How to Handle Driving in Snow
After the long, dry and bright days of summer, which made driving Priory Rental cars a joy, the transition to winter conditions couldn’t be more stark. The nights are getting darker and longer, the weather is getting colder and wetter and road surfaces have far less traction as a result. As well as darkness, your vision can be impaired by fog, ice, snow and rain, as well as by the sun which is lower in the sky, so even on dry, bright days, you’re more likely to be dazzled.
The hardest of winter conditions in which to venture onto the roads, is easily during heavy snow, so here we present our guide for driving in snow, should you find yourself needing to hit the road in a winter wonderland.
Prepare your car for driving in snow
Before you so much as turn the key in the ignition, it’s worthwhile making sure that your car is as prepared as it can be for driving in snow. Winter is especially hard on your car, so if possible, get a winter service long before the snow starts falling. Make sure you windscreen washers are topped up and the washing fluid is at winter concentration so it won’t freeze. Similarly, make sure your antifreeze and all other fluids are topped up. Most important is to make sure your battery is fully charged and that it will reliably hold its charge. Most winter breakdowns are battery related. If your battery is old or failing, a cold night might well be what finishes it off, consider replacing it before it leaves you stranded. Condsider keeping your fuel tank at least half full at all times, partially to avoid the risk of running out and partially because it reduces the risk of your fuel lines freezing.
While it would be easy to recommend swapping your regular types for winter tyres, but that’s not practical for most, definitely make sure that you have plenty of tread though and if you’re getting close to the legal limit, you might be better off replacing your tyres a little early. A can of de-icer and an ice-scraper will always be useful. A blanket a small shovel and a breakdown kit will offer additional peace of mind. You might also consider carrying snow chains, but make sure you practice fitting them before you need to.
Before You Drive In The Snow
If the snow is heavy and roads look white, consider whether you really need to venture out. Driving in snow, while possible, is more risky than driving on dry roads, so if you’re in doubt, it may well be far safer to stay at home. If you do need to venture out though, make sure that you brush all the snow off your car. Snow on the roof or bonnet could fly off as you’re driving, which could obscure the vision of you or the traffic behind you and if you apply the brakes, it could slide from the roof onto the windscreen, which would obviously be very bad indeed. Snow on your headlights should also be removed and you may end up being fined f you don’t. Check that your wipers are in good shape and if they’re frozen to the windscreen, gently lift then lower them to unstick the blades.
If there’s frost on your windows, then make sure you remove all of it with deicer or a scraper. Don’t be tempted to just clear a small hole large enough to see through. You need full vision and police are often on the lookout for drivers peering through a small cleared section of windscreen. Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to clear ice from windows using a kettle of hot water, or you may well end up with a shattered windscreen. Also, don’t be tempted to leave your car running to warm up before you set off. Thieves actively look for cars that are idling unattended on frosty mornings and your insurance probably won’t cover you if your car gets stolen this way.
How to Drive In Snow
Before you close your car, shake any snow off your shoes and try to dry their soles on the carpet to reduce the risk of them slipping on the pedals. If there’s snow on the ground and especially so on untreated roads, driving slowly and deliberately is key. Don’t accelerate hard, don’t turn sharply and avoid braking hard. Try to stick to main roads where you can, these are generally treated well in advance of any wintry weather and are the most likely to be safely driveable. More rural, out of the way roads are best avoided if you can.
Your tyres won’t be gripping the road anywhere near as well, so hard acceleration is likely to result in wheelspin, turning too sharply could make you skid and similarly, sharp braking may leave you sliding uncontrollably. Instead, build up speed gradually (setting off in second gear may help), slow down well in advance of any turns and always leave as much distance as you can between yourself and the vehicle in front.
Make more use of engine braking to slow down rather than the brakes whenever you can, especially when heading downhill, this will allow you to keep control of your speed without risking losing grip on the road.
If you do find yourself sliding, the most important thing is not to panic. Look in the direction you want to travel and gently steer towards it, into the skid, to regain control. Keep your hands on the steering wheel and avoid stamping on the brakes.
On untreated roads, it can be tempting to drive in the tracks left by other vehicles, but bear in mind that these tracks might have just compressed the snow rather than cleared it, so use caution.
After Driving In Snow, it’s worth hosing off any accumulated grime. Roads are treated with salt, which is very corrosive, so rinsing it off your car will help preserve the bodywork. Don’t forget to rinse under the wheel-arches too.
Stay Safe if you have to Drive in Snow
If you have to drive in the snow this winter, keep your wits about you and stay safe. Driving in snow isn’t impossible most of the time, but it will require adjustments to your usual driving style in order to get where you need to go safely.
At Priory, we have a range of four wheel drive vehicles for hire which are especially useful in the winter and more capable than normal cars of coping with driving in the snow. If wintry conditions are on the way and such weather is likely to leave you struggling to drive your own car, why not hire a 4WD SUV or pickup from us and keep yourself mobile whatever the weather throws at you.