Black Ice: Everything You Need to Know

The only way to prepare for black ice is by increasing your knowledge about what it is and the danger … Continued

The only way to prepare for black ice is by increasing your knowledge about what it is and the danger it creates. Know thy enemy, as it were. The more you learn, the better chance you have to safely handle your encounters with the gnarly stuff.

Unlike snow, oil, or other road obstacles, black ice is typically quite difficult to identify from a distance, and thus, it’s nearly impossible to avoid it. You’ll most likely know you’re on black ice when you’re on top of it and your wheels start to spin and the car slides.

The prospect of hitting black ice can sound terrifying, but Car Bibles has the remedy for all of the worry warts out there. Follow along as we teach you what black ice is and how to manage it. Let’s get started.

What Is Black Ice?

To be completely clear, black ice is not black. Black ice is a see-through sheet of ice that has thinly formed over the pavement, which is typically black. So, it’s ice that appears to be black, or whatever color the pavement beneath the ice is. Due to its transparent nature, black ice looks like a wet spot or like nothing at all!

How Do You Identify Black Ice?

The problem with black ice is that it’s virtually invisible until you’re right on top of it, slipping and sliding around. Not only is it difficult to see on the road, it sometimes hides underneath a light snow covering.

Black Ice: Everything You Need to Know

What Causes Black Ice?

A minuscule layer of freezing water creates black ice. Black ice can occur any time the pavement becomes wet and the temperature later drops. This occurs most often when the snow melts during the day and refreezes at night.

Where Is Black Ice Most Commonly Found?

Black Ice can occur anywhere, including the middle of a highway, but the most common spots are shaded areas or elevated roads. Shaded areas can quickly chill down to freezing temps, while elevated roads allow air to flow underneath, so warmth dissipates quickly.

What Should You Do If You Hit Black Ice?

Gently release the throttle, maintain your steering line, and then nothing. Seriously. When a vehicle is on top of an ice patch, it has virtually zero grip, so inputs will do virtually nothing. You also won’t know when the black ice starts or ends, so changing your steering or throttle inputs could actually make things worse if your tires find grip at an odd angle. Furthermore, braking could shift your vehicle’s weight in the wrong direction.

How Fast Should You Drive On Black Ice?

If you have enough time to think about how fast you’re going to drive on the incoming black ice, you should probably just avoid that black ice.

How Do You Brake On Black Ice?

You don’t. Don’t do it. If you are aware that conditions are questionable, reduce your speed to lessen the chance of an accident.

Winter Driving Safety Tips

You might not know when you’re going to hit black ice, but you can generally shift your driving techniques and preparation during winter driving amidst snow, slush, ice, and polar vortex gremlins. Use these tips to protect yourself from precarious situations.

  • Look Where You’re Going: Don’t fiddle around with your phone or infotainment units while driving on slippery roads. All it takes is one surprise to catch you off guard, and your car can’t function properly when it doesn’t have traction.
  • Slow Down: The slower you’re going, the higher your chances are of stopping without hitting anything.
  • Space Yourself: Again, caution is the key to enduring winter without any bumper repair bills. Extend your normal distance between your car and the car in front of you. Additionally, try not to stomp on the brakes or make sudden stops. If somebody behind you is following too closely, they could slide right into you due to the lack of traction.
  • Try Not To Overreact: Sudden movements are the enemy when driving on surfaces with low traction. Slowly depress the brakes and gas pedal and carefully change steering directions.

Sources:

  1. Black Ice – Wikipedia
  2. Black Ice – How Stuff Works

 

Tony Markovich

Tony MarkovichTony has a thing for pop-up headlights. His first car was a $3,000 1996 Saturn SC2 Coupe, and his current project is a 1970 Opel GT junker. When he's not daydreaming about the Cadillac Sixteen, he's watching the Chicago Bulls go undefeated on TNT. Contact the author here.