17 Basic Tips for Driving in the Snow

10:16 PM





2 years back, it was our first time we were traveling in upper midwest at a place called Door County. It was October end, so extra cold was unanticipated and so was accumulation of ice on our wind-shield. But then ice kissed our car that last night. And as we woke up, got ready and got into our cars, we saw this film of ice on our windshield. So, we thought we were wise and we started our windshield wiper. The ice became slushy and messy and the new ice formed immediately. Because why not! The temperatures were below 0 that morning. We got wiser and we got this bottle of warm water from inside and splashed it on the windshield because we were supposed to enjoy the scenery than waste time in figuring this out! And we started with confidence again. As soon as we started, within minutes ice formed and there was nothing we could see in front of us. So we parked our car aside, and waited for the sun to arrive so that temperatures get high and then drove slow enough and saw the ice melting.

And it did. We were elated. And we applauded our innocence with “Now we know how it works” but there must be a better way, right? 

We swore to us we wouldn’t drive in winters because as unknown terrifies, so the idea of driving in snow was terrifying.

We aren’t pros at this yet, but we are at least better than how we were. It so happened that next winters, I told my hubby we need to go to a friends place in Pennsylvania. He had invited us and we had just shifted to New York. Its just a 2 hours drive but there was a winter storm warning that day and my hubby kept persisting on how upset his stomach is for the fear of snow and he cannot go. He had visualized it to be a horrible idea taking that risk. But I was persistent and stubborn - for me friendships matter. And I said no, we are going and you are driving.

Even though later that day, my friend told me “Oh its such bad weather, I would have told you guys to not come. But we thanked god that we did. We faced our fear and it wasn’t a scary monster”.

So that day was a day full of snowfall. I remember it started snowing even hours before it was predicted. And there we were with our rented car and terrified and confused, this time its not gonna be ice, its going to be snow and wobbling snow and messy slippery snow. And even though I have these at the back of my mind, I am very good at this thing called “whatever happens, happens” so I convinced my hubby that we’ll see. He prepared for the worst case scenarios as he always does taking emergency numbers , knowing where to stop etc etc.

“The best part about the drive was the drive. We learned a lot. We learnt that in the journey of 2 hours, it was just once or twice that our car wobbled and why because we unknowingly drove on ice / fresh snow on road. That feeling of “out of control” my hubby faced once and he kept on saying “did you see that, I had no control on my car”.

 Thankfully in USA, they have these gigantic or even small snow clearing machines that removes snow out of busy highways or travel areas. They are very consistent with how they do it, so even though it was snowing and there was snow on road there wasn’t piles of snow on road.


The lesson we learnt was “Always drive slow. Also, always drive on the path someone has driven on unless you own a super fancy vehicle or are experienced with the snow. 

 Specially on highways, when so many cars go in one direction, follow them. You may not be able to see road markings (here in US we sometimes have 3 lanes - slowest, slower, fastest) with lines on road, you may not be able to see that due to snow. We also learnt how to use defrost mode on our cars”.

This year, we thought we’d drive to Lake Placid during Christmas and we happened to talk to our friend , that its a 5 hours drive, the snowstorm is predicted and we can’t rely solely on the defrost mode. So he said, “Oh its easy, get a De-icer from Walmart or Amazon”.

A De-icer? What is that! So we went to Walmart and got this Spray called De-icer. And it was easier than last time.

And here are my few tips for Amateurs who are terrified like us but still have the heart to try it, because locals do drive in the winters so why can’t we:

1. Always check weather.com or any weather app for temperatures and alerts. Specially in US, where weather changes can be sporadic. Here in NY, one day it can be 8 degrees, another day -14. You get the point.

The temperatures in Lake Placid, NY (5 hours from New York)!


2. If the temperatures are low outside, put your heater on in the car. You wouldn’t want to shiver inside, do you?

Drive slow.



3. If its snowy please drive slow. Also yield to speed limits.  Fog do sometimes form in areas where they have waterbodies, so if its foggy, please do drive slow. If you can’t see anything, drive on the side and stop on the side parking area until you see it better.

The Snow Clearing Machine (in this kind of road you cannot make out road markings)

And parkings.


4. If you have driven in the snow, you’d know that ice can accumulate on your windshield and window panes and merely removing it by wiper does not work.

