Winter roads still get slippery with frosts, the wet can make winding, narrow roads treacherous, and a lack of familiarity with driving in the snow means that even a skiff of the white fluffy stuff can cause car chaos. So, here are ten driving tips for winter to avoid disaster.
Driving with a fogged up windscreen- or an icy one—seems ridiculous, but people do it. It’s incredibly dangerous to drive without being able to see, so always defrost your windscreen before embarking on your journey.
The easy way to defrost your car on a winter morning is to turn it on, put the heater on a low setting, and then go inside for five minutes and finish your cup of tea. If you’re in a rush, room temperature water (NEVER hot water, as it may cause the windscreen to crack) melts the ice which you can then scrape off using a plastic scraper or FlyBuys card.
In the interior, to remove fog, turn on the de-mister function, just start the fan blowing on cool and gradually turn it up to warm. Easy.
Do you break the two second rule?
We all know you are a fool if you break the two second following distance rule, but if the weather is bad, then you need to increase the following distance. A slippery road means that it takes longer for your car to slow down or respond to steering in an emergency. So, when it’s wet, icy, snowy or foggy, double the distance to four seconds (more is even better). Give yourself more time to react.
Black ice is an invisible threat
While a light touch of frost is white and easily visible on the road, black ice is when water freezes and is clear. And this is exactly what makes it so dangerous—you don’t know it’s there, it’s super smooth with no traction, and it turns a road into a skating rink.
If you hit black ice, don’t use your brake or accelerator as they will make the problem worse. You also shouldn’t turn into the skid, because when the road surface reappears and allows you traction again, you need to know which direction your wheels are pointing. So all you can do is continue steering in the same direction you were facing when you lost control.
When should you use chains?
In general if conditions require chains, there will likely be signs advising you to fit them. If you’ve never needed chains before, the time to fit them is when there’s a layer of ice and snow that provides a compacted surface that lets the chain dig in and provide traction.
You’ll need to drive slowly, between 30 and 50kmh, depending on your car and the chain manufacturer’s recommendations. However, chains on tarmac aren’t great, so when the snow and ice is gone, remove the chains.
Winter car check
A check for winter is about the same as a normal car maintenance. You’ll want to make sure water and windscreen fluid is topped up. Battery connections should be secure and free of corrosion. Make sure antifreeze is topped up.
Check windscreen wipers work well and replace/ repair any chips or cracks in the windscreen are repaired promptly, if water seeps in and then freezes, the crack will expand.
Check your tyre pressure is correct and that they have plenty of tread.
Being prepared is something simple, but if the unexpected happens you don’t want to be caught out. A basic winter survival kit in the car is a good idea, with a first aid kit, bottle of drinkable water, ice scraper, blankets, snacks, jumper leads, a torch and batteries, sunglasses and if you’re expecting to be driving in bad conditions, a shovel.
Also check that your car insurance is up to date and valid. In fact, it’s a good time to make sure you’re covered in the event of an accident.
When should you use fog lights?
You shouldn’t be mystified by fog lights. You should only use them when your visibility is highly affected. The police can actually ticket you for improper use of fog lights, so do be careful.
Up your skills
Things like knowing if your car is rear or front-wheel drive is important. There’s no point putting chains on the front wheels of a rear-wheel-drive vehicle. Similarly, many SUV’s look like they are 4WD but are not- so understanding how your car works is important.
Be gentle when you’re driving in wintry conditions and be light on braking and acceleration. Even if your car has ABS braking, knowing how to drive with caution will make you a better driver.
And finally, relax. Take a deep breath and be patient when driving on slippery roads. If you’re nervous, let someone else drive if possible.