Searles Presents: How NOT to Drive in Winter Weather

Here one day, gone the next. That is almost every Vancouver Islander’s attitude when it comes to snow and ice on the roads. It’s no wonder why drivers all blame each other for “not knowing how to drive in this crap.” Unfortunately, the City of Victoria also gets needlessly blamed for not responding fast enough…

Awhile back we received some good feedback on our tongue-in-cheek post from a few months ago called The Top 5 Ways to Wreck Your Car, so we thought it was time to do another, the How to Wreck Your Car—Winter Edition!
winter driving stuck in ditch
Of course, the easiest way to wreck your vehicle this time of year is by rear ending someone or sliding into a ditch (or worse!) as a result of reckless driving in snowy and icy conditions.

Here in Victoria, BC, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, we are lucky we don’t get a lot of snow here. But that makes us unlucky in a way, given the amount of inexperience this leads to on the roads.


There are ways to play it safe out there, but if you’d rather wreck your ride and come see the auto mechanics team at Searles after the fact, here’s how to do it:

1. Fail to prepare your vehicle for icy conditions

There are plenty of steps involved in winterizing your vehicle, such as making sure your car or truck has:

  • Properly inflated snow tires (or equivalent)
  • Enough winter windshield washer fluid
  • Functioning headlights
  • Functioning defroster and rear defroster
  • Adequate wiper blades, front and back ideally
  • A strong battery that can hold a charge, both during start-up and during emergencies

winterize your car


To ignore these winterization steps is a fast track to wrecking your ride in poor road conditions. Alternatively, ensuring your vehicle is winter-ready is a fast, affordable step everyone must take for their own safety as well as the longevity of their vehicle.


  1. Follow too closely behind the person in front of you

Also known as tailgating, this is a big no-no in the wintertime. Keeping a safe distance between you and the car ahead of you is safe, polite, and less liking going to give the person ahead of you anxiety about getting rear ended. A safe travelling distance on snowy roads is about four to six seconds (a few car lengths at least).

tailgating in winter


  1. Speed relentlessly

school zone speedingThere’s a reason it appears like cars are going too fast around you in the winter: those who are travelling fast are often ‘gunning’ it so they don’t get stuck going uphill or otherwise. That being said, there are times to truly ‘gun it’ on the roads, and there are times to hold back (school zones & intersections).



To protect your ride out there, use common sense in these situations. Snow on the roads is a universal excuse to be late for work – even if you have an important meeting. We’re all in the same boat when it snows!


If you have a need for speed in the winter, you’re most likely going to end up crashing or getting stuck, as well as having people shake their fists at you over social media.


  1. Brake hard

It can be very tempting to slam on the brakes the moment you feel your vehicle slipping, especially if you’re rounding a corner, but try to avoid it if you can. Standard transmissions come in handy here, as they help you slow down in cold weather.

cutting corners driving


Your best bet if you’re not looking to wreck your ride this season is to remain calm and go easy around corners (brake BEFORE them, as is taught in Driver’s Ed).


  1. Put too much faith in your all-wheel drive

There’s a moment after you get a vehicle with all-wheel drive when you feel invincible on the roads. While all-wheel drive and 4x4ing can help ease you out of tricky situations on the roads, they can’t necessary stop the vehicle from skidding on ice.


You might think those donuts are cool, but on busy streets no one else thinks so. Regardless of the performance capabilities of your vehicle, show some restraint out there.

  1. Neglect to pack the winter essentials

This point somewhat ties back to point #1, which covers winterizing your vehicle. If you neglect to pack the winter essentials, it may not wreck your car necessarily, but it will lead to some discomfort out there while you wait for help.


Winter essentials include a roadside emergency kit, salt or cat litter for traction, a shovel, boots and gloves, a scraper, and so on. Refer to our post 8 Important Things to Stock in Your Car Emergency Kit.

For more suggestions on what to be packing.


