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The Best Car Features for Winter Travel

All-Wheel Drive

Whether a vehicle is equipped with an electronically-controlled All-Wheel Drive (AWD) system that automatically engages when the vehicle reaches a certain traction threshold, or it is a traditional 4x4 system that relies upon the operator to engage four-wheel drive: the outcome is the same. With all four tires distributing the power of the engine to the ground, especially in wet, icy, and/or snow-covered conditions, you are much less likely to have your vehicle slip or slide when accelerating from a stop. But do not be lulled into thinking AWD or a 4x4 drivetrain will handle all winter driving challenges as it will not. A vehicle equipped with AWD is not necessarily better than a traditional front-wheel drive (FWD) car when it comes to stopping or turning in winter conditions.

Winter Tires

Regardless of whether your vehicle has AWD, FWD, rear-wheel-drive (RWD), or is a 4x4, the single best investment you can make in your safety is a full set of winter tires. The rubber tread of these tires are specially engineered to operate functionally in colder temperatures and the tread design features many biting edges that grip into the snow, or the road beneath, providing improved traction when accelerating, stopping, and turning a corner. Additionally, if you purchase a set of winter tires, you’re not driving on your standard tires and they now will last longer, reducing the incremental cost of winter tires significantly.

Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)

Almost every vehicle available today comes standard with Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS). Because most drivers never have to use them, they generally do not understand what they do and how to maximize their effectiveness. ABS is designed to provide the driver steering control when braking on slippery surfaces. Its function is to keep the wheels from locking up, so the vehicle does not slide, and so the driver does not lose steering control. So, should you round a bend on a snowy day and come upon a car that has spun out in front of you, you would apply the ABS and ultimately be able to steer around the obstacle. In this scenario, you might feel the brake pedal pulsate but do not be frightened by that – it is just the ABS letting you know that it’s working. Concentrate instead on driving around the incident and allow the ABS to retain steering control so you can avoid a collision.

Since it is typically a new sensation for a driver when the ABS engages, it is best to practice with the function in advance. At the next snowfall, find an empty parking lot with no hazards. You do not need to be traveling very fast — 10 to 15 mph is enough to activate the brake system. Start driving in a start line, then step on the brakes as hard as you can. Once you feel the brake pedal pulsate, the car will stop in a straight line. Begin again, but this time, turn the wheel like you need to avoid an obstacle in the road. You will experience how ABS allows you to retain steering control.

Blind Spot Warning System

One of the features you will find in many newer car models is a blind spot warning system. Sensors on the vehicle function to let you know if there is another car, truck, SUV, or motorcycle hiding in your blind spot. The reason this system is so valuable in the winter is that as temperatures rise and fall throughout the season, and the snow thaws, vehicles will splash up snow and dirt, causing mirrors and windows to become difficult to see through. With a blind spot warning system, you have extra assistance in ensuring that your lane changes are safe. But like all safety systems, this is not a substitute for careful driving practices.

Back-Up Camera

While your back window wiper may be doing its best to remove snowy, slushy dirt, oftentimes there is still streaky residue that builds up and impairs visibility. Fortunately, many new SUVs are now equipped with an excellent additional resource for your convenience: the backup camera. All cameras provide the driver with a view of the area behind the vehicle, and manufacturers have strategically placed the camera lens to help avoid as much dirt or snow buildup as possible and keep the lens clean; some systems even include a washer for the lens. Again, while you should not rely solely upon the backup camera for navigating, it is a useful aid when reversing in winter conditions.
If you’re in the market for a new car, truck, or SUV, come and see the winter driving experts at Used Car Motor Mall and they’ll demonstrate the new features for you that make winter driving more pleasant, less stressful, and safer.
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