Even if you believe yourself to be a pretty experienced driver, winter driving can still have its challenges. It’s easy to forget that winter conditions like ice and snow demand more attention from the driver after months of dry and clear roads. The winter weather can also be brutal to your vehicle, so to learn more about how you can drive safely and maintain your vehicle during this season, we spoke to some local experts in the Lincoln area.

Adverse winter weather can be dangerous and frightening for travelers, especially early in the winter season, when they’re out of practice—and late in the winter, when they get overconfident! In fact, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, bad weather and sloppy road conditions are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter. With this in mind, it’s crucial that anyone who drives in winter understands the safety rules for driving in severe weather, the rules for dealing with winter road emergencies, the crucial winterizing your vehicle requires, and general winter-driving safety.

When you drive in Nebraska winters, AAA recommends basic safety measures like keeping a bundle of cold-weather gear in your car, including extra food and water, warm clothing, a flashlight, a glass scraper, blankets, medications, and more. Further, make certain that your tires are properly inflated and have plenty of tread, keep at least half a tank of fuel in your vehicle at all times, never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area like a garage, and do NOT use cruise control when you’re driving on any slippery surface, including ice and snow. If you have to go out, drive slowly, accelerate and decelerate slowly, increase your following distance, know your brakes, and don’t stop if you can avoid it.

Of course, you’re required to have insurance on your vehicle, and carrying an adequate amount of coverage is crucial. Then, from a mechanical standpoint, wet, cold, and icy weather serve up the biggest challenges to your vehicle’s efficient operation. There are a host of mechanical things that are crucial to preparing your vehicle for winter, including your battery, ignition system, lights, brakes, tires, windshield wipers, winter driving kit, and exhaust and heating-and-cooling systems. Read on to learn more about preparing for winter driving in Nebraska.

Get Winter Ready

When it comes to getting your car ready for winter, Jason Thies, the lead estimator at Morrow Collision Center, has some tips. The first things you should do when getting ready for the snowy, icy season are:

  • Check tire pressure and/or switch to winter tires
  • Switch your windshield washer fluid to a winter temp rated fluid
  • Service vehicle for winter (oil and filter change, flush and fill all fluids and all coolant levels)
  • Check wiper blades, batteries, heaters, brakes, lights, and heater/defroster
  • Always maintain at least ¼ tank of gas in your vehicle
  • Keep a scraper, shovel, extra blanket, jumper cable, flare, and flashlight in your car in case of emergency

Getting your car safe and sound for winter may only be half of the problem. Driving on icy roads or in bleak conditions can be dangerous, and many people feel less confident driving in these conditions, which can lead to more accidents.

Jason Thies
Morrow Collision Center

“In the event of a crash, Morrow Collision Center can work with all insurance companies to write the estimate, schedule your auto body repairs and get your vehicle back to brand new and on the road. We can even assist with a tow from the accident scene and arrange a rental vehicle,” said Jason. “People don’t seem to drive for the conditions, and miss things like slowing up around corners and allowing a bigger space between the car in front of them, and then end up catching some snow and ice. That all adds up to the #1 culprit in the winter, in my opinion, which tends to be curb shots causing suspension damage and the good old rear end accidents.”

As much as we recommend the work they do over at Morrow Collision Center, Jason and his team have some advice on how to avoid getting into an unfortunate situation on the roads this winter.

“Don’t ever slam on your brakes. Accelerate slowly and always remain calm if you start to slip. Don’t put yourself in a position where you’re close enough to slide into another object. Maintain a safe distance of at least 3 car lengths during bad weather. I recommend making yourself familiar with what the anti-lock braking system (ABS) in most vehicles today feels like when it’s engaged to prevent panicking if it should engage in snow and ice,” Jason advised.

Morrow Collision Center has been repairing cars for more than 20 years and are always investing in the newest equipment and training to make sure today’s advanced vehicles are repaired properly. You can have peace of mind knowing your family is safe in the vehicles they repair no matter how severe the damage. They offer a lifetime warranty on their work and are the experts at navigating through the insurance claims process. To top it all off, they’re also locally owned!

Slow It Down

Tracy’s Collision Center uses a customer-focused approach to collision repair. The family-owned business has deep roots in Lincoln, with services including painting, frame repair, wheel alignments, and paintless dent repair. For 50 years, they’ve been putting drivers back on the road safely. To learn more about how they can prepare us for winter driving, we spoke to Laurie Sain, manager.

Laurie Sain
Tracy’s Collison Center

“When driving on icy roads, start by slowing it down,” Laurie recommended. “We’re not just talking about how far you push the gas pedal. We’re also talking about how fast you move your hands and feet. A lower-friction road surface means it takes more time for your tires to find grip and change your speed or direction.”

