Every year as the temperature drops, many vehicle owners resort to different winter driving “hacks.” However, Mother Nature is not easily outsmarted. That's why we’re setting the record straight on five common winter driving myths.
Myth No. 1: You should warm up your car before driving in the cold.
This is a myth almost as old as cars themselves. Perhaps the reason it’s lasted so long is because it seems to make so much sense. After all, cold causes engine oil to thicken, so it only seems logical that you’d need extra time to get oil flowing through a cold engine.
In reality, most cars only need about 20 seconds to properly lubricate engine components in the winter. After that, the best way to continue warming up your engine is to drive. While it certainly feels good getting into a cozy car in the winter, warming up your ride is solely for creature comfort, not the health of your vehicle.
Myth No. 2: Partially deflating your tires will give you better traction.
The thought behind this misconception is that by letting some air out of your tires, you’re increasing the surface area of the portion of each tire that touches the road.
But in reality, this theory is just hot air. Road tests have shown that fully inflated tires actually perform better in the snow. What’s more, underinflated tires can compromise vehicle handling. No matter the season, always keep your tires filled to their recommended PSI and check your tire pressure often in the winter, as cold temperatures cause air to compact.
Myth No. 3: Pouring hot water on your windshield is an easy way to melt ice.
If only it were that easy. It’s true, hot water will certainly break up windshield ice — but it can break your windshield too. Although automotive glass is typically reinforced, it isn’t designed to handle an instant temperature change from freezing cold to boiling hot.
Instead, try a homemade de-icer. Grab a spray bottle and fill it with two parts rubbing alcohol and one part water, then spray generously on your frozen windshield. Scraping off an icy windshield may not be everyone’s favorite task, but if you’re looking to make the job easier, a hot water bath can quickly leave your hopes shattered.
Myth No. 4: Carrying sandbags in your trunk will improve traction.
Back in the earlier days of automobiles, this myth would have been true. This is because many cars of yesteryear featured an unfortunate pair of characteristics: a front-heavy load with rear-wheel drive. Piling sandbags in the trunk became a popular way to add weight on a vehicle’s rear wheels, thereby increasing traction in slippery conditions.
Today, this winter driving hack is unnecessary for most drivers. That’s because modern cars are typically front-wheel or four-wheel drive. Putting extra weight in the trunk can throw off a modern vehicle’s balance, reducing traction and possibly affecting handling and braking. Today, trunk-sandbagging is generally recommended only for rear-wheel-drive trucks.
Myth No. 5: Four-wheel drive makes you invincible.
A 4x4 can make a big difference when it comes to winter driving. Four-wheel drive equips a vehicle with powerful acceleration, helping you get moving on slick surfaces and power out of deep snowbanks.
But with great power comes great responsibility: four-wheel drive is known to give many drivers a false sense of security. Just because a 4x4 provides more power doesn’t mean your vehicle can brake any faster. Always respect the road, no matter what you’re driving. That means accelerate and brake gently, and leave plenty of space between you and the car in front of you.
Want a winter driving tip that isn’t a myth? It’s important to always keep your gas tank at least half-full during the winter. Too much empty space inside a gas tank is a welcome mat for condensation — which is just one step away from a frozen fuel line. Looking for a place to fill up? With more than 1,500 locally owned Cenex® stations across the country, chances are there’s one near you.
Find your local Cenex now using our location finder.
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