The winter season brings with it many familiar (and unwanted) driving traditions: Dark commutes thanks to shorter days with less sunlight, the morning routine of clearing snow and ice from your windshield, and

To help drivers navigate the challenges that come along with cold, ice and snow, there’s no shortage of winter driving tips. But unfortunately, not everything you’ll hear is really advice worth following.

To help you separate fact from fiction, here’s the truth behind 10 of the biggest winter driving myths.

  1. You should warm up your car before driving in cold weather.
    It’s long been said that letting your car idle for a while before driving is good for your engine. But while it’s no fun getting into a freezing-cold car during the winter months, the practice of warming up your vehicle can do more harm than good.

    Not only does warming up your car waste fuel and create unnecessary exhaust emissions, but extended idling does nothing to benefit your engine. Your car’s engine is fully lubricated after less than a minute of idling. And the fastest way to warm up your vehicle is by getting behind the wheel and driving. Anything else is just a waste of time and money.

  2. Letting air out of your tires will improve traction.
    Don’t fall for the old advice of letting a little air out of your tires to create better traction. Your car’s tires were designed to be inflated to a specific pressure (measured in pounds per square inch, or PSI). Keeping them underinflated won't give your wheels better traction. In fact, it may actually make it harder to stop.

    To find your car’s recommended tire inflation pressure, look for a sticker on the driver’s side door jamb or in your owner’s manual. And remember to regularly check your tire pressure during the winter months. You should do this because lower temperatures lead to lower tire pressure, which, in turn, leads to

  3. Four-wheel drive makes it safe to drive in the snow.
    There’s no doubt that owning a vehicle with four-wheel or all-wheel drive can carry a definite advantage when driving in snow or ice. But it’s not a silver-bullet for winter driving. That’s because safe winter driving relies more on having the right tires and by developing good driving habits.

    Know your limitations as a driver, and don’t let overconfidence or overestimating your vehicle’s capability get you into a dangerous situation. Even if your car is equipped with four-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes, traction control, winter tires or other safety features, never let good judgment and smart driving be swept aside by a false sense of security provided by vehicle technology.

  4. Pouring hot water on your windshield makes ice melt fast.
    On the surface, it makes sense that hot water would be an easy way to melt a frozen windshield. But pouring hot water on ice-cold glass is usually just a recipe for broken glass. Plus, the puddle it leaves behind can lead someone to suffer a nasty spill.
  5. You don’t really need winter tires.
    The popularity of modern “all-season” tires has led many to assume that winter tires are no longer necessary. But the truth is, you’ll always get better traction in cold, ice and snow from a set of dedicated winter tires.

    Winter tires feature a more aggressive tread pattern and different rubber compounds that remain more pliable when freezing temperatures hit. While they do require a seasonal tire change, winter tires remain the safest solution when driving in places where the temperatures drop below 45 degrees during the winter months.

  6. There’s nothing you can do about black ice.
    There are plenty of stories that tell of the dangers of black ice. And it’s universally feared for good reason: Because unlike snow and sleet, black ice can be practically invisible to an unsuspecting driver.

    But just because black ice is often invisible doesn’t mean you’re rendered helpless if you encounter it. If you find yourself on black ice, maintain your speed and don’t suddenly apply the brakes or gas pedal. Then, turn your steering wheel into the skid until you regain control of the vehicle. Once that happens, steer your car in the direction you want to go.

    Remember: Gentle control inputs from both the steering wheel and pedals can help prevent a spin – even on black ice.


  1. Emergency kits aren’t necessary for urban drivers.
    Sure, the thought of having an emergency kit in the trunk makes sense for rural drivers who rarely travel in densely populated areas. But it’s often said that emergency kits aren’t necessary when you live in a more urban area.

    Unfortunately, that’s just not true. If you’re trapped in a winter storm, it could take a tow truck hours to reach your location. And extreme winter weather could make it unsafe to walk to a nearby store or residence. For those reasons, it’s important to carry an emergency kit along with you –  no matter where you live or drive.

  2. Winter car washes are a waste of money.
    We can all appreciate the benefits of driving a clean, shiny car in the summer. But keeping your car clean during the winter months is a tougher task.