Winter Driving Tips

Here is a list of Winter Driving Tips that YOU will need to know in order to drive in Truckee in the Winter:

  • Always know what the weather is doing! The Truckee weather is unpredictable in the winter!

  • Always have a Winter Emergency Kit in your car at all times! This is one of the most critical Winter Driving Tips to follow! (a list will be provided shortly of what you should have.

  • Have winter windshield wipers on your car - normal windshield wipers cannot keep up with the snow in Truckee. This winter driving tip may keep you from being in an accident - visibility is crucial when it is snowing or in white out conditions.

  • If you do not have 4 wheel drive, always carry snow chains with you when traveling through or in Truckee during the winter. You don't want to have to find somewhere to buy them and figure out how to install them while it is snowing!

  • Be familiar with the places on I-80 where you can pull over and install your chains or pay one of the Chain Installers to do it for you.

  • Drive Slow! The posted speed limits in the area are for good times, and you need to slow down when it is snowing. Don't let the pressure of cars behind you force you into driving faster than you feel comfortable driving, for the current road and weather conditions!

  • Be aware that white cars, silver cars, and other light colored cars are very difficult to see in the snow.

  • Turn on your headlights when it is snowing.

  • Do not tailgate! Leave plenty of room between you and the car in front of you at all times. It is harder to stop on snow and ice, and takes longer, and you do not want to have to slam on your brakes and go into a spin.

  • Use lower gears to keep from having to use your brakes. This is especially important while going down a hill! You don't want to get going too fast and have to brake on snow and ice going down a hill if you can avoid it!

  • Cruise control is not recommended for snow and icy winter driving conditions.

  • If it is not imperative that you drive in the snow, don't! Wait for the snow plows and sanding trucks to get the roads under control.

  • If you have a 4 wheel drive vehicle, make sure you know how it operates. Some cars can go into 4 wheel on the fly, while others need to be stopped to make the change. Some cars have to have adjustments made to the tires first before you can activate your 4 wheel drive. Figure it out for your car first!

  • Always carry a charged cell phone with you, and keep it plugged into your car charger to keep it on full power.

  • Don't pass snow plows or sanding trucks! They have limited visibility, and the road conditions will be better if you follow along behind them and let them clear the road in front of you. Don't follow too closely behind them though, or you might get a rock through your windshield.

  • If you are local to Truckee or the surrounding Tahoe area, switch out to studded snow tires each season. I learned this expensive lesson the hard way! Even if you have 4 wheel drive, you stand a much better chance of dealing with black ice or icy conditions with studded snow tires. It is cheaper to buy them than to suffer the expense of an accident - I know this from personal experience.

  • If you have 4 wheel, please realize that you are not invincible! It helps, but you still need to slow down and drive cautiously. The majority of the cars that I saw in Truckee that were involved in accidents during the four years we lived there were SUV's! Hmmm....

  • Be aware that while most Truckee residents know how to drive in the snow from experience, Truckee is a winter resort destination, and there might be a lot of drivers on the road trying out their 4 wheel drive for the first time or driving in snow for the first time, so drive defensively!

  • Make sure your defroster works! Get a Winter Car Tune up and get your car in working order before the first snow. It is very cold to have to keep the windows rolled down to avoid fogging up and losing your visibility. I know about this too from experience - after my accident on black ice in Truckee during the 1996 flooding, I rented the only 4 wheel drive vehicle for two weeks that was available within a 200 mile radius. The defroster was marginal at best and I had to drive with the windows down for two weeks - Very chilly!

  • Allow extra time to get to where you are going - don't rush! Be late if necessary!

  • When you have to brake, do it gently, and don't stomp on the brake. If you start to slide, skid, or your wheels lock up, ease off of the brake.

I will add any additional Winter Driving Tips to the list as I think of them, or run into them in other resources.

Jeep Wrangler at Donner Lake in Truckee, CA

Winter Driving Tips
What to do if your front wheels skid:

  • Take your foot off the gas and shift into neutral, but don't try to steer right away.
  • As your wheels skid sideways, your car will slow down and you should start gaining some traction back. Once you have traction, steer in the direction that you want to go. Next, put the transmission in drive, or release your clutch, and accelerate gently.

Source of Info: National Safety Council, DMV, and

Winter Driving Tips
What to do if your back wheels skid:

  • Instantly take your foot off of the accelerator.
  • Steer in the direction that you want your front wheels to go. (ie if you are sliding right, steer right)
  • If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control. Slow and steady on the steering wheel, rather than a quick jerking motion.
  • With standard brakes, you need to pump them gently
  • With anti-lock brakes (ABS), you are not supposed to pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brake.
  • You should know which type of brakes that your car has, in order to know whether to pump your brakes or not. You don't want to be trying to figure it out, once you are skidding!

Source of Info: National Safety Council, DMV, and

Additional Winter Driving Tips and information that you need to know that will be covered in detail by the Truckee Travel Guide: (info coming soon)

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