When the first bit of frost hits our cars and the roads on those cold, dark mornings, you may have had to scrape away at your windscreen or crack out the de-icer spray before your commute to work. But, when the roads become dangerous and slippery from a layer of ice and possibly even snow, it’s important to stay safe, which is why we’ve compiled some tips on how to reach your destination in one piece this winter.
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How Do Winter Conditions Affect Your Driving?
When the weather turns nasty and snow & ice start to build up on our roads, how can you adapt your driving to ensure you get from A to B in one piece? Here’s how:
Give Yourself More Time
Clearing foggy windows and removing ice from your windscreen is sure to set you back a few minutes, but rather than rushing and making up for lost time we recommend you leave the house earlier instead. To help with condensation or foggy windows inside the car you could use dehumidifier tubs or bags which will absorb moisture, and if you have air conditioning, be sure to use it to help clear windows faster.
Road rage is never acceptable and other motorists will also drive at a slower pace than normal in icy conditions, and rightly so, which is why you need to approach wintry conditions on your journeys with patience.
Check Your Screenwash
There might be plenty of water, frozen or otherwise, on the ground, but you should also check your windscreen wash level and top it up if it’s not already full. If you do need to buy some, ensure it’s formulated to remain in liquid form in lower temperatures relative to the area you live in. For example; in England you can get away with -5°C or -10°C however, in other places you may find that you need something stronger. The good news is that you can find screenwash rated as low as -30°C!
It’s important to keep your windscreen clean in the winter partly because of the lower position of the sun in the sky. As all that dirty, slushy water sprays from the road to your windows, it’ll dry and leave nasty streaks and blotches that, when caught in the blinding sunlight, can make your windscreen become almost opaque. The last thing you want to do in this situation is flick on your wipers, only to find that you’re out of washer fluid, because all you’ll end up doing is smearing that dirt and making things worse!
Ensure All Snow & Ice Has Been Removed From Your Windows
Beginning your journey when you’ve still got snow or ice covering your windows should be avoided for a number of reasons, no matter how much of a rush you are in. Not only is it incredibly dangerous due to your massively reduced visibility, but there’s also the possibility that lumps of snow might slide off your car in transit and cause damage to anybody driving behind you.
Furthermore, if the police were to come across you driving with snow and ice still covering your vehicle’s roof and windows, you will almost certainly suffer some consequences, likely in the form of a fine or potentially even points added to your licence. The dangers of rushing off your driveway without properly prepping your car for the journey might seem negligible, but actually, they’re very serious.
Only Make Essential Journeys & Consider Alternative Travel
British people love to talk about the weather and winter is no exception. It’s fairly common knowledge around the world that we don’t tend to take the change of weather so well, which is why we recommend that once a blanket of snow covers the ground you should only drive if it is necessary. Most drivers just aren’t ready for sudden changes in weather, nor are their cars equipped for it. This means that a normal driving style could result in an unwanted dose of understeer, or oversteer, and a repair bill or written off crash damaged car to accompany that. But, if you’re not driving then you won’t have to face any of these problems – stay inside with a nice warm brew instead!
How To Drive In Wintry Conditions
Ice and snow can be particularly dangerous to drive in, particularly in a country like the UK where we’re not especially well equipped to manage with the conditions that we might face. We’ve put together a brief explanation of how you can tackle these types of weather:
Driving On Winter Roads
Slow down and do everything in a smoother fashion. Steering, braking and accelerating should be executed in a more controlled manner. Do not make any sudden turns or use the accelerator erratically as these actions could increase your chances of entering a skid. Driving in a higher gear means you will be using lower revs which can help to prevent wheel spin, and you should always give yourself more room between the car in front of you in any poor weather condition, whether that’s a full-on blizzard or even regular rainfall!
Make Sure Your Car Is Visible
You can use your headlights during the day to make yourself more visible to other drivers. A lot of cars have DRLs (daytime running lights) which are made for this purpose, however you may need to make sure they are set to come on. If your car isn’t fitted with these, use your normal dipped beam headlights that you usually use during the night.
What To Remember When Driving In Ice
Driving in icy conditions requires your full attention because patches of ice aren’t always visible. Black ice can be hidden on roads causing you to veer off course or skid. To ensure that you don’t spin out of control when hitting a patch of ice, make sure that you do not make any sudden movements such as accelerating or braking hard. Instead you should use slow, progressive movements as much as you can. If you do happen to find yourself on a patch of ice you should avoid using the brake and instead you should ease off the accelerator to enable the vehicle to drop the speed itself.
What To Remember When Driving In Snow
Snow is great fun when you have a hill and a sledge, but when it comes to driving in it, it doesn’t just lack the fun element, it’s also potentially quite dangerous. Once a significant snow blanket has covered the roads, lane markings are harder to identify, grip lessens and the texture can change from well-trodden snow mush to ice – which becomes even more dangerous, especially if it’s hidden beneath the snow.
It’s worth changing your tyres to winter tyres or adding snow chains when the conditions change as they are specially suited to these conditions and help provide more traction. In addition to this you should make sure you are wearing the appropriate clothing for driving, as whilst snow boots are great for being outside in snowy conditions, they are not suited for driving as the tread depth is so deep it makes feeling the brake accurately incredibly difficult. It’s also advisable to keep a pair of sunglasses in the glove-box as when there’s a significant covering of snow and the sun is out you could develop snow-blindness – a temporary condition (otherwise known as photokeratitis) that occurs when your eyes – more specifically, your cornea, has been overexposed to the sun’s UV rays. Photokeratitis can happen any time and not just in snowy conditions however, it’s more likely to happen when it is snowy because snow reflects up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays.
What To Do If Your Car Skids
When you hit a patch of ice or compacted snow you may start to skid. When this happens, our brains our wired to instinctively hit the brakes – exactly the thing you don’t want to do as this can extend the skid or spin the car! Instead, remain calm and take your foot off the accelerator while still in gear and allow the car to slow itself down. Smoothly and carefully steering left and right can also help to create more grip and slow you down.
How Winter Affects Stopping Distances
Regardless of whether you are driving in ice or snow, one thing’s for sure; you should always increase the distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you. Stopping distance is made up of two elements; Thinking Distance – The distance between spotting the hazard and actioning the braking response. Stopping Distance – The distance travelled between the moment you hit the brake and when the vehicle comes to a complete stop.
What To Keep In Your Car In Winter
There are many essential items that you should keep in your car in the winter, just in case you end up needing them. After all, it’s better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them. They include:
- Food & drink
- Warning triangle
- Hi-vis & warm clothing, plus a blanket
- Phone charger
- First aid kit
- Ice scraper
- Tow rope
- Jump leads
For a more in-depth explanation of why these items are winter essentials, check out our guide on prepping your vehicle for the colder season.
What To Do If You Break Down In Wintry Condition?
If you break down in the snow, ice, or other harsh winter conditions, the first thing you should do is get the car off the road if possible, and then get out of it. This is especially important if you’re on a motorway, and when the warm, hi-vis clothing from your emergency pack will come in handy.
Next, you should call your breakdown recovery service or, if you’ve broken down in an area that puts you in immediate danger, call 999 instead.
If you don’t think your car can survive one more harsh winter, upgrade to something more reliable before the cold sets in. Scrap Car Comparison will track down the best offers for your vehicle using our nationwide network of fully-registered Authorised Treatment Facilities that are operated by scrap and salvage experts. We even include the collection of your car at no extra cost, so give us a call on 03333 44 99 50 or use our scrap car price calculator to get a quote for your vehicle now.