Autotrader Tips For Driving in Snow and Ice

Fri, 08 Jan 2010

1. Get equipped

Carrying a few extra items in your car could be helpful in the event of a breakdown. Here are ten essential items:

• Scraper and de-icer
• Warning triangle
• First aid kit
• Reflective clothing (jackets, armbands and stickers)
• Boots
• Jump leads
• Food and a warm flask of water
• Mobile phone with breakdown firm contact details
• Tow rope and shovel
• Blanket


2. Check your car

1. Check the water tank under your car’s bonnet once a week or before long journeys. If the level is below the minimum and maximum marks on the coolant reservoir, it’s too low.

2. Use a rag to remove the cap if hot, and take care not to spill any coolant – it can damage your skin and your car’s paintwork.
3. Refill with a 50/50 mixture of water and antifreeze – this helps prevent your car’s engine block cracking due to freezing.
4. Anti-freeze testers indicate how much the car temperature can fall before the water will freeze.
5. Check your tyres’ tread depth. The legal requirement is 1.6mm, but at least 3mm will provide better grip in snowy conditions.
6. Make sure the tyres are at the correct preessure, as found in your vehicle handbook.
7. Check for any damage or foreign objects stuck in the tyres.


3. De-ice your windows

Driving with an unclear windscreen could result in a fine of up to £1,000 for restricted vision, so follow these tips to make sure your car is fit to drive:

1. Switch on the engine and turn your heaters up gradually to de-mist the windows.
2. If you have air-conditioning, switch it on (most cars will do this automatically when you turn on the defroster).
3. Brush snow off the windscreen, mirrors and windows.
4. Gently lift the windscreen wipers off the glass and replace to ensure they’re not stuck.
5. Spray de-icer onto the windscreen.
6. Use a scraper to remove frost and ice from the windscreen

Stay near your car when de-icing. Lock your doors, switch the engine off and put the handbrake on. Cars left running and unlocked are more exposed to theft.

Avoid using hot water to de-ice your car – this can refreeze or shatter the glass.


4. Drive safely in snow and ice

1. Check for signs of ice before driving – most modern cars have ice warning lights and temperature gauges. Anything below three degrees centigrade means ice is likely.
2. If conditions are particularly bad, ask yourself whether you need to travel.
3. Stopping distances are ten times longer in snow, so keep manoeuvres gentle. Try and keep to major roads rather than smaller, quiet roads.
4. If your tyres suddenly become quiet, this could be a sign you’re driving on ice, so take great care and slow down.
5. Look out for salt spreaders and snow ploughs. Both flash amber beacons and will drive at less than 40mph. Avoid overtaking unless it’s safe to do so – the grit can chip your car’s paintwork.
6. Avoid revving the engine in thick snow – this could cause the wheels to dig deeper into the snow.
7. Put the car into its highest gear and lightly manoeuvre the car forwards and backwards to slowly creep out of the snow.


5. Avoiding skidding

Skidding is often caused by a combination of poor weather conditions and speeding. To avoid it, make sure you:

• Leave plenty of room between you and the car in front
• Drive slowly and carefully
• Brake steadily before approaching a corner, and well in advance
• Avoid over-steering and accelerating suddenly mid-turn

If your vehicle loses grip while turning, depress the clutch and turn the steering wheel into the direction of the skid. Avoid braking suddenly – this can lock the wheels and prolong the skid.

Some new cars feature ESP which can counter the drivers efforts to regain control. So either leave the ESP off or leave the job of controlling the skid entirely to the ESP.

safety aids which can multiply the effect of a skid on ice. ESP is best switched off when driving on ice.


What to do if you get caught in a snowdrift

If you get completely stuck in snow, remain in the car and call for help, unless help is visible within 100 yards. It’s a good idea to tie something brightly coloured to your aerial.

In deep snow, avoid pushing a car or shovelling snow. 


What to do if you get stuck on ice

Try to drive gently in a higher gear to avoid wheelspin, and avoid harsh braking and acceleration. If you start to skid, gently ease off the accelerator and avoid braking.

If braking is necessary, pump the brakes - don't slam them hard. Try to stop in a safe place and call for help.


See: Autotrader


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