                                    Can you clean this with just a wiper, hell no! You'll create a slush.

5. To remove ice or snow out of window panes and windshield, get a plastic scrapper / brush. Most often you get it with the rental cars during winters. Remove extra snow from the pane, then either use defrost mode from inside or use de-icer direct on the pane and then run a windshield wiper. De-icer worked best for us, because it made the windshield clear for the longest time even though it was snowing all the time.



6. In places where they have hills or places of scenic importance, here in US they also have vista points or areas where you can park and view scenary. If there is heavy snow accumulated on such parking lots and you don’t see a sign of any tyres on that lot and you feel that the parking lot is a little down (i.e not on the same straight angle as road), do not be adventurous. We saw a car getting stuck and we felt sorry for them. Getting a car out can be a pain. You may have to call assistance in that case..

7. Drive slowly and drive behind other cars when you see cars in front of you. Because their tires might have cleared the snow making some sort of a clear track for you.



All lights on :)



8. We even drove when we saw no soul ahead of us. Its safe as long as its slow. Winters can also mean fewer people on road sometimes and even fewer cars at some stretches.

Let empty roads not terrify you :)

9. Do not make sharp turns, cuts etc. The place where we wobbled was, when I saw a vista point and I liked it and my hubby saw that and he turned and tried to stop but the car wouldn’t, it was skidding, the whole “out of control” feeling that we talked about. Because brakes don’t work as efficiently it works a little late sometimes specially in snow, and you gotta keep that margin in mind. Something that one of our friend also talked about to us was when he was driving and experienced the same thing that the car would take longer to stop and he had a truck in front of him. So keep enough space and margin and drive slow.

Make careful turns or stops



10. Make sure you have enough fuel. Because when defrosts run and your wiper runs and its cold, the fuel eats it up. So refuel your car in between. You wouldn’t want to get stuck in a place like that!

                                Look out for gas station when the fuel is half.

11. If you don’t want to drive, don’t. Take a bus or a train to that destination. Lake Placid fortunately had free shuttles so even if we would have had just arrived by bus or train, we would have still managed.

12. Don’t go by time on google maps on such days. 5 hours can be 8 hours or 2 hours can be 4-6 hours etc.

13. Take your food during the duration with you. Sometimes when its heavily snowed out, shops or restaurants may be closed. You can either pick it up from Service stations or fuel stations, but we prefer to keep some food with us.

14. Take cold medicines if you are prone to falling sick. I don’t keep much but headache medicines are advised. Getting out in cold temperatures can cause headache. Someone even suggested ginger, I really don’t know! Also keep your warm clothes, warm gloves and warm cap with you.

15. Take a good car specially an SUV for the snow drive. We saw smaller cars on road (they may be locals) but you may not want to take that risk. There was never that we had to chain our car probably because the drive wasn’t difficult - we didn’t face very steep mountains or extreme terrains or massive snow pile up.

If you are not experienced or if you don't own big cars, please do not drive on the road thats not clear.
Here car A (on the left) was literally racing on a not so clear road, though I wouldn't recommend that for a newcomer. Please follow cars on clear roads. Cars might otherwise skid or wobble.

16. Please take insurance and GPS because Google Maps may not work everywhere and snow can be a little dicey so insurance is highly recommended. 

17. And last but not the least, prefer driving during daylight hours. Start early and try to finish before it gets dark. During winters, the sunrises (7ish) are late and the sunsets(4:30ish) are early. You can start before sunrise(5:30ish or 6ish) when it just starts to get brighter and finish it before dark.  You may have to be a little more careful with Night Driving specially on snow and we have never explored that lethal combination yet :P but I assume it may be okay in highways and plain areas where there are sufficient light , if you have done so, please share your story.

These tips are based out of our own personal experience. I don’t drive a car here in US yet to get my driving license, ,my hubby does and I travel with him for the most part and these are the things that I saw. I hope that’s helpful to you and you enjoy your drive in places you wouldn’t go otherwise. I found this video also to be very helpful.


Trust me, driving in winters is beautiful specially with snow on trees and snow laced mountains, you’d love it as long as you are not in hurry and you are careful enough to drive :)

And if you think you still aren't comfortable, stay in the cosy comfort of your home and start the next day :)

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