Driving in The Snow
Snowy weather provides a challenging & sometimes difficult situation for drivers. Advanced preparation, & changing one’s driving methods, will ensure a safer driving experience.
Listed below are some tips for driving in snowy conditions.
Plan the Journey
Route planners will update you on traffic news, which can help you avoid affected areas.
Keeping up-to-date on local weather will also assist your decision making.
Give Yourself Extra Time
Snowy weather can affect your vehicle in various ways, some of which impose legal measures if not resolved. You may need a fair bit of time to sort out the following areas:
- Driving with snow on your car is against the law – take time to clear the lights, mirrors, windows & the top of your roof
- Make sure you de-ice the outside your windscreen, as well as clear the inside, for it’s illegal to drive without full visibility in your windows
- Locks can get frozen, so consider using de-icing products, oil-based lubricants or simply warming the key.
Check the Windscreen Wipers
Before turning on the ignition, check that the auto wiper control is switched off. If they are frozen to the screen, this could blow the wiper control fuse when they’re turned on.
Check Your Tyres
Low quality tyres lack the grip required for snow & ice conditions. Winter tyres contain a deeper thread and so are recommended for such weather, especially in areas where snow & ice are common.
In the circumstances of really bad weather, snow socks & snow chains might be an option.
Check Your Screen-wash
A screen-wash that works at -35 to prevent water from freezing is good quality & important to have, such that your windscreen wipers are fully functional in extreme weather conditions.
Pack for The Worst
If you’re equipped with the following, you’re generally ready for all extreme weather situations:
- Demisting Pad
- Hi-Vis Vest
- Spare Screen-wash
- Ice Scraper
- Shovel & Spade
- Charged Phone
- Phone Charger
- First-Aid Kit
- Food & Drink
- Warning Triangle
- Jump Leads
- Square of Carpet, or anything sturdy to act as a wedge
Tips for Driving in the Snow
- Footwear should be dry & comfortable
- Acceleration should be nice & gentle. Rev low & shift to a higher gear as soon as possible
- Move off during second gear; this reduces wheel slip
- All aspects of driving – accelerating, braking, steering, gear changing – should be as smooth a process as possible
- Speed should always be kept down & more time be given to stop & steer
- Maintain a safe stopping distance between you & the car in front; leaving as much as 10 times the normal expected gap is recommended
- Prepare for uphill driving with considerable distance ahead of you, helping you avoid the need to change gear
- Use a low gear when driving downhill
- A bend should be approached by braking before steering
- Try not to panic if the car loses grip. Step off the accelerator, & have the wheels facing the direction you intend to go
- Dipped headlights should be used when driving in heavy snow, for the front & back of your vehicle
- Put your fog light on when visibility is below 100m. Ensure the lights are off if visibility returns to normal
- If a road has not been gritted, the tyre tracks of other vehicles will likely be icy, so try to drive on fresh snow where possible
- Sunglasses reduce the glare of low winter sun on the snow
- Keep the car clean. Salt used to de-ice roads can corrode the vehicle over time, so clean it regularly during the winter season.
Snow Socks, Snow Chains & Winter Tyres
To cope with snowy & icy weather, the following products are recommended:
- Superior grip to the standard summer tyres available
- Whilst not a legal requirement in England, they’re suited to those living in areas more likely to be affected by extreme weather conditions
- Offer more grip on snow, and have flexible value for unexpected snow, or dealing with a snowed-in driveway
- Cheaper than winter tyres, although they need removing immediately after roads are clear again
- An easier fit than snow chains
- Designed for low level snow
- Offer the best grip for snowy conditions & deep level snow
- A mandatory requirement in some countries (will be sign-posted if so)
Using Snow Socks
Snow socks are textile liners for the wheel, tightly fit around them to provide an additional layer for increased grip & traction. They’re easier to fit than snow chains, but are more suitable for medium bouts of snow, not in more severe circumstances or where snow chains are obligatory.
When to Use Snow Socks
Snow socks are great to have considering Britain’s varied, unpredictable weather; for example, unexpected/sudden periods of snowfall, as well as dealing with driveways covered in snow. They require removal upon roads clearing.
Snow socks are much easier to fit than snow chains, but make sure you have the suitable size for your vehicle as they vary.
Fitting Snow Socks
- Ensure the handbrake is on
- Fit the snow socks to the driven wheels of the car
- Pull the sock down to cover the whole tyre
- Drive the car forward; the section of sock previously at the top of the tyre is now at the bottom, allowing you to fit the remaining section
Using Snow Chains
Snow chains can only be used when there is a layer of compacted snow; once the roads are clear, the chains should be removed immediately, or you risk damaging your vehicle.
When driving with snow chains, drive as smoothly as you can, not exceeding speeds of 30mph.
Before You Start
- Check that your vehicle can be fitted with snow chains
- Without clearance between the wheel arch and tyre, snow chains are unsuitable for fitting
- Tyres equipped with electronic sensors will be affected by poorly fitted chains
- If chains cannot be fitted, consider a second set of wheels to accommodate them
For more advice, consult the packaging of the product, the retailer whom you purchased the snow chains from, & be sure to check video tutorials online for a visual description.