While steering, if you feel the wheel ‘slip’ in your hands, that means the tires don’t have enough available traction to turn that hard, so unwind the wheel until the resistance feels normal. If you try to turn and nothing happens, straighten the wheel back out and slow down with a gentle, brief press of the brake, then try again.

“When driving in the winter, everything takes longer, particularly stopping and turning. So look farther down the road than you usually do and start braking sooner,” said Laurie. “However, no matter how cautious you are, you may still find yourself spinning out of control. If you do, don’t panic; you can regain the upper hand. Turn the wheel in the direction of your slide with a deliberate motion. Don’t give it more than about half a crank. This isn’t instinctual—your brain feels the car slipping in one direction and logically wants to turn in the other direction to fix it—so it can be worthwhile to practice in a snow-covered empty parking lot somewhere.”

75 Years of Trust

T.O. Haas Tire & Auto has been a tradition of trust since 1947. They sell more than two dozen brands of tires and perform many automotive services important to safe winter driving, including oil changes, alignments, brakes, exhaust, shocks, struts, cooling systems, transmission-fluid flushes, and more. We spoke to Marketing Manager Fred Knight about the ways that T.O. Haas can help you gear up for winter driving.

Fred Knight
T.O. Haas Tire & Auto

“We offer free inspections to make sure your vehicle is ready for the harsh winter weather,” Fred said. “We’ll check your battery, belts, hoses, fluids, lighting, and much more.”

For things you can do yourself, Fred recommended topping off washer fluid, as well as conducting a visual inspection of your belts, hoses, windshield wipers, interior and exterior lighting, and tire condition and pressure. Most repair shops will inspect, for free, the strength and proper charging of your battery, antifreeze condition and proper ratio, and exhaust leaks in the event that you find yourself stranded.

“The main reason people get stranded in winter is because many don’t realize how bad the roads are until they are stuck,” explained Fred. “Once you’re stuck, it can be extremely difficult to get out. 4-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles provide an advantage but if you find yourself in this situation, you can try placing your floor mats under the drive axle tires to keep them from spinning on snow or ice. Another reason people find themselves stranded is because of a dead battery. As the temperature drops your vehicle oils and fluids become much stiffer. A weak battery will not have the power needed to turn the engine over, so it is important to get your battery checked before you find yourself in this situation.”

Driving on ice is difficult and dangerous, even for the best drivers. New tires will always provide an advantage – especially the newer “ice tires” which use a combination of sticky rubber compounds and a significant number of sipes in the tread design. These sipes act like tiny suction cups to help grip the ice better than traditional tread designs. T.O. Haas can help you find the best tires to help you drive safely this winter.

Fred offered one last piece of advice to keep you safe this winter that is easy to follow:

“Keep your gas tank at least half full,” said Fred. “A full tank reduces condensation, which can lead to gas lines freezing. If you do get stranded, you may need a full tank to keep the engine on for 10 minutes each hour in order to stay warm!”

Ensure Your Insurance

Before you take your ride out onto the winter roads, it is crucial to be sure that you have appropriate insurance to protect you and others on the road from worst-case scenarios. It’s definitely better to know how well you’re covered before you find yourself in a bind. To learn more about this topic, we spoke to Matthew Moorhead, owner of Shelter Insurance Agency.

Matthew Moorhead
Shelter Insurance

“Winter driving in Lincoln is unpredictable, to say the least,” said Matthew. “The university brings in young men and women from all over the country, and some have never had any experience driving on snow or ice. A good rule of thumb, in general, is to dress and plan for the worst. Always keep warm shoes or boots, coats, hats, and gloves in your vehicle. On the insurance side, roadside assistance is a good option to have and is included on every Shelter Insurance auto policy up to $100 per occurrence. If you are someone who travels or commutes substantial distances, you can purchase higher amounts.”

If you don’t have adequate liability, uninsured motorist, and underinsured motorist coverage, you can put yourself in a rough place in the event of an accident. Matt is able to walk you through your options if you’re unsure of which insurance route to go, and he can give you some recommendations that fit your situation. The minimum amount of insurance you have to carry to drive in Nebraska is $25,000 per person in liability and $50,000 per accident of bodily injury coverage—but that doesn’t mean it’s a great level of coverage.

“If you have minimum liability limits and your vehicle is struck by someone who carries only minimum liability, and you were injured—say, break a leg—but need surgery to correct it, it’s not life-threatening, but it can do some damage to your wallet,” Matt said. “In this case, you will have $25K coming from the person who struck you and $25K coming from your underinsured motorist coverage on your policy. I don’t know if you have had surgery lately, but I think it’s a pretty good bet that an ambulance ride, plus hospital stay, surgery, casting, follow-up, physical therapy, and lost wages from work are going to be north of $50K.”

