Before you set off
- Ensure your car is ready for winter by performing the necessary checks. Check that your tyres, brakes and vehicle fluids are all in good order.
- Brush away any snow from the vehicle, particularly the windows. Don't forget to clear the roof too, if you leave snow on there and it could slide down your windscreen and dangerously impair your view of the road.
- Be sure to de-frost your windscreen, side windows are mirrors thoroughly, so that your all-round vision is as good as it can be. Use the heated rear window button to defrost the rear window, and switch it off when it's clear so as not to use fuel unnecessary.
- De-mist the windscreen by choosing the windscreen setting on the air vent controls, and if you've got air conditioning, switch it on. The gases in the air con system clear the windscreen and help to keep it clear while you're driving. Closing the vents that face you can also aid and speed the windscreen de-misting process.
- DO NOT turn on your wipers until the windscreen is fully defrosted - it could damage the blade or even the wiper motor if they are turned one while still frozen to the windscreen.
- Plan ahead. When making journeys in the winter, and in snowy conditions, it's advisable to stick to main roads that are more likely to have been gritted. Leave yourself extra time to complete your journey, say an extra 10 minutes, to ensure you're not driving quicker than you need to be.
While you're driving
- Be wary of fog. It's caused by invisible water vapour condensing in the air, forming water droplets that combine to produce thick mist that is more commonly known as fog. Visibility can be reduced dramatically in foggy weather, you may only be able to see up to 50m in front of you. This will result in slow moving traffic, so be careful on the roads and reduce your speed when it's foggy. You MUST turn on your rear fog lamp, and your front ones too if you have them.
- Keep your speed low.
- Try using 2nd gear to pull off, in order to minimise wheel spin.
- If you find yourself in a skid, don't slam on the brakes as this could make it worse. Try gently steering into the skid.
- Drive so that you don't have to rely on your brakes to come to a complete stop. This means doubling or even tripling your stopping distances
Driving in snow and ice
Of course, it's not recommended to ever drive in snow in ice, but if you find yourself doing just that, there are ways of minimising the risk of an accident.
- Leave extra time for your journey. You will be driving at slower speeds and it's likely that there will be plenty of traffic.
- Use the accelerator pedal very gently, and apply the gas in a smooth and controlled motion to avoid wheel spin. When going downhill, slow down on the approach, use a low gear and avoid using the brakes if you can - using them could cause you to skid uncontrollably.
- Leave a large gap between you and the car in front, much larger than the gap you would leave in normal conditions.
- On un-gritted roads, be careful when driving in the tracks left by other vehicles - they can often be more slippery than snow.
What to do if you get stuck
- Don't rev your engine and spin your wheels constantly - this will only succeed in deepening the rut you are in.
- Place a mat, rug or cat litter under the wheels of your car to give your tyres more traction.
- Move the car backwards and forwards in a rocking motion, using the highest gear possible.
- If all else fails - get someone to push!
- If you're really stuck, don't leave your car and call for help, preferably a breakdown or recovery service.