Driving in winter: tips for driving in rain, snow and ice
As days get shorter, colder and icier, make sure you and your car are ready for winter.
Winter is coming. That means short days, cold nights and some extra driving hazards to look out for. But don’t fear, Veygo is here. And we’ve got the lowdown on how to get both you and your car prepared for driving in winter.
Make sure your car is ready for driving in winter
It’s a good idea to give your car a full health check and make sure it’s prepared for those dark and frosty mornings. You should always have an up-to-date MOT, regular service and walk-round checks. But here are some extra winter car checks for driving in the snow, rain and on ice.
Check your tyre tread depth
Grip is really important when you’re driving in winter. So before those wet, cold and icy nights draw in, make sure your tyres are up to scratch. The key thing to check is tyre tread depth.
What is tyre tread you ask? Tyre tread makes up the grooves and ridges that give your tyres their all important grip. So low tyre tread depth is a no go, particularly when you’re driving in rain, snow or ice.
Tread depth of a new tyre is around 8mm, but wear and tear will cause this to go down over time. The legal limit is 1.6mm, but you should aim for a minimum of 3mm when driving in winter.
The best way to check is with a very technical sounding little tool – a tyre tread depth gauge. But if you don’t have one of those, a 20p will work too.
How to do the 20p test:
- Put a 20p into the tread grooves on the tyre
- If you can’t see the outer band of the coin, your tyres are above the legal limit
- If the outer band is visible, they may not be safe and you’ll need to see a professional
Check your lights
This one is pretty essential all year round to be honest. But with shorter days creeping up, checking your lights in winter is especially important. Make sure you’ve done a walk round and seen that everything is working properly before you set off. You may need to ask a friend to check your brake lights for you.
As we said before, checking your lights should be part of your regular car maintenance all year round. If panic washed over you reading that and you can’t remember the last time you checked your car, read up on all the checks you should be doing to make sure your car is safe to drive.
Antifreeze stops your engine’s cooling system from freezing by lowering the water’s freezing point. This clever stuff only costs a couple of quid. A frozen engine could set you back hundreds of pounds, so don’t skip out on antifreeze this winter. Make sure you get the right type of antifreeze for your car and use a 50-50 mix with water to protect your engine.
How to clear ice and snow from your car?
- Switch on your ignition and crank up the heat. If you have the option in your car, turn on your heated windscreen. If all this heat causes condensation, turn on your AC to help keep the air dry.
- Use a de-icer and scraper to clear ice and snow from your windscreen. If you follow our winter driving checklist, you’ll be golden on this one. But if you end up in a frosty situation and you’ve forgotten your scraper, a card from your wallet will do the trick. Ideally don’t use anything valuable in case you damage the card, an old gift card or a loyalty card is best.
- If you’re clearing snow, don’t forget to clear your number plates and the front and back lights. Oh and the roof, don’t forget the roof. It could fall and block your view or fall into the path of other drivers on the road. Not good, trust us.
- Make sure all ice and snow is cleared and there’s no condensation on the windows before you hit the road. Not only is it dangerous to drive without clearing your car, but it’s against road laws under regulation 229 and you could be slapped with a fine or get points on your license.
Driving in winter checklist
What would you need with you if your car had frozen over and was covered in snow? Or if you broke down and had to wait on the side of the road in the freezing cold? Here’s our list of essentials.
- Ice scraper
- Warm clothing
- Jump leads
- First aid kit
- High visibility vest
- Breakdown cover
Tips for driving in snow and on ice
- Slow down! You’ll remember from your theory test that the stopping distance can be as much as 10 times longer when driving on ice. And snow, heavy rain or fog will make it harder for you to see and react to hazards.
- Take extra care on corners. Put your brakes on before you turn the wheel and steer gently.
- Drive in a high gear to avoid skidding.
- Accelerate and brake gently.
- Keep well back from the car in front.
- Setting off in second gear instead of first gear to avoid wheel spin.
Tips for driving in rain
- Be aware that you may get through fuel more quickly. Driving in slow traffic, using your windscreen wipers, lights and heaters will all eat up your fuel. Keep a close eye on it and make sure you fill up.
- Slow down and leave a big space between the car in front of you. Heavy rain or fog will make it harder for you to see and react to hazards.
- Use dipped headlights so other drivers can see you clearly.
- If you’re in flood conditions and you’re not sure how deep a puddle is, find another route. But if you do have to drive through water, avoid taking your foot off the accelerator because water can travel up your exhaust pipe. Check your brakes straight afterwards by driving slowly and touching your brake pedal. This will also help heat them up and dry them out.
Sadly, accidents are more likely in winter. So make sure you’ve got a good understanding of what to do if you get into an accident.
What to do if your car skids?
If you follow our tips for driving on icy roads then you should be able to avoid skidding. Having said that, you’ve probably heard of the horror known as black ice. Black ice is actually clear, so you can’t see it when you’re driving. We know, scary stuff.
In freezing conditions, beware of rain because this can cause black ice. And if your steering wheel feels lighter and you can’t hear your tyre noise, you may be driving on ice.
If you end up in a situation where your car is skidding, immediately take your foot off the accelerator. Don’t brake because this can cause the car to spin. But if you do have to brake, lightly press on and off the brake pedal.
Carefully steer your car into the direction of the skids. For example, if the back of the car skids to the right, steer quickly and smoothly to the right. This should straighten out the car. Once the car is straight you should straighten your wheel too.
We know in these situations it’s easy to panic and slam your brakes on. But you’ve got this. You know what to do so keep your cool and follow these steps to regain control of the car.
What to do if your car gets stuck in snow?
There’s always a risk of getting stuck if you’re driving in snow. First things first, make sure the steering wheel is straight and put on your hazard lights. Then you’ll want to put on the winter layers and hi-vis vest we mentioned in our winter checklist. Grab your handy shovel and get out of the car.
Use the shovel to dig out the snow that’s under your tyres. If you’ve got passengers with you, ask them to get out of the car so it’s lighter. Unless they’re kids of course. We’re not suggesting you make your baby sister wait in the snow.
Once you’re back in the car, it’s time to squeeze the accelerator. We know it’s tempting to floor the gas, but that won’t get you anywhere. Lightly press on and off the pedal to get some momentum going. You can also try switching from drive to reverse to dislodge some of the snow around your wheels.
If you’ve done all of this and you’re still stuck, ask your passengers or some friendly passers by to give your car a push. And if it still won’t budge, it’s time to call your breakdown service.
What to do if you don’t have breakdown cover?
It’s not a legal requirement to have breakdown cover in the UK, but we’d suggest getting some. Even if you’ve done all the prep and looked after your car, sometimes things can still go wrong. Roadside recovery without insurance is stressful and expensive. Your best bet is to check out different options for breakdown cover on a comparison website and get it sorted. And make sure it includes cover for when you’re stuck in the snow!
If you find yourself in a tricky situation where you’ve broken down and you don’t have cover, you have a couple of options. First option is to open trusty google maps and call the nearest local garage. Or, you can call and set up breakdown cover on the spot. You’ll be charged an additional fee but once you’re set up you’ll be sorted out like any other customer.
Stay safe this winter
Use our winter driving tips to keep you safe through the winter months ahead. But remember, it’s always best to avoid driving if the weather and road conditions are really bad. Keep an eye out for weather warnings before you head out. And if you’re driving this winter, make sure you’re insured. Our temporary car insurance is available from 1 hour to 30 days.