With that scenario in mind, Matt said he recommends that drivers have at least $250K of liability per person and $500K of underinsured motorist coverage per accident—an upgrade that provides 10 times more coverage at a cost of about $5–$10 per month. Whatever amount of coverage, everyone should always practice defensive driving, no matter the season. In the winter, don’t be tempted to drive until the windows defrost, and always be prepared for slippery conditions. Also, be prepared for slippery conditions, as you simply can’t avoid them. Ice doesn’t have insurance, though, so if you slide into somebody, it’s your fault when it comes to insurance! Maybe it’s time to call Matt.

“I can take the time to explain your coverages and the options that are best suited to you,” he said. “If you have ever watched a television commercial where an insurance company tells you to just get online and get a quote, the problem is that as consumers, we have it programmed into our heads that the cheapest price is going to be the best deal. When it comes to insurance, though, you sometimes get what you pay for.”

Get the Right Fix

In the unfortunate event of a winter collision, the first concern is the condition and safety of all people involved. The next thing that often comes to mind is the condition of your vehicle. Consider contacting Midtown Body & Paint. With more than 70 years of providing Lincoln with excellent auto-body repair, quality framework, full painting services, paintless dent repair, and glass replacement for all makes and models of vehicles, Midtown’s technicians always stay current with quick and meaningful technological advancements in the industry. They take pride in their work and have a stellar reputation for providing high-quality repairs and service that develop lasting relationships.

Winter weather can change in an instant, so it is important to stay prepared in advance so your car can make it through the winter. Tires are always a good thing to check. If you’re seeing the wear indicators on your tires, you should have them replaced to prevent traction loss and hydroplaning. If your battery is old and weak, cold temperatures can leave you stranded. Also make sure to keep the underside of your car clean through an undercarriage car wash to prevent the corrosion caused by salt and other ice melting agents on the road.

Dan Pape
Midtown Body & Paint

“Giving yourself adequate stopping time and ensuring your tires have enough tread to provide ample traction will greatly help in avoiding the fender benders that commonly occur when the roads are icy and slick,” said Dan Pape, owner and operator. “It also helps in avoiding sliding into curbs or even off the road into mailboxes, poles, or other stationary objects. This causes damage to not only to the body of the vehicle, generally on the fender, but can also damage the tire, impacting the alignment and suspension and causing even more damage when driven afterward. Every situation is different when there’s a collision, and there can potentially be damage that isn’t visible or apparent until later on down the line, so it’s beneficial to have your vehicle checked out as a result just to be on the safe side.”

Dan adds, “When preparing for winter road conditions and also when you’re out driving in it, all of the small things make a big difference. Pay attention, take your time, and avoid tailgating. Saving just a few minutes on the trip is hardly worth getting into an accident that will turn into hours of time and a considerable amount of money to fix, and perhaps a legal citation and everything that comes along with it on top of all that. Give yourself a little extra time, keep a little extra space from the car in front of you, and show respect for others on the road; we all want to get where we are going safely.”

If you aren’t sure whether or not your vehicle is in good condition, Dan invites you to give Midtown Body a call. Above all, he encourages drivers to keep their vehicles in top shape and use safe driving practices on the road.

Make Your Car Shine

Winter weather in Lincoln may not make you want to run out in the wind and frigid temperatures to wash your vehicle, but it should if you want to extend the life and resale value of your car. That’s because wintertime road salt, including treatments with liquid calcium chloride and sand, plus the moisture from Nebraska storms can cause your car to rust, which can spread across your entire vehicle over time.

One of the easiest ways to keep your car in its best condition is by keeping it clean with regular washes, especially through the winter months. A great place to maintain a spotless ride is the locally owned and operated JetSplash Car Wash. JetSplash is the only wash in Lincoln that both hand preps and hand dries your vehicle, making them a great choice to guarantee a clean finish.

Their JetGloss product adds a two-step ceramic coating on your vehicle. It will protect your vehicle from the salt and brine on the roads, as well as create a shiny, glossy finish on your vehicle with more water repellency.

JetSplash offers five different levels of washes ranging from $9 to $25, and they take no more than five minutes so that you can quickly get back on the road. All washes come with a free mat cleaner, vacuums, and air, so you can keep your ride looking great on the inside, too.

They also have an unlimited program, which is a great winter investment with all the salt that gets put on the roads this time of year. You don’t want to leave salt or brine on your vehicle for too long because it will cause rust over time. The unlimited program allows you to wash your vehicle anytime you want. You don’t need to predict the weather, either; if it snows, just come back in and get another wash!

