Top tips for driving in winter conditions

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That time of year has arrived, where our days begin with the sound of scraping; the scraping of thick ice from our windscreens. Soon, the snow will start to fall and that will signal a flurry of skiing and snowboarding holidays around the world. Whether you are staying close to home or venturing further afield to picturesque mountain ranges, you will likely have to put up with some bad weather. So, in that vein, we at Economy Car Hire are here to share our top tips for driving in winter conditions to help see you through until spring.

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  • Our first tip is borrowed from the Boy Scouts; be prepared. This means carrying essential equipment in your vehicle during bad weather. Be sure to pack a blanket or a rug, a shovel (if possible), extra clothes, water and sugary food to provide energy if needed. De-icer and a rope, in case you need to be pulled out and a high vis jacket are also worth considering! Should you breakdown or become stuck in snow, these items can really come in handy.
  • Always carry a mobile phone with you and keep it charged up. This shouldn’t be too hard as almost everyone has a smart phone these days. The downside to that however is the unreliability of the battery life. So, whether this means investing in an in-car charger or chagrining your mobile phone overnight, make sure your phone always has plenty of life left in it before you head out on the roads.
  • When it’s extremely cold, starting your car can put a lot of pressure on the engine. As such, ensure electrical items such as the radio, wipers and lights are switched off before starting the engine.
  • Always allow extra time for your journey, as you will need to drive at much slower speeds than usual. Also, be sure to include at least ten minutes extra in order to prepare your vehicle.
  • Following snow fall, always ensure you clear your vehicle of snow completely. This includes headlights, brake lights, wind screen, all windows, bonnet and the roof… You’ve guessed it, pretty much every surface that is covered in snow. Not only can it be extremely dangerous to drive with obscured vision, you may suffer a fine and cause problems for other road users when snow blows off your vehicle. It might take some time but it’s worth the effort.
  • You may have heard that letting a little air out of your tyres will help to improve grip during icy conditions. This isn’t true, so don’t do it. Do however check the tread on the tyres of your vehicle and ensure they have 2mm at an absolute minimum, but preferably 3mm. Snow chains are not usually necessary for normal roads, however if you will be driving on mountains road, it is recommended that you get some.
  • When driving, it is imperative that you keep your distance from vehicles in front of you. Stopping distances can be ten times longer than in normal driving conditions and if you hit a particularly icy patch, you can slide unexpectedly.
  • When it is icy, slow manoeuvres are the way to go. It is usually far easier to pull away in second gear so as to avoid wheel-spinning. Try to avoid using your brakes unnecessarily as this can also cause your wheels to lock which will lead to more skidding. If driving an automatic, check to see if there is a winter setting or choose ‘2’.
  • If a car skids on ice, don’t panic. Release the accelerator and push down on the clutch. If the back of the car skids, steer slowly in the direction the car is skidding e.g. if you are skidding to the right, turn your steering wheel to the right.
  • When parking your car, try to avoid tight spaces or parking too close to other objects. It will often make it easier when you come to leave again if you have reversed into the space. Lastly, don’t forget to switch off your window wipers. They may be damaged when you start the engine if they have frozen to your windscreen.

Aided with these top tips for driving in winter conditions, you shouldn’t have any problems on the roads when the bad weather hits.

Bio: This article was written by Kerri Ware on behalf of Economy Car Hire. A car hire broker based in the UK, they provide added value car hire services around the world.

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