside of the doors, including the hinges and corners can help prevent rust from settling in.
3) When the weather turns frigid and snowy, it’s very common for the roads to deteriorate. When moisture gets beneath the road surface it expands into ice during cold weather. This often leads to potholes when the temperature warms up and that ice melts. Potholes are notorious for causing damage to the suspension, wheel rims and steering control. One way to help spot potholes early is to look well ahead for darker sections on the road surface. These darker sections can also hold water, making it look like it’s just a puddle.
4) Many drivers may think it’s just a puddle they see in front of them, but as we now know, it can often be a deep pothole filled with water. If you spot a large puddle, see if you can make a slight change with your vehicle position so your wheels can miss it. Sometimes it feels like you’ll be driving through an obstacle course, but your vehicle and wallet will thank you! To allow you to have room to make a slight position change with your vehicle, try to drive beside empty space instead of having another vehicle directly beside you. If you need to move to the side of your lane to avoid the pothole, it’s easier and safer to do that if no one is next to you.
5) Remember that April showers bring May flowers. With melting snow coupled up with spring showers, there can be a lot of pooling water across the road. Large pools of water across the road can create hydroplaning, especially if the tires are low on tread or if you make sudden changes of direction. To know if you’re hydroplaning, you’ll feel a sudden loss of steering control. If this happens, gently ease off the accelerator to let the transmission slow the vehicle down. After a few moments, you’ll begin to feel the tires grip the road once again.
Springtime is a great time for many reasons, but making the transition into driving safely still takes some thought before the action. Being patient, alert and staying focused will help you survive on the road in any season.
By Scott Marshall
Scott Marshall is Director of Training for Young Drivers of Canada and started in road safety in 1988. He was a judge during the first three seasons of Canada’s Worst Driver on Discovery Network. Scott started writing columns on driving for his community paper in 2005. Since then his columns have been printed in several publications including newspaper, magazines, and various websites. You can visit Scott’s blog at http://safedriving.wordpress.com.