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Driving In Snow

26th October 2018

As winter approaches, now is the ideal time to ensure your vehicle is ready for the changes in weather. With the cold months bringing difficult driving conditions, breakdowns are set to rise significantly, so being prepared now can make all the difference later.

Take a look at our simple guide for driving in snow and prepare yourself for facing winter weather conditions on the road.

Prepare Yourself

Being winter ready means more than just prepping your vehicle for snow, ice and frozen temperatures, it means that you as a driver also need to be prepared for any conditions you may face.

We recommend that you follow these tips before ANY journey, despite the weather conditions:

  1. Plan your route, with at least two alternatives in case there are diversions in place.
  2. Ensure you have comfortable and suitable footwear on.
  3. Always allow extra time for any journey. We recommend at least fifteen minutes extra time to be allowed in normal conditions, this time can alter depending on the weather and time of journey.

During winter you should expect to take extra precautions before your journey, to ensure maximum safety for you and your passengers. We recommend the following extra preparation:

  1. When planning your journey, try to choose main roads, which are more likely to have been cleared of snow and gritted.
  2. If you are travelling in the morning, allow time to fully de-ice your vehicle. Never drive with limited or reduced vision.

Prepare Your Vehicle

Taking measures to prepare yourself before every journey should not add too much time onto your day, but can save you hours of time and be the difference between a safe and dangerous journey.

Preparing your vehicle is paramount before driving in snowy winter conditions as the harsh temperatures and unstable road surfaces can have a big impact on your safety on the road.

Before you even start your engine there are a number of checks that should be made to ensure your drive is the safest it can be.

Below is a list of vital checks for winter driving:

  1. Check your tyres - the tread must be at least 3mm for driving safely in snow. If you are unsure about how appropriate your tyres are for the snow conditions, you can consider purchasing winter tyres or all-season tyres, which are designed specifically for harsh winter conditions.
  2. Check your visibility, by ensuring that windows inside and out are clean before every journey. It is vital that grit, dirt, snow and ice are completely cleared from every window to ensure full vision at all times. Using air-con in your car will demist windows quicker and minimise condensation that is common during colder months.
  3. Antifreeze should be your best friend during winter. For a few pounds you can have a bottle in your vehicle at all times. Using a mixture of 50/50 anti-freeze and water in your engine will protect your engine and reduce the risk of breakdowns. Not every car is the same, so ensure you check with your manufacturer to find out which coolant can be used in your vehicle.
  4. Batteries can suffer during winter due to the extra demand placed upon them by use of lights, windscreen wipers and heating. You can take extra care of your electrics by ensuring these things are turned OFF before starting your engine, allowing your engine to run for a small while regularly to prevent it being left unused and becoming damaged.

Adapt Your Driving

Ensuring your car is suitable for snowy or treacherous weather is vital, however you must also considering adapting your driving approach to match the conditions on the roads.

During winter we recommend considering the following during driving to ensure you stay safe and put less pressure on your vehicle:

  1. Gentle manoeuvres are vital during snowy and icy weather. Even the most conscientious driver can struggle in severe weather, so taking your time and thinking ahead can make all the difference.
  2. Take your time driving! Brake times are increased during snowy and icy weather, with braking distance increasing by as much ten times. Ensuring you drive at a safe speed can help you avoid any incidents occurring.
  3. Giving space to the cars around you is vital during winter. With slippery road surfaces it can be all too easy for cars in front and behind to slip, skid and stall – so ensuring you give ample room will prevent you bumping into someone, or being bumped into.
  4. Apply brakes gently at all times. If the road surface is slippery braking harshly can cause serious accidents to happen. To improve your grip on the road you should brake gently and always ensure your car has been fully serviced before the cold weather sets in to ensure your brakes are fully functioning.

What to Do In Case Of an Emergency

With the best will in the world, even the most prepared motorists can get caught short during snow. Luckily there are measures you can take in order to be prepared for an emergency if one should occur.

  1. If you do find yourself stuck in heavy snow you should slowly straighten your steering wheel until all tyres are facing forwards, this should allow you to more easily clear the snow away from the tyres. By using a sack or rug in front of your driving wheels you can give something for your tyres to grip on to, so perhaps put an old rug in your boot for emergencies.
  2. Packing a winter emergency kit can ensure you have everything you need for occasions where you are stuck and may not be going anywhere anytime soon. Your emergency kit should include all of the following:

    • A fully charged mobile phone or charging facilities/power bank
    • Any personal medication you may need
    • Torch and batteries
    • Shovel
    • Ice scraper and de-icer
    • Waterproofs
    • A blanket
    • Hat, coat, gloves, scarf
    • Extra thick socks
    • A road atlas
    • Extra screen wash
    • Unperishable snacks

For further advice on driving in snow or preparing your vehicle for winter contact your local Merityre Specialists branch. Stay safe on the road this winter.