Wintry weather can wreak havoc on the roads so plan ahead with our tips.
Wintry weather can wreak havoc on the roads, with snow, ice, and darker days all increasing the risk of breakdowns, accidents and traffic jams. But there are precautions you can take to help keep both you and your car safe in treacherous conditions. Our winter survival tips for motorists will help you to stay safe in all but the most extreme weather.
De-ice your car safely
The last thing any of us want to wake up to on a cold, dark morning is a snowy car with a frosty windscreen but, unfortunately, most of us will have to de-ice our cars at some point this winter. If you’re in a rush to get to work, the most important rule to bear in mind is not to cut corners. The fastest way to safely defrost your vehicle is to let the air conditioner run for a couple of minutes to help thaw out the windscreen, before using an ice-scraping tool to remove the rest of the ice.
• Don’t forget to clear the wing mirrors, rear window, and number plate, and clear any snow from the roof, as this could slide back onto the windscreen and obstruct your view as you drive.
• Lastly, you should never leave your car unattended while it thaws out. While it’s tempting to crank up the aircon and dash back into the house to finish your breakfast, leaving the keys in the ignition of an unattended car puts your car at risk of theft. Vehicles are frequently stolen from driveways or from the roadside as they defrost. Instances like this are usually not covered by your car insurance.
Planning your journeys
When ice and snow strike, plan your journey around major roads that are more likely to be well lit and properly gritted. Where you can, avoid B-roads and country lanes, as these are less likely to be well maintained, and you’ll be further away from help should something go wrong.
• Winter brings with it difficult driving conditions so, during your journey, take care and drive slowly. The Highway Code (www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code) recommends driving at a slow speed in the highest gear possible, and braking and accelerating gently to prevent skidding.
• Leave extra time for journeys, and allow plenty of space between your car and the driver in front in case they brake suddenly.
Modify your car for ice and snow
If you wake up to a blanket of snow on the ground and have no choice but to venture out, it will help if you have modified your car tyres to give them increased grip and better handling on untreated roads. If you have to drive in wintry conditions regularly, consider fitting your car with winter tyres with deeper treads, which, according to Confused (www.confused.com/on-the-road/cost-of-motoring/), can reduce stopping distances on snow by as much as 8m.
• If your budget won’t stretch to winter tyres, or the weather where you live is rarely cold enough to make them cost-effective, then consider investing in a pair of snow socks instead. These are fabric covers that you can strap onto your drive tyres to give you more traction on snow and ice. Check out the selection of snow socks for car tyres by Autosessive (www.autosessive.com/car-care-maintenance/snow-chains-socks), which will give your car better grip in snowy conditions and, unlike tyre chains, they won’t damage the surface of the road – or your driveway.