Tuesday 22 January 2013

Driving in, and preparing for, snow and icy weather

Winter can bring driving challenges that occur only every few years in the UK. But, if you live in an area of the country where the snow is guaranteed, then the following list may just be useful.

Do not assume that you are going to get stuck in a place you don’t know, in fact most call outs to emergency services happen surprisingly close to home.  Take precautions immediately from moving off. 

Make sure your tyres have good tread and that your tyre pressures are correct. If you can, get some winter tyres, I will run a full blog on these in the next few days. (Yeti on snow tyres tested)

If you do lots of short journeys, your battery will likely have more power drawn from it during starting than you replace on your journey.  Try to do some longer journeys, ensuring that your engine gets to running temperature.   When starting your engine, as a matter of practice always depress your clutch to reduce the work that your battery has to do.

Ensure that your screen wash is kept topped up and use a winter additive to prevent freezing. Don’t waste it on windows covered in snow or thick ice. Clear your windows with a scraper and never use hot water.

Lubricate all door locks with WD40 to prevent freezing . In an emergency heat your key with a lighter. In your boot, it is worth having some sand/salt or cat litter, gloves, a hat and a shovel if you can.  Make sure you have a fully charged mobile phone.

When you pull away, take account of the likelihood of black ice and snow taking away all control that you have. The secret without any doubt is your speed.  Start slowly, travel slowly and brake gently. Ideally, use your gears to slow you down. 

Lane discipline changes on a motorway during heavy snow.   The lane to be in, at all times, is the one which has least snow on it.

When you are going downhill, yes you guessed it, slow down, but even more.   Stopping distances downhill on ice can be enormous.  If it starts to snow, make sure your headlights are on and keep your wipers going.

If you do get stuck in snow, turning your steering wheel from side to side can dig down to the road surface to help traction. Ideally though, get out your new shovel and clear in front of your driving wheels, they are the ones with a pile of snow behind them.  Then put down some sand/salt or even cat litter to provide some traction and off you go again. 

If you do get stuck, put on your warm clothes that you have now packed in your boot. Run the engine intermittently to stay warm and occasionally check the exhaust is not blocked.  This will only happen rarely as a hot exhaust tends to melt snow and ice, but if it does happen the effects can be deadly.

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