Last winter we helped you winterize your car, but prepping your vehicle only brings you halfway to winter-readiness. You’ll need to prep your driving too. In years past this means practicing pumping your breaks and tacking up hills, but with Volkswagen models like the Tiguan, Atlas, and Golf models, equipped with 4MOTION® technology, winter driving can be a breeze. In the event of hazardous conditions, keep the following tips in mind and you’ll skate through the winter smoother than Guy Lafleur.
- Turn into skids, not out of them
Volkswagen models with 4MOTION® technology have always-on all-wheel drive, meaning the car responds intelligently to road conditions, reducing the danger posed by black ice and other hazards. But in the event of a skid, know that attempting to turn out of the skid will only make matters worse. If you find yourself spinning toward the right, for example, turn your wheel right too and attempt to regain control. If you must turn into the skid—say, if turning left puts you in greater distance—don’t yank the wheel and overcompensate; you’ll risk throwing yourself into a spiral. Point the wheel in the direction you want to go, and let the car regain control. Rather than fighting your car’s momentum, you’ll be able to more easily guide your vehicle in the proper direction, like a Judo master.
- Accelerate and decelerate with care
Icy roads means reduced traction. 4MOTION® can compensate by redirecting torque into the wheels that have the best grip, giving you greater control on the road. Even so, accelerating and decelerating in winter conditions is significantly riskier than on dry roads. Doing so with care will help ensure your car has the tightest grip it can.
- Move up hills deliberately and don’t stop
The above rule applies doubly when going up and down hills. The tendency may be to floor it and give your engine enough torque to grind up the mountain, but you might just cause your wheels to spin. Move up hills slowly, carefully, and in low gear in order to maximize the efficiency of your engine’s torque, then let 4MOTION® handle the rest by intelligently reading the road. Most importantly, once you’ve started climbing the hill, don’t stop. Since more energy is required to move an object uphill than on flat land, you might find yourself stuck or, worse yet, sliding back the way you came.
- Keep moving on flat land too
Of course, move slowly and with care, and obey all traffic laws, but try to stop as little as you can. More inertia is required to get a car moving than to keep it propelling forward so you’ll reduce the risk of getting stick on ice when you stop. That said, with 4MOTION® and some winter treads, a Volkswagen should pull itself out of the stickiest situations.
- Pump the breaks if you don’t have ABS; don’t pump if you do
Car brakes work by pressing pads against the rotating rotor. On older cars, slamming your brakes causes these pads to press against the rotor tightly, which can cause your wheels to stop spinning. The problem with “locking your brakes,” as this is called, is that if you’re careening down ice, motionless wheels will turn your car into a glorified sled, and you’ll lose control. Tires aren’t designed to be effective skis. Automatic Braking Systems, which have been standard on cars for decades, correct for this by automatically “pumping” the brakes, or very quickly applying and releasing the brakes, which keeps the wheels spinning and you in control. If you drive an older-model car, check whether your vehicle has ABS. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to pump your brakes manually by depressing and releasing the pedal in short, rapid motions.
- Stay off the roads when advised by authorities
The fact is that no amount of preparedness can guarantee your safety in the most extreme circumstances. When the government, police, or local news recommend you stay indoors and off the roads, take their recommendation seriously.