Drivin' On Thin Ice

How do you get to school? Do you drive, take the city bus, walk, or fly? As the temperatures in Montana dip below freezing and the snow begins to fall, getting to Tech can become a bit of a challenge. Unfortunately it’s also the time of year where the most accidents can occur. Ever been the student who had to reverse down the Park Street hill because of icy roads? The good news is that there are winter and even fuel saving tips that can help you ‘break the ice’ on your way to school. 

One myth about winter driving is that you have to let your car warm up for long periods of time. The truth is that letting your car idle a while before heading to school will hurt your wallet and the air you breathe more than it will benefit your car. According to the Consumer Energy Center of the California Department of Energy the best way to warm up your car is to drive it. And as a rule of thumb, they recommend letting your car warm up for 30secs-1min. If you are driving an older model car, allow 1-2 minutes to warm up as a rule of thumb. Any more time given to letting it warm up they say is wasted energy. Remember that idling gets you 0 miles to the gallon of gasoline, and can burn up to a gallon of gasoline for every hour spent idle! Idling has also been linked to increases in asthma, allergies, heart and lung disease and cancer, and not to mention increased carbon emissions!

According to Motor Trend tires “naturally lose about 1 psi of air pressure each month and they also lose 1 psi for every ten-degree drop in air temperature”.  In winter, this means that it is extremely crucial to check your tire pressure weekly or even daily. Motor Trend stresses that vehicles with under inflated tires don’t handle as well, and this is a big safety concern, especially on icy roads. Under inflated tires also decrease the fuel economy of your car, so be sure to keep an eye on tire pressure during the winter. 

The Montana Department of transportation offers a winter checklist for winter car maintenance. The checklist includes items such as: allowing extra driving time to get to your destination, keeping your vehicle free of snow and ice, taking your speed down when it’s hard to see, keeping a safe distance between other vehicles, looking for ice on bridges, and keeping tires in good condition or purchasing snow tires.

Winter also means that it’s time to update or start your emergency car kit! The Montana Department of Transportation recommends several emergency items that you should keep in your car should the blizzard of the century come barreling down. Items include:

1.    Flashlight with extra batteries
2.    First aid kit
3.    Blankets
4.    Extra coats, hats, gloves, and boots
5.    Whistle and flares to signal for help
6.    Basic tool kit, knife, shovel, small axe
7.    Garbage bags, towels, and hand sanitizer
8.    Water
9.    Tow chains, straps, cat litter for traction
10.  Spare tire
11.   Jumper cables 
12.  Starter fluid, extra oil, and deicer
13.  Non-perishable high energy food for 3 days
14.  Local maps 
15.  Matches, small paper and wood kindling 


  1. Winterizing our cars should really become one of our priorities now that the winter season is with us. Also, I would like to share that thoroughly washing and waxing our cars can prevent exterior damage during cold weather. With this extra protection, we can avoid post-winter car repair expenses.

    Michelina Douglass

  2. Driving in winter is definitely different from ordinary days. So, it is important that you prep your car for this season. Aside from the things given above, it would be best to bring some car tools in case of emergency.