Tuesday, January 13, 2009


If you park on the street, here are a couple of snow recommendations.

First, don't be cheap about outfitting your car. I strongly recommend snow tires. You can often find deals for a set installed for $400 or less total. If you just replied, "but I have all-season tires," you are misinformed. All-season tires are meant for light snow. They are not engineered for deep snow and ice. Ask anyone who has winter/snow tires and they will tell you that the difference is remarkable. All-wheel-drive? Still put 'em on.

You'll also need a good snow brush and ice scraper. I just bought an awesome one that extends and has these nice padded handles at Costco for around $12. You may have to spend as much as $15. Do it. You'll thank me. Also, get a shovel. After the plow just went by on your side street, you'll find a foot or more piled up alongside your car. A broom is a nice extra. If you drive on the highway, or are prone to getting stuck, a bag of cat litter and some boards.

Next, you're dealing with the snow on your car. Some people just clear their windows so they can see. Others will include the hood. DO THE WHOLE THING. Top to bottom: hood, roof, in the nooks between the windshield and the hood, and the wheel wells.

Many people use their windshield wipers to help clear snow. Don't. They are meant for rain and some snow. They were not meant to clear several inches at once. And on the sides of the windshield, too. If they have to push too hard and don't have full range of motion, the motor will burn out prematurely.

If you don't clear the hood and roof, you are losing valuable fuel mileage. Snow is not only heavy, but is like carrying a mattress or other big block on your car. It will also fall in big clumps and scare, if not potentially injure, other drivers. If you don't do the hood, you are the person whose vision will be impaired. If you don't have one of the nice, big snow scrapers like I recommended, this is where the broom comes in handy.

And finally, the shovel. Don't waste gas spinning your tires backward and forward. Shovel a path for your car. It will take about the same amount of time as spinning your wheels. And it will probably save you a trip to the gym. If you really want to get altruistic, shovel the space after you leave it for the next person. If we all did this, we wouldn't have a problem the next time we park.

What are the boards and cat litter for? We all hear this, but seldom get direction on their use. You will need a shovel to use them. If you're stuck and you have all of these items, here's what you do. You will need to shovel driving tracks behind, underneath, and ahead of your car. Jam the boards under the drive tires (or all of them if you have enough boards) so that when you get going forward, you'll get on top of them. Pile up a good amount of cat litter behind the tires. This will act as gravel and another platform on which your car can get traction. Finally, GO SLOW. Start by going backward 2-6 inches. Now forward. Use the low gear. Push the pedal down so slowly that your car will barely start to rock up on to the boards. You will barely move. If you push too hard, you will spray cat litter, push the boards out of the way, and dig yourself in deeper. You'll have the RPMs up high, but will barely move. As you move up on to the boards and start going, ease off the pedal a big so you don't hurtle yourself into the street at fifty MPH.

Finally, if you see someone stuck, stop and help. If you're outfitted properly, you'll feel really good about having helped someone.

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