Winter is coming, and it may bring ice and snow. If you’re new to driving, you may have never driven in winter conditions before. But even if you’re an experienced driver, driving in snow and ice can still be a challenge, and a sudden freeze or an unexpected snowfall can still take you by surprise.
So this is your essential guide to driving in ice and snow. We’ll cover some general tips for staying safe on the roads, before outlining some vital things you can do to ensure your vehicle’s ready for winter.
General Tips for Driving in Snow and Ice
Here are some general things to keep in mind when driving in snow and ice:
- Make sure you remove all the snow from your vehicle before you set off. Don’t just clear the snow from your windscreen. Clear it from your roof too, or it could slide down and obstruct your view while you’re driving.
- Plan your routes carefully. If the weather’s really bad, you should avoid travelling entirely. But if you really need to get somewhere, allow extra time for your journey, and try and stick to major roads. These will have better lighting, and they’re more likely to have been gritted.
- Consider getting some winter tyres. They’ll offer extra grip, better handling and a reduced stopping distance on icy roads.
- Drive without music or the radio. A tell-tale sign that you’re driving on ice is that your tyres stop making a noise on the road. You need to take extra care when driving on ice, so you need to be able to hear!
Starting and Stopping in Snow and Ice
You might have difficulty starting your car or van in the winter. If you’re having trouble, turn off anything that might be putting a strain on your battery before trying to start the engine – such as the lights, the heating, and the wipers. Use your ignition in short bursts of five seconds. And if you need to keep trying, leave 30 seconds between your attempts.
You might get some wheel spin when you first try to drive away. You can avoid this by pulling away in second gear while gently easing your foot off the clutch.
When it comes to braking and stopping on ice and snow, remember the following:
- Slow down and take it easy, as stopping distances can be up to 10 times longer on snow and ice.
- To avoid slipping, try not to suddenly jerk the wheel. Instead, use long and gentle manoeuvres to keep things steady and to stay in control.
- Try to avoid having to change gears when driving uphill by keeping a constant speed, and by choosing the most appropriate gear in advance.
- And when driving downhill, you need to try and avoid braking, as this can cause slipping. So reduce your speed before you reach the hill and stick to a low gear.
- If you start to skid, stay calm. Don’t immediately slam on the brakes, and don’t accelerate. Instead, press down on the clutch and turn your steering wheel into the direction of the skid. This should straighten your vehicle, so then you’ll just have to steer along the road until you’re able to regain control.
Make Sure Your Car or Van is Ready for Winter
First, make sure all of your lights are in full working order. Keep some replacement bulbs in your car, just in case. Check your battery levels, and also your levels of oil, antifreeze, and screen wash.
Check your tyres. Above we suggested getting winter tyres. But in any case, check your tread depth, and look for any signs of wear and damage.
Pack a winter kit for your car:
- A shovel – If you get trapped in the snow, clearing the area around your cars tyres can help you get moving again.
- De-Icer and Scraper – For your car’s windscreen. Your view needs to be clear before you set off.
- Essentials – Think of what you’d need if you broke down and had to await rescue: A blanket to keep you warm, and maybe some snacks to keep you going.
- Breakdown Information – Would you know who to call if you did break down?
Help and Support When You Need it Most
You’re more likely to be involved in an accident in the winter than you are in the warmer months. Comprehensive car insurance will cover you in the event of accidents, and optional emergency assistance will give you peace of mind that help will be on the way in the event of a breakdown.
At Insure 2 Drive, we offer comprehensive car and van insurance at an affordable price, with optional emergency assistance cover. Head here for more information and to get a free quote.