We all know how a car can be prepared for use in inclement weather conditions. Car tyres can be checked, maintained, enhanced or replaced , as appropriate. Much the same goes for consumables including bulbs, screen wash, windscreen wipers and so on. However, even the best prepared vehicle can come unstuck through poor driving. Here are some salient points about driving in dreadful conditions…
Rain and sleet can rob you of vision and make off with much of your car tyres’ grip. You can counter this in two ways. As regards vision, the tactic is simple – drive only as fast as conditions permit. If it’s teeming down and spray is lashing against your windscreen, just slow down.
As regards the degree of grip lost to rain by your car tyres, the solution is once again perfectly simple. Your stopping distance will increase on wet roads. So, you need to leave more space between your car and the car/van/lorry in front.
Unless standing water is rife, the amount of grip your car tyres have for cornering should be adequate. Slow down if you encounter standing water. At best it’ll tug your steering about; at worst your tyres will aquaplane. Riding on the surface of the water equals no grip.
Fog has no effect on the amount of grip your car tyres give but it has a marked effect on how far you can see. ‘Drive as fast as you can see, and no faster’ is sound advice but there are tricks that sort out the safe drivers from the statistics.
Fog can be unpredictable to say the least. Remember that just because you can see half a mile ahead in mist doesn’t mean that visibility can’t plummet in a sudden, thicker fog bank. If you find yourself hurtling towards the unforgiving tail of a lorry at terminal velocity, the best car tyres in the world won’t help. You’re driving far too fast for the conditions.
Don’t be caught out on the motorway, as once again, impeccable tyres won’t help. Big lorries punch a nice big holes in thick fog. You find this out when you pull out of a lorry’s slipstream to overtake. In what might appear to be a clear lane, you could be in deep trouble in a second. Use your windscreen wipers and washers regularly – fog is water vapour; it and grime build up surprisingly quickly. And use your fog lights, especially those at the rear.
Snow and Ice
‘Softly, softly catchee monkey’ is an old proverb, which happens to fit the best approach to driving on snow and ice. Getting the best from your car tyres on snow and ice demands patience and finesse, not to mention a lot of forethought.
Of course, we have helping hands nowadays. ABS means that even though you can skid through steering, you can also brake while skidding. Under less extreme circumstances, you might find you car’s behaviour hasn’t a great deal to do with your inputs at the steering wheel and pedals. Once again, it’s a matter of going too fast for the conditions.
What to do when your tyres’ grip is compromised? It’s wise to do nothing with the brakes and throttle. Use your steering instead. Say your car is ploughing straight on. It’s understeering and you can stop this by straightening the wheel until the grip comes back. Should the car’s tail end go wandering off, you’re in oversteer. Turn the steering in the direction the tail is heading. You’ll save it then but you may have to counter-steer in the opposite direction.
In bad conditions, ‘caution’ is your watchword. Grip and/or visibility will be compromised to some extent by bad weather. Should the visibility and grip be terrible, put your feet up by the fire. Then you will live to drive another day.