Last updated: 02/12/2020
If you’re heading home and see friends and families this festive season (even if it’s just to wave through the window depending on the latest government guidance), it’s important to make sure you and your car are prepared for the winter weather before you set off.
Driving in rain, snow and ice can pose a range of different challenges to even the most experienced drivers, and can make even familiar journeys unpredictable.
We asked RAC for their top tips to help you feel prepared for different winter weather conditions.
4 things to do before you head off – no matter the weather
1. Plan your journey
Take some extra time to plan your journey - you’ll be driving slower and the roads might be more congested than usual, so you may need to factor in more travel time.
2. Keep an eye on the weather
It’s always a good idea to keep up to date with changing weather conditions, as this will help avoid areas that might be more prone to a build-up of heavy snow or flooding.
3. Have a winter survival kit handy
Make sure to pack an emergency winter survival kit for your car in case you break down – charge your phone before you head off, and make sure you have the number of a breakdown service. It’s also worth including something to keep you warm, a high-vis jacket and a torch, just in case you end up on the side of the motorway waiting for roadside assistance.
4. Do some basic maintenance checks
You should carry out some basic maintenance checks to ensure your car is road-safe before you drive in icy or snowy conditions. Some areas you should focus on are:
Tyres - check your tyres for their condition, pressure and tread depth (3mm is recommended for winter motoring). Don’t reduce your tyre pressure to improve grip – this doesn’t actually work and if anything, you’ll lose stability. Consider whether you should switch to winter tyres before the snowy season sets in.
Lights - check all of your lights are working – it only takes a few minutes and could save you from a potential fine!
Windscreen- make sure your windscreen is clean and chip-free. The low sun during winter can affect visibility whilst driving, and a dirty windscreen will only make this worse.
Fluids - monitor your oil, brake fluid and water levels and ensure they’re topped up when needed. Add antifreeze to your windscreen washer fluid to help prevent it from freezing.
Battery- check your battery and make sure that everything that drains the battery - lights, windscreen wipers and heaters - are all switched off when you turn your engine off at the end of your journey.
Top tip: Keep a full fuel tank - condensation from the shifting temperatures can sink to the bottom of your fuel tank, so if you’re driving with your red light on, this water could potentially reach the fuel line and freeze.
How to drive in snow: A quick guide
Driving quickly on ice and snow can be a recipe for disaster. Here’s a quick guide on what you should do when driving in snowy conditions.
1. Clear your windscreen
If your windscreen is covered in ice and snow, make sure to clear this properly and ensure you have full visibility before you drive off. Before you turn on your windscreen wipers, manually pick them up off the windscreen to make sure they aren’t stuck; this will prevent them from breaking. Clear any snow or ice out from underneath the wipers. Read more about clearing your windscreen in winter.
2. Mind the gap
Remember that breaking distances may increase depending on the severity of the snowfall. Keep your speed down when driving on ice and snow to allow more time to stop, and leave plenty of room between you and the car in front.
3. Drive in a high gear
To reduce the likelihood of wheel spins when driving in snow, accelerate gently, use low revs, and try to get into higher gears as quickly as possible. Start in second gear to avoid wheel slips when setting off.
4. Don’t panic
If you do lose control, make sure to steer into the skid. It’s also important to brake before turning the steering wheel when approaching a bend in the road.
How to stop your car windows steaming up
Possibly one of the most irritating things about winter driving is the condensation that creeps over your windows at every opportunity. Here are some simple ways to demist your car:
- If possible, switch on the A/C. If not, turn up the blowers and direct them at the windscreens.
- Keep your windscreens clean, as moisture can cling to the dirt and cause condensation
- Remove any wet clothes or damp carpets to reduce moisture in the air
- Remove any rubbish regularly, as rotting fruit and half empty drinks can also create moisture
- Make sure your windows are kept closed on rainy days
- If you fancy splashing the cash, you can invest in a car moisture absorber
- If you have one, keep your car in the garage
What you should do when driving in fog
One of the most important things to do before driving in fog is make sure you’re clear on how and when to use your fog lights.
It's not a legal requirement to use your fog lights - but it is much safer to do so, as fog lights can improve visibility and ensures other drivers can see you.
But remember - only use your fog lights when visibility is decreased to less than 100m to avoid dazzling other road users, as this could potentially land you with a fine!
Increase the distance between your car and the car in front. If you really can’t see, it may be worth stopping altogether until visibility improves.
Driving in high winds
We’ve seen some serious storms in the UK over the past few years, and we’re likely to see more as winter sets in. When driving in strong winds, it’s important to take extra care - here are some quick tips:
- Keep both hands on the wheel – you don’t want to be taken by surprise
- Keep your speed down and leave plenty of space between you and the car in front
- Stay well clear of cyclists when passing
- Be wary of wind gusts when driving past large buildings or vehicles, especially on motorways
- Keep an eye out for storm debris in the road
Do you have the right car insurance in place?
When was the last time you checked your car insurance? It worth spending ten minutes to make sure you are happy with the level of cover you have. A lot of insurance companies also offer breakdown cover as an add-on - so if anything does happen to your vehicle on your journey or at home, you’ll have someone to the rescue you in no time.
This post has been contributed by RAC, one of the UK's most progressive motoring organisations, providing services for both private and business motorists.
To stay up-to-date with the latest guidance around COVID-19, please visit the government website.