Tips for driving in winter

Driving in rain, snow and ice can pose a range of different challenges to drivers, and can make even familiar journeys unpredictable.

Here the RAC run through their top tips, to help you feel prepared for different winter weather conditions.

Before you head off

Take some extra time to plan your journey - you’ll be driving slower and the roads might be more congested than usual, you may need to factor in more travel time.

It’s also 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.

Make sure to pack an emergency kit 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.

You should also carry out some basic maintenance checks to ensure your car is road-safe before you drive in icy or snowy conditions:

1. 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.

Why not check your break lights are working whilst you’re at it? It will only take a few minutes and can save you from a potential fine.

2. 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.

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.

3. 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. 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.

4. 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.

Driving in ice and snow

Driving quickly on ice and snow can be a recipe for disaster. Remember that breaking distances may increase depending on the severity of the snowfall. Keep your speed down to allow more time to stop, leaving plenty of room between you and the car in front, especially on hills.

To reduce the likelihood of wheel spins, 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.

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.

Driving in heavy rain

Use dipped headlights so that other drivers can see you, and try to avoid using rear fog lights as they can outshine your brake lights, potentially causing an accident.

Keep your speed down and make sure you leave more space between you and the car in front. Driving fast through deep water could cause a lot of expensive damage.

In the event of aquaplaning, try not to panic and break heavily – instead, ease off the accelerator and let your speed reduce naturally.

Driving in fog

Before you head off, make sure you actually know how to turn on your fog lights!

Make sure you use dipped headlights, and only use your fog lights when visibility is decreased to less than 100m to avoid dazzling other road users.

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.

Top tips from RAC Patrolmen

  • “Take your time and pay attention to other road users.”
  • “Spend five minutes allowing your car to warm up, and make sure you clear all snow and ice from your windows.”
  • “Check the forecast, assess the road conditions, and adjust your speed accordingly. Leave more distance between your car and the vehicle in front.”

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.

Related articles:

Last updated: 29/01/2020

Read our disclaimer.