Winter Driving Tips for 2015
Published Date: 12th Jan 2015
Getting your car prepared
The Best habit to develop is to ensure that your car is ready for the winter weather before you even decide to set off. This means all things from checking the engine coolant is on the level to making sure your tyres have the right, legal amount of tread left and are running with the right air pressure.
Once you’re on the road in winter weather, one of the most important things to do is to slow down so that your speed matches the speed of other drivers and road and traffic conditions. It’s a very easy solution to most winter driving situations, just take your time and relax.
Controlling your over and understeer
Bad weather conditions mean that your car is more likely to lose grip on the road and start to slip or slide. This can send you into an understeer or oversteer where how you react could be the difference between having an accident or not.
Understeer is essentially where the front wheels slip on a road surface. It occurs when you carry too much speed into a corner, and the vehicle doesn’t respond to your steering input – instead, it continues to ‘plough’ straight on, or doesn’t turn as much as you want it to.
The simple way to prevent this from happening is to ensure that your speed is relevant to the conditions, and that you’re not driving too quickly for the corner. However, if you do find yourself in an ‘understeer’ situation, there are ways to react. The key is to ‘remove the cause’ of the skid. Release the accelerator to reduce the speed, and straighten the steering wheel to allow the front wheels to regain traction.
Oversteer affects the rear wheels, and is the opposite of understeer on the front wheels. It happens when a driver enters a corner too quickly and the rear wheels start to slip.
The momentum can then bring the back end of the car around. This situation arises most commonly on rear-wheel-drive vehicles when too much power is used in relation to the steering angle applied, as you enter the corner too quickly.
The way to counter it is to steer into the skid or slide – so if you are going around a left-hand corner and the rear end of the car slides to the right, you need to steer to the right.
Driving in Snow
When you prepare to drive in snowy conditions it begins before you even set off in the car. The first question you need to answer is whether or not the journey is important. If you feel it is, then plan your journey using only main roads if possible, preferably routes that will have been gritted, rather than un-gritted back and country roads. This is about pre-journey planning. In snow and icy conditions, drive gently away from a standstill, using second gear if it’s a manual car. Avoid revving the engine hard at all times and drive in a higher gear than normal. Safe speed is the key element in such conditions.
Driving on Ice
Massive care is a key factor when driving on ice, especially when descending. If you think that driving at 10mph is going to be too fast, then slow down even more. When driving down a hill in icy conditions, ensure that you reduce your speed before you reach the slope and use a lower gear to aid control so you don’t have to use the brakes. Never let your speed build on ice, no braking system can work effectively on ice when travelling at speed. Invisible 'black ice' can be a driver’s nemesis, so pay attention to your car's external temperature gauge if it has one and take extra care even if the road appear to be clear.
For more information about driving in winter conditions see out guide to winter tyres and their benefits.