Even during warm weather, driving a stick shift can seem like a daunting task. If you're comfortable with a manual transmission, driving in the snow can still be a more difficult experience at first. The good news is, many stick shift aficionados think it's easier to navigate through troublesome weather using manual transmission, largely because of the added control the stick provides. Some car insurance companies even offer cheap car insurance to stick shift users because of the lower cost of repair and risk of theft. Here are our top tips to help you get home safely in the snow.
Downshift before braking
Jeanne Heida wrote in an article for Yahoo Voices about how downshifting can make it easier to stop in winter weather. By shifting into lower gears, you can progressively decrease speed by slowing the rotation of the tires. When you're approaching traffic or an intersection on an icy road, shift from third down into second, and then into first. By slowing the rotation of the tires, you're lowering the chances that your tires will slip, helping you to stay in control. Only brake when you're down to around 10 miles per hour.
Start in second
Another helpful tip is accelerating from second gear, according to Ben Barry with Car Magazine. When your mom or dad taught you to drive a stick, chances are he or she told you to only start from first - a recommendation that was likely backed up the first time you forgot and stalled out. With a little practice, though, you can get the hang of starting from second, which will make your wheels turn slower and with more force out of the gate. When you're stuck in snow or ice, this trick can be invaluable for getting you out.
Snowy or icy hills are a manual transmission car's worst nightmare. If you're already moving, chances are you won't have any trouble. But, if you have to stop and start on a serious incline, Heida warns, your stick shift might give you some real trouble. Manual cars can already slide backwards when they start on a hill from a standstill, and ice or snow makes this an even more serious concern. If you can avoid steep hills that require you to stop, do so, she suggests.
Use the snow
This last tip isn't just for stick shifters, but it does come in handy. If you're having trouble getting up a snowy hill, pull a little to the right - onto the snow that hasn't been pushed down by other cars. When snow gets compacted by cars, some of it melts, making the snow even more slippery. The snow on the right side of the road won't be as compacted, meaning that you can usually get a little bit more traction to help you get up that hill. The snow to your left might not be compacted either, but you don't want to pull into oncoming traffic.
Is it easier or harder to drive through snowy weather with a stick shift? The jury's still out. You get a little bit more control over your car, but without experience, you might be better off letting the car do the job. Either way, pay attention and stay safe. The best way to lower your general auto insurance is to avoid accidents at all costs, so be careful out there!