Tips for driving in snow and ice
Follow our driving tips to keep yourself safe in winter weather
THE FIRST RULE OF DRIVING IN SNOW AND ICE: AVOID IT IF YOU CAN
When you finally see those first snowflakes on a winter’s day, it can feel like Christmas is coming and you’re living in a fairy tale. But it’s likely that’ll soon be replaced with a sense of dread as you begin to wonder how you’ll make it to work in the morning…
It’s no secret that freezing weather can make it very difficult to get around on the roads. Not only can winter driving be frightening and challenging, it can also be really dangerous – especially if you don’t take the right precautions.
The most important thing to remember before making a trip in winter – especially one of any length – is to keep an eye on the weather forecast. If very low temperatures and snow are forecast, ask yourself whether the trip is really necessary. Even if you have four-wheel drive and winter tyres, it’s likely there’ll be a lot of traffic and your journey will probably take a while.
That said, we realise that there are some trips that just can’t be avoided. Before you get behind the wheel and head out for the snowy streets, take a little read of our top tips for safe winter driving.
Visit a Suzuki Service Centre for an annual winter check
Your car has to be in tip-top condition to cope with everything that the winter weather throws at it. The best way to ensure this is to take it to your local Suzuki Service Centre for an annual winter check. The highly-trained technicians will give your car a once-over, checking that everything’s in full working order – including making sure that those all-important tyres have enough tread.
Winter driving equipment for your car
We’re sure it will come as no surprise when we say that the weather can be unpredictable. In the winter, there’s always the possibility of unexpected delays and traffic jams, so it's a good idea to carry some basic equipment that will help you if things get really cold!
Making sure your car is equipped with the items below means you’ll be much better prepared if bad weather comes your way:
- Ice scraper and a de-icer to clear your windscreen - both are must-haves in the winter
- A torch in case the electrical power goes off, plus spare batteries
- A high-vis jacket can come in very handy to help you be seen on the roadside if you break down
- Extra warm clothes in case your heating stops working
- A portable phone charger so you can always call for help if needed
- Jump leads, in case you or someone else’s car can’t get moving
- A tow rope in case you get stuck in snow
- Water to stay hydrated, and extra snacks
Stopping distances are longer in snow and ice
The first crucial thing to remember when driving in winter is that stopping distances are 10 times greater in ice and snow. This means it’s absolutely essential that you drive slowly and make sure you leave plenty of space between yourself and the vehicle in front. Always keep in mind that the traffic ahead might stop suddenly at any moment – so give yourself plenty of room to brake.
If you do have to brake suddenly, you can also work with the ABS anti-lock brake system by coming on and off the brake pedal with your foot (called cadence braking), which could save you a few valuable metres.
What gears should you drive in for snow and ice?
When driving in snow and ice, you might need to use the gears a little differently to normal. Firstly, it’s usually best to use second gear when pulling away from a standing start, as this reduces the chances of the wheels not being able to get any traction and slipping.
When going uphill, try not to change gear, while downhill is best in third or fourth gear to minimise the chance of skidding.
If you do find yourself skidding, turn into the skid, keeping your eyes fixed on the direction you want to head, lift your foot off the accelerator and apply the brakes gently.
What to do when your car is stuck in snow
In the unpredictable winter weather, sometimes no matter how much you prepare, you could still find yourself getting stuck in the snow.
If that unfortunately happens, firstly you need to try and clear all the snow around all of your wheels. Try to make as much room in front and behind the tyres as possible so you can drive the car back and forth a few times. If that doesn’t work, try and add a little traction under your wheels, this could be from using a car mat if you have one, or salt, dirt, or even cat litter can help get your car moving again!
You can always ask someone to help push the car, and whilst they’re pushing, you can gently turn the ignition on - a tow rope can also come in handy in this situation! Always remember to try and keep calm, and if all else fails, call the emergency roadside assistance and they’ll be able to safely get your car going again.
Top tips to help your vision and visibility in the snow
In cold weather, you may also have to contend with a steamed-up windscreen which can make it difficult to see where you’re going. Also, it’s common for headlights and tail-lights to be covered with snow which makes you less visible to other drivers.
There are certain handy tips you can follow to help with visibility and stop it from becoming a problem:
- If you can’t see through your windscreen due to condensation, turn your air-con on and it will demist your screen faster
- Check your windscreen wipers before going on a snowy journey, and replace them if they are damaged or worn out
- If you’re parked up, don’t leave your wipers on auto if you think it could get frosty. Frost can damage the blades if they freeze to the windscreen when you next turn the ignition on
- To help your car become visible in the snow, make sure all lights are clear of snow, clean and working properly
- A key thing to remember is to keep your number plate clean and visible to avoid fines
- Use your headlights when visibility is seriously low. Remember when you use fog lights to switch them off when you start to see again so they don’t dazzle other drivers
How to prevent your car batteries and electrics dying in winter
On average, car batteries rarely last longer than 5 years (it’s recommended that you should get them replaced every 3 to be sure). The low temperatures in the winter add extra pressure to the battery, meaning it will run out of charge faster – this is because you’ll have your lights, heating and window wipers on a lot of the time.
To prevent your car battery dying in the winter, it can help to turn off lights and wipers before starting your engine. Also, if you’re not using your car regularly, then this might mean the battery loses charge more quickly or isn’t fully charged to start with. Another method of charging your car is using a trickle charger. Trickle charging is more sustainable than jump-starting your car, and you leave it charging overnight to avoid your car battery going flat. You can buy trickle chargers at any major car hardware store, or your local garage.