Facing snowy roads in a compact car can be tricky. But just because you don’t have a burly SUV or a heavy, all-terrain vehicle doesn’t mean you can’t handle driving during winter. Here are some of our best tips for driving a compact car in the snow.

1. Switch to snow tires

When it comes to winter driving, tires matter. If you plan on doing a fair amount of driving on snowy or icy roads, snow tires, which are made to perform in such conditions, can help you safely navigate your compact car through the long, cold winter. Snow tires have specially designed, deeper treads that stay flexible even in the chilliest conditions, reducing the likelihood of slippage and giving you better traction on winter roads. (Note: Snow tires should be used as a full set. Using only 2 of them for your front or back wheels may actually make your wheels more likely to skid or spin.)

When winter is over, be sure to swap out your snow tires for all-season tires, which won’t wear down as fast on warmer roads.

2.  Get winter wipers

Investing in a good set of winter wipers can help clear your windshield of accumulated rain, snow, and ice so you can see where you’re going. Winter wipers are constructed using heavy-duty rubber and are specially designed to perform in super chilly weather, making them a worthy investment for snowy drives.

3. Check your fluids

Winter blends of windshield wiper fluids are great in ultra cold temps and are specially formulated not to freeze up on you. Flush or fill your anti-freeze (never mix colors!) and check your oil. If you’re ready for an oil change, consider getting a winter mix that’s formulated for cold weather performance.

4. Keep headlights and tail lights clear of snow

Headlights should always be used when driving in snowy conditions, even during the daylight  doing so helps other drivers see you coming. And make sure you clear headlights and tail lights of accumulated snow before you get behind the wheel.

5. Slowly accelerate and decelerate

Take your time to maneuver your compact car safely in tough winter conditions. Careful (and slow) acceleration and deceleration can assist you in maintaining traction on snowy and icy roads.

6. Know how to deal with skids

Losing control of your vehicle during a skid can be a terrifying experience. If you find yourself skidding, stay calm and avoid steering sharply. Instead, slowly release the gas and gently turn your wheels in the direction you want to go.

7. Keep a winter driving kit

Have the right gear on hand to help you in the event of an accident or unexpected delay. A shovel, snow socks or chains, windshield scraper, flashlight, water, snack foods, a warm blanket, and a first-aid kit are just a few of the essentials you’ll likely need.

Feeling ready to hit those winter roads? Take extra precaution and do what you can to help reduce your risk of a weather-related accident.

Safe and smart | Car safety


about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.