Driving in winter weather
From heavy rain to snow and ice, winter can throw up some perilous driving conditions.
Dark roads and unpredictable weather patterns can test even the most experienced drivers – today we’re sharing our best tips for driving in winter weather.
Before you set off
Preparing your car for the journey ahead is a proactive first step to help you stay calm and safe while driving in winter weather. Here are a few things you can do to make life easier:
- Test your battery – cold and water can wreak havoc on your battery in winter. The cold weather affects the chemical process, slowing down a battery’s charge speed and impacting its ability to hold a charge. If your car battery is more than three years old, get it tested to make sure it’s in a good condition and avoid putting additional strain on your battery by switching off lights, wiper and heater before turning off the car’s engine at the end of a journey.
- Try furniture polish – If it’s been raining and the temperature drops overnight, car doors can be difficult to open because they’ve been frozen shut. A silicone-based furniture polish applied with a cloth to the rubber seals on the door and frame will help prevent them from sticking.
- Get anti-freeze – Check your car’s coolant to make sure it has sufficient anti-freeze in it. This goes for screenwash as well, which is particularly important if you encounter a wet, busy road and need to keep your windscreen clear. A frozen washer pump can also lead to the fuse blowing, rendering your wipers useless.
- Replace your wiper blades – Wiper blades are inexpensive and easy to change on most vehicles and can be a great line of defence for winter driving. Check the wipers on your car – if there is splitting or tearing on the rubber it may be time for new blades.
- Store emergency essentials – A few essentials in the boot of your car will come in handy in case of an emergency. Jumper cables, a blanket, torch, ice scraper and small shovel will all be useful if you encounter the worst of the elements.
- Pack sunglasses – The sun reflecting off the crisp white snow might be the scene of a perfect winter landscape but it also creates a blinding glare for drivers. Keep a pair of sunglasses on hand to protect your eyes.
Meeting the elements
Knowing what to do in rain, snow and icy conditions will help you feel confident and complete your journey safely. Here’s what to keep in mind:
In the snow – Always clear your car of any snow, especially on the roof. Accelerate and brake smoothly and slowly to prevent slipping, and if you do encounter a skid, gently steer into it – for example by steering right if you are sliding right – rather than braking or removing your hands from the wheel.
In the fog – Turn your front and rear fog lights on and keep a safe distance – at least two seconds – from traffic around you. If the fog is very thick, roll down your window at junctions and crossroads so you can listen for any approaching traffic you might not be able to see.
In heavy rain – Reduce your speed and consider pulling over in torrential rain. Drive slowly through water to avoid aquaplaning and expensive damage to your car. Use the edge of the kerb to judge the depth of water – always drive on the highest point of the road and don’t proceed if you can’t tell the depth of the water.
In ice or hail – Only make a journey that’s absolutely necessary and always turn back if conditions deteriorate. Leave as much as ten times the average space between your car and another vehicle and drive slowly and smoothly, avoiding any sharp turns or heavy braking. Remember ice is not always visible – just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there, so take extreme caution. If it begins to hail, pull over safely to avoid cracks in the windscreen and always stay in your car.
What are your top tips for driving in winter weather?
Rachel - Silversurfers Assistant Editor
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