Driving in snow and ice is tricky at the best of times and fraught with inherent risks.It is always best to try and avoid driving in poor weather conditions, but sometime we need to venture out to get to work or perform essential tasks.
If you do need to go out on the roads in ice or snow, here are our top tips to master the using the roads in the bad weather.
Only drive if its is necessary
You will have heard it on the weather forecasts when the presenter advises only to drive if its necessary. It’s usually good advice, as if you don’t go out, you cannot come to any harm on the roads. Ultimately you need to ask yourself if your journey is really important? If so, is it urgent that you go out on the road – can you call someone and deal with it over the phone? Can you postpone it? You need weigh up the harm that could come to you if you don’t go against what could happen to you if you were unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident.
If you must go; prepare.
If you really must go out on the road, you need to think about your safety and preparing for if things don’t go to plan – like getting caught in traffic tailbacks, or getting stranded at the side of the road. If it is cold, you will need to be carrying extra layers of clothing and maybe a blanket for if you get stuck. It is also a good idea to have a bag of supplies in the car. This could include a fully charged mobile and a charger, an ice scraper, deicer, food and drink, a torch, a first aid kit or jump leads.
Check your route
Check your route before you leave to make sure you know where you are going. Listen to, check online or your Sat nav for traffic reports, to see if there are any road issues or traffic on your route or surrounding areas. Where possible, stick to major roads as they are likely to have been cleared or gritted, so you stand a better chance of getting to your destination.
Check your car
Make sure you have a full tank of fuel, so if you get stuck on your journey you can keep the engine running to keep warm. If you do get stuck, remember to get out of the car to check the exhaust – as if this were to become blocked by snow it could cause carbon monoxide to to build-up inside your car – which can be fatal.
Check the tyre tread depths on your car to make sure you have at least 3mm of tread on them,if not more, in order to cope with the slippery road conditions. It may be worth considering getting a set of winter tyres fitted if the conditions continue for a long period, as the improved grip gives better traction in cold weather.
You must also check your fluid levels – oil, water and screen-wash. Make sure there is an additive in the screen-wash to stop it freezing and splitting pipes. At K-Max we can help you prepare you car for the winter period by performing a service and checking all the levels.
Battery levels – this is the time of year when batteries are most likely to fail. In the winter we often do a lot of short journeys whilst using the lights, windscreen wipers, heater, heated screens and seats, as well as other commonly used items. This can quickly drain the battery, so it is important to give your car a ‘run-out’ on a longer journey to charge-up the battery again. In cold conditions a low battery might not have enough power to start your car.
Check your vision
Clear the ice and snow from all of your windows and mirror so that you have clear all round visibility. Remember to clear all of your lights and number plates, both front and rear to help your vision and others to see you on the road. Do not use hot water to clear as this can cause damage (cracking or deforming), use a scraper or de-icing fluid. This is a good time to check your wipers are not frozen to the screens. If they are and you turn them on, it can rip the blades off.
If your car is thick with snow – clear it off. It will not only make your car more visible, but it avoids snow falling off as you drive along, which can impair the vision of drivers behind you.
Check your headlights
Always perform regular checks on your lights to ensure you bulbs are all working properly. In adverse weather conditions where visibility is impaired it is always advisable to turn on your headlights. Make sure you check the lights are on, as so many cars have automatic or driving lights which can be misleading and give the appearance to the driver that the lights are on, with a visible glow and lights on the dashboard, when the front and rear lights are not actually turned on.
Remember to check the position of your headlights – look at the switch to make sure it is set to the dipped beam setting. This will improve your vision, and enable other drivers to see you in good time. Fog lights are not to be used unless the visibility is very poor. Rear high-intensity lights will dazzle other drivers, this is intensified if there spray and surface water. The Highway Code says that you should only use your fog lamps when the visibility drops below 100m.
Keep your distance
Stopping conditions increase in wet and icy conditions. It can take as much as 10 times as longer to stop on an icy road. Where possible, increase the distance between your car and the one that you are following. A good tip is to allow 20 seconds behind the car in front if it is icy, which allows you ample time to stop or take evasive action.
Driving on snow and ice requires a very different driving style. Your use of the controls; the steering, accelerator and brakes – should be as smooth, slow and progressive as possible. Avoid any sudden manoeuvres or abrupt changes that might unbalance the car, like sharp turns or heavy braking, as these can cause the tyres to lose what little grip they have on the road’s surface. Even at low speeds or before you have pulled away, this can cause the car to skid, wheel spin, or get stuck.
In a manual car, move off slowly, slipping the clutch gently and keeping the engine revs low. Lower revs mean the engine is turning more slowly and reduces the risk of wheelspin. Ensure you change gear early as you accelerate and late as you decelerate, so as to keep the revs to a minimum.
If you are driving an automatic or four-wheel-drive car, check to see whether it has a low-ratio mode. This is usually indicated by a snowflake symbol or an ‘L’ on a switch near to the gear lever. If it has one of these, you should use it and avoid using ‘sport’ mode.
We hope these tips have been of use to you. Stay safe.