Avoid a Break Down

Winter driving can be more dangerous than other seasons for several reasons. To start with the obvious, weather like snow, ice, and sleet can cause poor visibility and slick road conditions. In addition to this, if something were to go wrong, such as an accident or a vehicle breakdown, having to handle it in the cold isn’t just inconvenient, but also dangerous. This is why Sherri Stock, owner of inMOTION Auto Care, told us it is best to be prepared.

Sherri Stock
inMOTION Auto Care

“Winterizing a vehicle these days really means getting the oil changed and completing a good, thorough inspection to get a clear idea of any potential problems,” explained Sherri. “Bad batteries, hoses, belts, water pumps, spark plug wires, etc. can cause a car to break down. Getting repairs and maintenance done now will greatly reduce the chance of breakdowns and being left on the roadside later.”

Another important task Sherri suggested for cold weather is to check tire pressure regularly. Tire pressure monitors are standard on all 2008 and newer models, but if you have a car older than 2008, you should be checking your tire pressure about once a week.

“Tire pressure drops by one PSI, or pounds per square inch, for every 10 degrees the temperature drops,” said Sherri. “Air inside the tire condenses and takes up less space when it’s cold.”

When you visit inMOTION Auto Care, their goal is to deliver the best auto repair and maintenance customer-service experience possible. With a team that includes highly skilled auto mechanics, they are doing precisely that. You can count on them to maintain the highest level of integrity and professionalism throughout your service process, no matter how big or small the job. They are dedicated to your safety and to extending the life of your vehicle, in winter and year-round.

Tips for the Road

A1 Automotive is committed to providing honest answers to the community that they love to serve with a “customers are always first” attitude. A1 Automotive is acquiring the latest software and specific tooling to maintain your vehicle’s every need.

Winter driving is dangerous and can be terrifying, even for well-seasoned motorists. The American Automobile Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety says that snow-covered roads, as well as roads coated with ice, slush, or water, account for nearly 500,000 vehicle crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths each winter.

Kendall Warnock
A1 Automotive

“When we hit the winter months, we start to see an increase of people becoming more erratic in their driving behavior because they are in a rush and don’t know how to drive in these conditions. With snow and ice on the roads, it becomes a potential disaster when there is a lot of traffic. This is why people should keep the following winter driving tips in mind,” said Kendall Warnock, owner of A1 Automotive.

Stay home: If the weather is bad, stay home, only go out if necessary.

Remove snow, ice: Carry a brush to remove snow on the vehicle’s roof, hood, trunk lid, and all windows before driving. Use a scraper or a credit card if necessary, to remove ice on the windows. Before you clear off the windows, start the car, set the air flow to defrost, the fan speed to maximum and the temperature to high. The goal is for the driver to have an unobstructed view in all directions.

Decrease speed: Winter driving is all about slowing down, giving yourself plenty of distance between vehicles in front and to the side of your vehicle. Lower your speed to account for poorer traction. A vehicle’s tires will slide on snow and ice so gently press down on the brake pedal to stop. Your tires will spin when accelerating so gently press down on the accelerator to go. Remember, bridges, and overpasses freeze first.

So many distractions: There are always distractions that come into play as part of everyday driving—the temptation to speak on the cellphone, a heated argument with a child, a humorous conversation with members of your carpool. But you really need to focus your attention more so on what is going on out that windshield when the weather is bad. The risk for an accident greatly increases when snow and ice cover the street. You have to be more cautious and vigilant. You also have to be aware of everybody else out there on the road in front of you and peripherally, people who may not be practicing the same (safe) driving principles you are using.

Four-wheel, all-wheel drive myth: People get a false sense of security thinking that because they have a 4-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle that they are safer. They tell themselves, I have extra traction and extra traction means extra safety. Hence, I am going to speed, or I am not going to pay as close attention as I would in a sedan that doesn’t have those features. What those drivers fail to realize is their SUV’s steering, braking, cornering, and general maneuverability on snow, slush, and ice is no better than a front- or rear-drive sedan. Simply, slow down when the weather is bad no matter what type of vehicle you are driving.

Fill ‘er up: You don’t want to run out of gasoline if you end up stuck for hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic during a snowstorm. Follow this rule during the winter: When the tank is half empty, fill it up.

Winter driving can be intimidating and scary, but Lincoln has many professionals that can help you get through it. Whether your car needs some updates before the snowy season hits, or you need help after an unfortunate accident, trust that these experts will be there to guide you. Take the advice from these local businesses to prepare for winter weather and protect both yourself and your vehicle through these next few months. We want all of our readers and clients staying safe and healthy this season!