  1. Not know where you’re going

Not knowing where you’re going can be straight-up dangerous in winter driving conditions. Not only will you be more nervous and anxious, you might feel rushed to get there if you sense you’re lost. Worse, you might be looking away from the road and to your GPS or phone to try and orientate yourself.


But, perhaps the most dangerous element of not knowing where you’re going is being unfamiliar with the roads. For example, if you know that a sharp bend in the road or a steep hill is coming up, you can adjust your driving speed ahead of time.

winter visibility driving

Visibility is greatly reduced when it’s snowing, meaning you can miss warning signs in unfamiliar territory. Try and look up highway cams for the areas where you’re be heading, and if roads are terrible, hold off for a while. The Malahat can wait.

  1. Distract yourself from the task at hand

Distracted driving deserves a mention on this list because—let’s be honest—it can wreck your vehicle no matter what the weather is doing. So, do as ICBC suggests and Leave Your Phone Alone while you’re driving. In addition, turn the radio down and put down the coffee and cigarettes; you’re going to want both hands on the steering wheel.


  1. Insist on driving when you really shouldn’t

This is an easy way to get into an accident and thus wreck your ride. Although repairing cars is our pride and joy here at Searles Auto Repair, we’d rather see you get to work without getting in an accident.


If conditions are truly terrible out there, see if you can wait it out or take public transit. Carpool, phone a cab, or better yet take a snow day & work from home.


  1. Lose confidence

There’s a fine line between confidence and cockiness on the roads. The truth is, driving in the snow takes a certain level of confidence. Yes, experience also plays a big role. Sure you might only have to do it once or twice a year, but it pays to be confident on the road when it snows. This means:

  • Not going TOO slow
  • Gunning it when necessary
  • Not hesitating to make your turns
  • Talking yourself through the tenser parts of the journey


When all is said and done and you made it to your destination without wrecking your vehicle, don’t forget to let out the breathe you’ve been holding, pat your dashboard, and give your ride some words of encouragement for getting you home safely.


Bonus Pro Tip: Defrosting Your Windshield in a Hurry

Speaking of confidence on the road, a lot of that has to do with being able to see where you’re going. Defrosting your windshield in a timely manner is something all drivers struggle with in British Columbia, regardless of how much snow and ice is on the road. Don’t just sit around and do nothing! Be proactive with these two proven windshield defrosting methods. The following are three of the best ways to defrost your windows—advice straight from our auto mechanics.


  1. Preventative Maintenance

If you see your neighbour has draped a blanket over top of their windshield, she might be onto something. An absorbent sheet like a large towel or blanket acts as a barrier against ice and frost overnight, as it soaks up all that offending H2O.


Simply weigh the sheet down with the windshield wipers and some snowballs on the rooftop and you should be good to go in the morning, or a lot closer than you would be if you didn’t set yourself up for good morning success.


  1. Homemade Defroster

Applying a windshield defroster available in a spray bottle is another easy option for faster defrosting in the morning. You can buy a bottle from any auto parts store, or mix up your own. One common ratio is 1 part water to 2 parts rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol). (One third cup water, two thirds rubbing alcohol).

homemade windshield defroster


The rubbing alcohol doesn’t freeze when applied to icy surfaces since it has a lower freezing point than water (−89 °C). Some people go the route of adding a few drops of dish soap, but we don’t find that it’s necessary.


  1. Just Add (warm) Water

There’s some debate on this last suggestion regarding pouring a bucket of water over the windshield to speed things up. We say: piping hot water could be enough to crack/damage your windshield due to the severe, instant temperature change. Don’t risk it! Luke warm or room temperature water will do the trick. One customer we know fills up a bucket while waiting for the shower to warm up. Brilliant!


Give the Gift of Searles This Christmas

In closing, we want to remind everything this holiday season that Searles offers gift certificates for that hard-to-shop-for person in your family. Read up on why they are a good choice in our blog post, Eight Reasons Why Searles Gift Certificates Make The Ultimate Christmas Gift   


From all of us at Searles, we wish you a very Happy Holidays!

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