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Driving in winter: tips and road safety

Sometimes, it feels like the United Kingdom is plunged into a perpetual winter, and although we don’t see much of the sun at the best of times, our roads especially feel the effects of the colder months. 

Unpredictable, icy conditions can lead to accidents as well as an increase in breakdowns, so it definitely pays to prepare your car for winter. As well as investing in one of our winter travel kits or winter breakdown safety kits, there are some simple steps you can take to aid in tackling winter road conditions. 

Here are some tips for staying safe while driving in winter.

Winter tyres

One of the most important aspects to consider during winter travel is your vehicle’s tyres. They are the point of contact between your car and a potentially slippery, icy surface – so they need to be just right. 

We would always recommend driving on winter tyres in the colder months, or you could even invest in some all-season tyres that give you an excellent grip in all conditions, especially when driving on ice. 

It’s recommended that your tyres: 

  • Have at least 3mm of tread
  • Maintain a good grip on surfaces (don’t let any air out of your tyres to achieve more grip, it’s not safe)
  • Are at the correct pressure (you should be able to find this information in the vehicle’s user handbook) 

When driving in snow, only use snow chains when there’s enough to call for them, otherwise, you’ll wind up damaging the road surface.

To visit our dedicated tyre page for more advice and information, click here.

Car battery and electrics 

Many people have experienced that sinking feeling of waking up on a frosty morning to a car that refuses to start. The last thing that you want on a freezing cold day is to be stranded in the snow without transport, so it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on your car’s battery. 

The colder weather isn’t kind on your car’s battery, mainly down to the extra use of lights, wipers and, of course, heaters. We recommend following these winter safety tips concerning your battery and electrics: 

  • If the engine doesn’t start immediately, leave a gap of thirty seconds between trying again
  • Use the start in short bursts of five seconds
  • Ensure that electrics are turned off before starting the vehicle, e.g. lights and wipers

Lights and windscreen

Your lights will get a lot of use in the darker winter months, so it’s important to keep them working. 

Ice, sleet and snow will cause both your lights and windscreen to become dirty, so regular checks and cleaning are a key part of safely driving in winter. Here are a few tips regarding your vehicle’s lights and windows: 

  • Check around your vehicle with the lights on to ensure that all bulbs are working and the lenses are clean 
  • If your car has fog lights that you use in the correct conditions, don’t forget to turn them off when the weather improves 
  • Clean both the inside and outside of your windscreen regularly 
  • You could get fined for having a windscreen or rear window that is obscured by dirt or snow, so make sure they’re clear 
  • Make sure that you replace any worn or damaged wiper blades ASAP 
  • Don’t leave snow on your roof when clearing your lights and windows, it may fall off once you’re mobile and impair your view of the road 
  • If possible, use your vehicle’s air-con to demist windows quicker and reduce condensation
  • Add a suitable, labelled solution into your screenwash to prevent it freezing 

Of course, it always pays to have plenty of screenwash, antifreeze and a trusty scraper at the ready for when the temperature level lurks around zero. Thankfully, you can find all of these in the winter travel kits and winter breakdown safety kits we mentioned earlier. 

Tips for driving in the snow

Driving in snow presents a host of challenges, so you’ll need to take a slightly different approach and operate extra caution while out on the open roads in winter. Here are a few helpful tips to remember: 

  • Stopping distances can be up to ten times longer than on a dry road and you may encounter ice, so brake gently and gradually 
  • Brake, accelerate and turn smoothly, as turning the car harshly or putting your foot down can quickly lead to the vehicle spinning out of control 
  • Travelling in the snow takes longer, so leave more time for your journey
  • Vehicles burn through fuel quicker in winter, so make sure that you’re not caught short by always planning in a fuel stop of carrying spare fuel with you 
  • If the snow is particularly bad, try to avoid smaller, less populated roads that won’t be as clear and plan an alternate route
  • To avoid wheel spin in snowy conditions, set off in second gear and ease your foot off the clutch 
  • When driving uphill, leave plenty of room between your car and other vehicles, maintaining a safe, constant speed 
  • When driving downhill, enter a lower gear, slow down and try to avoid using the brakes – this can cause your wheels to lock and the car to slide out of control
  • If your vehicle does become stuck in the snow, straighten the wheels, clear the snow thoroughly and place a rug, blanket or similar in front of your wheels to gain traction (bear in mind whether the car is front-wheel or rear-wheel drive)

You should now be all set to brave the snow thanks to our trusty tips for driving in winter. Remember, it always pays to be prepared for any and every eventuality, so don’t forget to ready your car for the colder months with one of our breakdown and travel kits by clicking here

Stay warm and drive safe!