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Carl Nadeau’s 5 Winter Driving Tips for Beginners

Michelin driving expert and Canadian professional racer Carl Nadeau shares his five best tips on how to stay safe on the roads this winter.

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Driving expert Carl NadeauPhoto: Michelin

5 Essential Winter Driving Tips from Carl Nadeau

It’s now time for drivers to prepare for difficult winter road conditions, and that’s what Michelin driving expert and Canadian professional race car driver Carl Nadeau knows best. “Winter can be a challenging season, so to safely and fully enjoy it, it’s imperative that drivers properly prepare their vehicles to handle the snow, ice, slush and cold,” says Nadeau. From making sure your tires are in tip-top shape to emergency stopping techniques, Nadeau shares his five best tips for beginners on how to stay safe on the roads this winter.

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Winter tiresPhoto: Shutterstock

1. Install Winter Tires for All Four Wheels

As soon as temperatures fall below 7 degrees Celsius, it’s time to get winter tires for all four wheels. The main reason? All-season tires aren’t equipped for winter driving because they lose flexibility in the cold. “One of the biggest misconceptions about all-season tires is that you’re safe as long as you’re not in deep snow,” says Nadeau. “Even if there’s no snow, the rubber compounds on all-season tires will harden and the tires won’t have any grip left.” Buy the right product that will suit your needs and stand the test of time: “When you’re buying winter tires, just remind yourself that they can and will save your life.”

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Man checking tire pressurePhoto: Shutterstock

2. Prioritize Your Winter Tires

“Drivers don’t talk enough about alignment – if you live in an area with bad roads, it can easily mess up the alignment on your car, and if the alignment is wrong, the car will start pulling to the right or left,” says Nadeau. When winter begins, get a technician to also measure the remaining tread depth of your winter tires, rotate the tires from last year’s position and adjust the tire pressure (when the temperature begins to drop, so does a tire’s air pressure). Routinely check that your tires are properly inflated and top your fluids too.

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Man driving in winterPhoto: Shutterstock

3. Maintain Proper Seating Position

Many drivers underestimate their seating position in relation to their vehicle, Nadeau says. A comfortable seating position heightens control and visibility – two factors that are paramount during harsh road conditions. Start by adjusting the distance of your seat so that your legs are never fully extended when pressing on the gas or brake pedals. There should be a distance of at least 10 inches between the steering wheel and your base breastbone. To have better control of your own movements, wear light clothing and keep your hands at nine and three.

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First Aid KitPhoto: Shutterstock

4. Pack a Survival Kit

The importance of a survival kit is difficult to overstate – in case of an emergency, it can save your passengers’ lives as well as your own. Every car in the winter should have a First Aid Kit, a shovel, snow broom with ice scraper, food, blankets, water, flashlight, booster cables and a tire gauge to check tire pressure. And if you’re going off-roading, Nadeau suggests bringing emergency flares.

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Cars on road during winterPhoto: Shutterstock

5. Employ Proper Stopping and Sliding Techniques

“Most people don’t take defensive driving courses, so they don’t know what to do when they lose control and they’re surrounded by other cars,” says Nadeau, who has been racing cars for over 20 years, from rally driving to ice and road racing. If you lose control of your vehicle, stay calm: “It might sound counterintuitive, but you have to think positive and figure out where you need to aim your car.”

If you’re making an emergency stop, apply maximum pressure on the brake pedal and don’t let go. If your vehicle is spinning or sliding, turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction that the nose of the vehicle is facing. In other words, if you’re moving clockwise, steer left, and vice versa – the main objective is to counter the spin. In order to avoid these situations as best you can, drive as smoothly as possible and avoid sudden maneuvers.