Winter Driving Worries: 5 Common Winter Driving Situations and How to Deal with Them

Posted on February 24, 2017

Looking down at the hood of a blue Buick Enclave lightly covered in snow, with the words "Winter Driving Worries" written in the snow.

From cold weather that tests your vehicle’s limits to slippery, low-visibility driving conditions that test your nerves, here are five winter driving scenarios that may help you prepare for the toughest situations winter has to offer.

The number 1 written on a frosty window

Your car begins to skid on an icy surface

What to do:

  • Take your foot off the gas.
  • Gently turn your steering wheel in the direction you are moving.
  • Gently apply the brake — never slam on the brakes.

Tip: Your tires can make a big difference in your level of control. Be sure your tire treads are at least 6/32” deep (a tire store can check this for you).

OnStar can help: If you do skid and need help, Automatic Crash Response1 sensors can detect a crash and will automatically alert an OnStar Advisor, whether or not you push your red Emergency button, to ensure you receive help if you need it.

The number 2 written on a frosty window

You become stuck in the snow

What to do:

  • Try to free your vehicle gently. Pushing hard on the gas and spinning the tires will dig you in deeper. Instead, “rock” the vehicle by pressing the accelerator gently to move forward a couple inches, brake, and then reverse a couple inches. Repeat a few times to see if you can free your vehicle.
  • If you have a shovel, clear snow from the front and back of each tire and under the vehicle.
  • Be sure your tailpipe is not clogged — that could cause carbon monoxide to enter the vehicle.
  • If you can’t free your vehicle, turn on interior and exterior lights and stay with your vehicle and clear off snow as it accumulates. It will make it easier for work crews to see you and rescuers to find you.

Tip: Keep your gas tank well filled in the winter. It will keep your fuel line from freezing and carry you through unexpected traffic snarls, and you’ll be able to run the engine to keep the car warm if you are stuck. Keep a shovel and ice scraper in your trunk, as well as a bag of sand or kitty litter to provide traction.

OnStar can help: Even in areas with limited cell phone reception, you can push your red Emergency button and an Advisor can send help to your exact location.2

The number 3 written on a frosty window.

A sudden winter squall creates dangerous road conditions

What to do:

  • Turn on your headlights, and turn off cruise control if you’re using it.
  • Stay in the right lane in case there are less careful drivers who want to pass.
  • Be extra smooth when you’re accelerating, braking or steering.
  • Watch for icy patches.

Tip: You can often see a snow squall coming. If you’re able, pull off the road to a safe location and wait until it passes; keep your hazard lights on to be sure your vehicle is visible to other drivers.

OnStar can help: If you need to connect with family, built-in OnStar Hands-Free Calling3 benefits you in several ways. It enables you to keep your eyes on the road, it’s easy to use in emergency situations and it can offer better reception than a mobile phone, especially in areas with limited coverage.

The number 4 written on a frosty window.

There’s a multi-car pileup on the road just ahead, and you can’t stop

What to do:

  • Be sure you and all passengers stay in your vehicle with your safety belts fastened. If no one in your vehicle is injured, it may be tempting to get out and check on people in other cars, but cars still approaching the accident pose danger.
  • Put your flashing hazard lights on.
  • If no rescuers are on the scene, and if an OnStar Advisor has not already contacted you, push your red Emergency button to report the accident.
  • Write down everything you have observed about the accident for insurance purposes.
  • Wait until law enforcement tells you it is safe to leave your vehicle.

Tip: Best practices say to leave three seconds between you and the car in front of you; this helps ensure that you’ll be a safe stopping distance away. In low visibility conditions, increase the time to six seconds and reduce your speed.

OnStar can help: If you observe a crash, even if you are not involved, you can be a Good Samaritan and press your red Emergency button to report the accident. Our OnStar Advisors can contact 9-1-1 to report the incident and request assistance.

The number 5 written on a frosty window.

Your car won’t start

What to do:

  • Shut the car doors and turn off all accessories — lights, radio, etc.
  • Turn the key and hold it for no longer than 10 seconds.
  • If your engine doesn’t start but you see dashboard lights, you have some battery power.
  • If you hear nothing — no click, no motor noise and no dashboard lights — your battery is completely dead, and you’ll need a jump start.
  • If you hear the motor cranking but the vehicle does not start after 10 seconds, wait a minute or two before trying again.

Tip: If your battery is more than three years old, it’s a good idea to change it before the cold weather takes its toll.

OnStar can help: Sign up for OnStar Advanced Diagnostics and receive real-time Diagnostic Alerts via text or email.4  You can know right away when there's an issue that may need your attention, to help you avoid being stranded in the cold winter weather. Learn more about OnStar Advanced Diagnostics.