With winters arriving fast, people living in areas where snowfall is a norm, will be gearing up to meet the challenges of driving in snow. In order to cope with the problems of driving in snow, you have to be an extremely skilful driver and your car needs to be working efficiently otherwise, you can easily find yourself in a disaster. Even on familiar roads, cars can easily get stuck in snowy conditions and such a scenario often forces drivers as well as other passengers to spend a day or night, at a minimum, on the roadside. While a number of people avoid driving in snowy conditions and use public transport to be on the safer side, others are not left with any other option but to travel through their own cars for various reasons.
If you live in a region where snow falls regularly, this guide will immensely help you in adopting safety measures that can surely enhance your chances of reaching your destination on time and to avoid any major accident.
In order to drive safely in snowy conditions, you need to do proper homework before getting on the road.
Check the following things closely before setting out:
In snowy and slippery conditions, tyres are surely the most important thing of a vehicle. In regions where rain and snow is quite regular, most people use winter tyres, specifically designed to grip the road better in wet, snowy or icy conditions. It is highly recommended that you also opt for winter tyres; they will surely enhance your road safety.
However, if using winter tyres is not an option for you for some reason, you must make sure that your regular tyres are appropriately inflates. To cope with wet and slippery conditions, you should have at least 3mm of tread on your tyres.
Keep in mind that a car’s battery runs down quicker in winters as compared to warmer weather. Therefore, it is strongly advised that you check your car’s battery before you leave. If you are going on a long journey and cold weather is expected for most part of it, you should use a new battery or get the existing battery charged. Take the advice of a battery expert regarding changing the battery or getting the old one charged.
As compared to the old engines, most modern engines are more robust. In order to preserve your car’s battery, it is highly recommended that you depress the clutch while starting the car as it will put lesser load on the engine.
In order to make sure that your car’s windscreen is clear of snow, you can use a high-quality addictive at the right concentration level it will prevent it from freezing.
I strongly advise you to keep your fuel tank topped up all the time during the snow season. So, even if you are caught on a road, you will have enough fuel to keep the engine warm and to reach back home. At the same time, it is extremely important to make sure that snow does not block the exhaust as that can make the noxious fumes leak into the vehicle.
Before you leave, you must clear all snow and ice from the windscreen, windows and roof of the car even if you are getting late from work. Water should not be used to remove ice from windscreens as hot water can crack windscreen glass and it will also freeze on the ground you are standing or on the screen itself.
You can prevent your door locks from freezing up through a squirt of WD-40. In case they do, you can melt the ice by heating your key with a lighter.
8) Warm Clothing
This is something for your own health. Do not avoid wearing warm clothes in an assumption that your car will be warm. Yes, it might be warm, but not wearing warm clothes can be risky if you have to step out of the vehicle.
Be prepared to get Stuck
You should always hope for the best but must be prepared for the worst at the same time. Therefore, before you leave for a long journey, it is suggested that you keep the following things with you in your car:
- A blanket that will keep you warm if you get stuck
- Sturdy boots
- Warm coat
- A shovel to clear snow
- Something to eat like chocolates, biscuits, water or a hot drink
- A car litter or an old carpet that can be put under the tyres when/if you get stuck
- Make sure your mobile is fully charged before you leave home
What to Do if you get Stuck?
Follow the below mentioned techniques if you find yourself stuck in snow:
- Push snow out of your way by turning your wheels side to side
- If the wheels spin, do not try to keep moving
- You can use a shovel to clear snow
- Try to smoothly shift from forward to reverse and then forward again while using your accelerator smartly
- If you are badly trapped, you can run the engine to keep yourself warm but double check that snow has not blocked the exhaust pipe. You may find carbon monoxide, which can be extremely toxic, if the engine flumes do not find a way out of the car.
How to Drive in Ice or Snow?
Some of the aspects of driving in snowy conditions are:
It is immensely important to keep the speed of your vehicle in check while driving in snow. You should neither drive too fast to put your life at risk and to avoid losing control nor should you drive too slow that you lose the momentum required in snowy conditions. Try to maintain a balance in the speed and make sure that your concentration level is at its peak.
Smoothness is the key when it comes to driving in snow. As a driver, you have to showcase your skills and make sure that you apply brakes, change gears and use accelerator as smoothly as possible. Smoothness of driving can be achieved through practice of coordination between your hands, feet and eyes.
3) Higher Gear
Just to have better control of the vehicle, you should try to keep your vehicle in a higher gear. Start softly in second gear and avoid high revs.
Use brakes only if you cannot steer out of trouble. Keep in mind that a sudden brake can easily cause an accident, although there is a strong likelihood that your car’s brakes will not work at their best in snowy conditions. Even if you possess ABS brakes, do not bank on them completely.
5) Stopping Distances
The combination of time that will take you to react, apply brakes and then stop is called the stopping distance. It needs to be remembered that stopping distances increase massively in snow or ice therefore, you should follow other vehicles accordingly by maintaining a safe distance and adjust accordingly. The stopping distance also depends heavily on your concentration level. In snowy conditions, you must not merely rely on your car’s brakes to stop. Chances are high that your car’s brakes may stop working efficiently on an icy surface, which means that maintaining a safe distance is even more important.
6) Use Busier Roads
Chances are high that the busier roads in your region would have been gritted therefore, I advise you to plan your journey around busier roads. When it is snowing, do not try to act too smart by following minor roads or shortcuts as such roads are not likely to be cleared regularly. Same is the case with country lanes.
While driving on motorways, you should not try to overtake too much and ought to keep your vehicle in the clearest lane as much as you can. If possible for you, try to remain within the clear tyre tracks.
Driving a vehicle on a descent requires greater level of concentration. Slow down your vehicle considerably before you begin to descent and try not to build the speed. In such a scenario, it is essential to remember that keeping a car at a slow speed is a lot easier than slowing it down from high speed while going downhill.
8) What to Do if Snow Starts to Fall?
If it is snowing while you leave home or if it begins to snowfall during your journey, visibility might also become a problem for you. You can improve your visibility by using headlights as well as fog lights. However, as conditions improve, you should behave like a responsible citizen by switching off the fog lights as they can be a massive distraction for other drivers on the road. Some people commit a blunder by following a vehicle at night and using its lights to see ahead. This can be an extremely dangerous technique and can easily lead you towards a disaster. As mentioned above, maintaining a safe distance is one of the most important things while driving in snowy conditions.