The Mazda 3 is (in our opinion) the best handling car in the compact segment but when it comes time for winter we’ve noticed the stock tires that come with the Mazda 3 aren’t exactly up for the task of snow/ice duty. Of course you could always buy dedicated winter tires but if you find yourself driving your Mazda 3 in the midst of a winter storm and you haven’t swapped tires yet here are some tips on how to get to your destination safely.
1. Start stopping at least 100 feet before you need to stop. – Mixed winter weather can create ice-like conditions on the road so when you need to stop you should have your blinker on 200 feet before you need to turn and be close to stopping completely by the time you turn. You don’t want to stop completely if you can avoid it because you’re going to have trouble gaining traction again if you do but slowly easing your way into the turn is best.
2. If traction control is activated be ready to control the wheel once you let off the gas. – The traction control/DSC system in the Mazda 3 is pretty lenient when it comes to accelerating while the traction control system is active. If you’re driving in poor conditions the traction control system is going to do everything it can to keep you going in a straight line even if your wheels are moving all around.
When accelerating with the traction control system you will experience a wheel jerk the moment you let off the gas pedal because the DSC is snapping you back in place. Hold the wheel firmly and be prepared for the snap back.
3. Stay two to three car lengths behind the car in front of you. – The best way to get squirrelly when driving is to follow too close to the driver ahead of you and then need to slam on your brakes because the leading car decides to turn in 50 feet. Keep a safe distance and you should have plenty of space to slide around a bit and come to a stop without hitting the driver in front of you.
4. Don’t try to stop the car from sliding a little bit. - Low traction conditions are only made worse if you try to stop the car from sliding around a little bit because you’ll be fighting the traction control system for control and end up overcorrecting. Let your Mazda 3 have some room to move around, let the traction control guide you and drive slowly.
5. Tell Mom you’ll call her back. – This actually applies to talking to anyone on the phone while you’re driving but parents and significant others are a special case. Don’t talk to Mom while you’re driving in inclement weather because she’ll turn into Patty Panic and kill your driving confidence. Driving in bad weather is as much about confidence as it is about skill so save the chit chat for when you are out of your car.
6. Stick to the main roads. – When it comes to driving in snow and ice there are a lot of seemingly good ideas that don’t turn out so well after you can’t reverse them. Take for example driving down back roads during a snow storm. Stay away from any road that is not a main thoroughfare until the day after the storm. Plow trucks are instructed to keep the main roads clear first and worry about the secondary roads later.
7. Use the brakes lightly. – This should go without saying but slamming on your brakes in tractionless conditions is going to turn your Mazda 3 into a pinball. If you need to slow down then do so lightly and with plenty of room in front of you.
8. Don’t brake when you are going uphill, just go for it. - One experience I had while driving my Mazda 3 up a moderately steep hill was an Acura TL driver who wimped out because their car was sliding around as they were going uphill and they stopped. On the hill. Don’t ever brake going uphill in low traction weather (unless there is an emergency situation in front of you) because you won’t be able to gain enough speed from where you stopped to make it up the hill. Use the gas (don’t floor it) and work your way to the top. Trust me, it works.
9. Adjust your headlights so you aren’t blinding yourself with falling snow. - One handy feature of the Mazda 3 is its adjustable headlights. There are four settings from 0 – 3 that will allow you to adjust your headlights downward to illuminate more of the road. If your headlights are showing you more snow than road then that’s your cue to adjust.
10. Use your hazard lights to ward off four wheel drive champions. - Have you ever driven in crappy weather and noticed all the four wheel drive champions who are moving at 60 mph because they think their 4WD/AWD setup is invincible? Yeah, us too.
Put on your hazard lights to tell drivers behind you that you aren’t doing the speed limit. Hazard lights are your car’s way of saying it’s okay to pass. You will be much safer if you let the big rigs pass you rather than rear ending you because they didn’t realize 4WD doesn’t equal instant stop.
There are no driving techniques that will replace good winter tires or the safest option: not driving at all. Even so, utilizing these techniques you can improve your chances of not wrecking during the worst of weather conditions.
Special thanks to Tyym for the beautiful winter photo above!