How not to drive in snow or ice
Get ready for the arrival of winter
If the snow’s falling or ice is forming, then here’s how to avoid common mistakes that could cost you dear…
4X4 complacency: Your four-wheel-drive transmission might be driving you forward at an impressive rate of knots, but it’s worth remembering you still have to stop just like anyone else. Happening on a mere two-wheel-drive mortal floundering in the slush could easily end in dented pride, or worse… Keep your speed down and don’t get seduced into thinking that delivering power to all four wheels makes you invincible.
Don’t wait until it’s too late: We might be having a mild winter so far, but that doesn’t mean it’ll last. Waiting until the weather deteriorates before giving your vehicle a full winter make-over won’t end well. The most dangerous time is usually the first day of poor weather as drivers realise they’re totally unprepared. Check your vehicle now for the following
Tyres: Ensure you have plentiful and equal amounts of tread on your tyres
Anti-freeze: Check that your anti-freeze is topped up
Windscreen wash: Refill your windscreen washer bottle (including a windscreen cleaning solution). The wash will stop it from freezing and leaving you blind.
Lights: Test all your lights
Battery: Check the condition of your battery – KwikFit will do this for free. Details here
Heater: Check your blower, heater and demister all work efficiently
Pull back: In the event of heavy snow, many people think that poor visibility and treacherous road conditions can be countered by remaining close to the vehicle in front. This will, in fact, cut reaction times, reduce vision and increase the likelihood of you having an accident or getting stuck. Give yourself at least six seconds gap from the vehicle in front.
No slamming: If your tyres start to slip, stamping on the middle pedal harder won’t increase your ability to stop and will simply prolong your skid as you head straight to the scene of the impending accident. Briefly remove your foot from the brake and let the tyres regain traction before re-applying pressure. If time, stay calm and attempt to steer round the hazard.
No slamming 2 – aquaplaning: Effectively, this is where your car hits a flooded piece of road and is left floating on a layer of water, leaving you with no steering control. If you find yourself heading for a large area of standing water, you should prepare to aquaplane. Do not slam on your brakes – ease off the accelerator and de-clutch the car if it’s a manual or gently feather the throttle for automatics. Keep the car as straight as possible as your enter the water – your tyres will need to be straight when they reach the other side and regain grip. Aquaplaning is caused by going too fast for the road conditions, so reducing your speed is the best way to prevent it occurring.
Gears and revs: Driving in snow requires you to understand your car and how traction is delivered. We’ll leave the physics to boffins in their white coats, but putting your car in first gear and flooring the throttle will merely bury your (2wd) wheels in the snow and halt any forward progress. Always try to pull away in second gear, which will aid traction while also forcing you to keep the speed low.