Prepare your tyres
- Don’t underestimate the importance of having decent tyres on slippery roads, 46% of winter car accidents are caused by skidding.
- Consider winter tyres as they offer exceptional grip on the roads
- If winter tyres aren’t an option then make sure you’ve got enough tread depth – although 1.6mm is the legal minimum, it’s recommended that you have 3mm
- Also check your tyre pressure. Using the correct pressure will help give you added control on the road
- If you’re driving in Europe during winter, then check whether you need winter tyres – you’ll need them by law in some countries
Prepare your car
- Make sure you use a decent screen wash that’ll still be liquid at -35°
- Never use hot or boiling water to de-ice your car, it could crack your screen, use de-icer or lukewarm water instead
- Clear off any snow from the roof because the last thing you want is an avalanche down your windscreen on the motorway
Driving in snow and ice
- Try pulling away in second gear as this can minimise wheel spin, then accelerate gently and change up gears as soon as you can
- If you do feel your wheels spinning, then ease off the accelerator, once you feel the wheels slow down, you can gently accelerate again
- Driving a 4x4 in snow is one thing, they’ll have more traction so feel more secure. But driving one on ice is almost the same as driving a regular two-wheel drive, the only difference is that a 4x4 is heavier and is more likely to skid – imagine an elephant trying to ice skate – that’s your 4x4.
- Although it sounds counter-intuitive, if your car does skid, it’s recommended to steer into the direction of the skidding. So, if your car skids right, steer to the right.
- You’ll need up to ten times the usual gap between you and the car in front – be prepared for more if your car is heavier, such as if you have a four-wheel drive.
Time to go all SAS survival corps and get yourself winter ready, keep your car prepped with:
- Phone charger
- Snow shovel
- High-vis jacket
- Jump leads
- Petrol can
- A decent torch
- Non-perishable food like crackers or nuts, because no-one wants a mangy 4-week-old banana stinking out the car, ensure you have water to drink too
- Extra clothing, gloves and some blankets just in case you have to have an impromptu sleep over in your car
Check through your car insurance policy documents for emergency contact details and keep them to hand in case you need to make a claim or call your breakdown provider.
Of course, if the weather’s really bad, the advice is to only travel if it’s absolutely essential – but the fact is, life still goes on and most of us will inevitably need to get from A to B at some point. This is why it’s important to take care and be prepared on icy roads, winter is not the time for wacky races so leave plenty of time to get to your destination.
And although having a boot-full of supplies and equipment might make you feel like a survivalist with an unhealthy interest in apocalyptic situations, at least you’ll be warm, fed and hydrated.