Probably the most dangerous element of driving is in the winter season when snow
falls. Snow can cause all sorts of havoc to drivers, it can increase stopping distances
by up to 10 times, cause your vehicle to lose control with any sudden steering and
generally make your vehicle behave in an erratic and unwanted manner. It should
however be pointed out that the driver of a vehicle will always be the main factor
of any accident and therefore avoiding getting behind the wheel after or during
snowfall is probably the wisest thing to do. For those journeys that must be made,
Fineline Driving Academy will use this section to pass down our many years of driving
knowledge to help you deal with driving in the snow, from tips on how to prepare
for snow to tips on dynamic ways to drive to prevent the loss of control of a vehicle durings icy conditions.
Preparing your car for the winter seasons
You should do your utmost to prepare for the winter seasons to reduce the chances
of your vehicle breaking down or being involved in an accident when snowfall hits
the UK. It is a fact that you are more likely to break down during the winter seasons,
so having a decent breakdown policy will give you piece of mind of knowing professional
help is at hand should you need it.
You should also be prepared for more delays on the roads caused by a higher number
of accidents or slower moving traffic, both direct results of snowfall. Use
our checklist below and ensure all items are covered before driving in icy conditions or during snowfall;• Freezing locks is a common occurrence during the winter seasons, so a cheeky squirt
of WD-40 in all your locks everyday during cold conditions will probably stop them from freezing.
• A good quality screen wash with anti freezing properties will prevent your screen
wash from ending up as a lump of ice!
• Ensure you have a full tank! Long delays can result in longer engine running times
so you don’t want to end up with an empty tank.
• Its a good idea to have your batteries strength checked before the weather gets
too cold. Batteries will have a harder time utilising their energy when its cold
so consider getting a new battery if yours is old.
• Always check your coolant level throughout the year, with more attention paid
during the winter season. Make sure it contains enough anti-freeze, if it doesn’t
then your coolant won’t be able to do its job and your cars engine will probably
• Tyres legally require at least 1.6mm of tread but in the winter you should have
double this amount of tread to deal with icy conditions. Bald tyres are like driving
down the road with skates at the bottom of your car so the wisest thing to do is
invest in a new set of tyres for the winter seasons.
• If you have a garage capable of sheltering your vehicle, use it! The warmer temperature
indoors will prevent most problems occurring in the morning. If you don’t have a
garage, try using a car cover as it can also help prevent locks and door seals from freezing.
• On the evening before an icy morning, put your front and rear windscreen wipers
in the lifted position as if you are washing your car. This will prevent them sticking
in the morning, turning them on whilst they are stuck to the windscreen can lead
to blowing their fuse and ending up with non-functioning wipers. Also ensure your
wipers are not worn and have a healthy amount of rubber.
Ideally you should avoid trips altogether when driving conditions are really bad,
however for those vital journeys use the above pointers to help make the trip worry free.
Winter essentials kit
A winter essentials kit is exactly that, a kit containing essential items that might
be required in wintery conditions. Keeping one of these kits is definitely a good
idea, it will keep you safe if you suffer a breakdown and are stranded for a long
period of time while temperatures can plummet to less than 10C. Invest a little money
into the items listed below so that in case you break down you can rest assured the
experience wont be too bad:
• Breakdown assistance – First and foremost, its a very good idea to have breakdown
assistance for professional help when needed.
• A set of thermal blankets to keep you warm if you are stranded in sub zero cold
• Tyre grippers, small chunks of treaded rubber/plastic which can be wedged under
your wheels to get you unstuck. These are available in all good motoring shops.
• Tow-rope incase you require towing
• A small bag of rock salt to melt any obstructing salt
• A shovel to get rid of obstructing snow
• Ice scraper and de-icer for frozen windscreens
• Jump leads in case your car needs a jump start
• A powerful torch with a new set of batteries
• Hi-visibility vests
• A spare phone battery and a car charger
Having the above essentials in your vehicle during winter wont take up too much
space in the boot, these are items that can prove crucial if you break down and
therefore carrying them would be the sensible thing to do. The UK has seen mammoth
snow fall in recent years compared to our normal standards and the nationwide disruption
caused as a result was devastating, so as mentioned previously in this section,
Fineline Driving Academy cannot stress enough that all driving should be avoided
during severe icy/snowy conditions unless absolutely necessary.
Black ice and potential hazards
If you are required to drive in icy conditions, there are certain driving techniques
you can adopt to reduce your chances of being involved in a road traffic collision.
As a general rule, try to brake/steer/accelerate as smoothly as possible to prevent
losing control. When moving off from a stationary position, a wheel spin is a very
likely outcome and therefore easing off the clutch as slowly as possible whilst
using low revs will prevent this.
Your stopping distances will probably at least triple, plan well ahead and apply
your brake earlier with less force to reduce the chances of skidding. Try to use
busier roads for your journey as the constant flurry of traffic would have melted
away the snow, also the chances of main roads being gritted are higher. Short cuts
are normally covered in a thick blanket of ice and are hard to manoeuvre on, especially
if they are on a hill. On a motorway you try avoid changing lanes too much as there
will almost certainly be a thick line of icy sludge between each lane and passing
over this sludge at high speeds is very hazardous indeed.
Black ice is a nearly invisible film of ice that forms as a result of the melting
and refreezing of snow/ice, or as a result of hundreds of cars driving over the
same chunks of snow resulting in a shiny glaze where any grip is non existent! The
problem arises because the ice is transparent and therefore disguises itself as
tarmac and becomes nearly impossible to see, because of this you should take measures
in predicting where black ice might be to avoid losing control of your vehicle.
The following measures highlights ways to anticipate black ice;
• Prepare for black ice on sharp bends or the approach/descend of a hill. Select
a higher gear than 1st to avoid wheel spinning and negotiate the bend slowly.
• If you see a car ahead noticeably swerve, you should prepare for going over black
• Look out for a ‘glossier than normal’ road surface, this is a sure fire sign of
• Use engine braking to slow your car by selecting a lower gear rather than braking.
Be prepared for your ABS to become active, it will feel like the brake is pushing
back onto your feet.
These precautions will greatly reduce the chance of an accident while driving in
icy conditions, a bit of caution when on the road can help prevent costly garage
repair bills or even worse, an injury due to a road traffic collision.
Dealing with a skid
Losing control of your vehicle is hopefully an experience you will never have to
go through, in this section we will do our best to guide you through what you should
do if you find yourself caught in a skid. We at Fineline Driving Academy are not
naive, we know that if you are caught in a skid, the last thing you will think about
is the words of wisdom provided on our website but hopefully reading through our
guidelines now can give you an idea of how to successfully deal with a skid.
The key is to avoid accelerating or braking harshly if you lose control and begin to skid,
you need to steer gently into the skid rather than away from it to help regain control
as soon as possible. There are many types of skid, we will focus on the most common
skid caused as a result of icy roads which occurs when you steer too much and the
back wheels begin to slide as a result of your sudden steer. If the back of your
car slides out to the left, you should steer left. Similarly, if the back of your
car slides out to the right then you should steer to the right.
‘Which’ is an independent advice service that has compiled a very informative video
showing everything we have explained concerning driving in icy conditions. The short
video below is only 3 minutes long and is a must watch to prepare for driving in
Finelines guide for driving in icy/snowy conditions
Heres another one of our signature quick step guides that you can find at the end
of each section of the website for a brief roundup of what we’ve talked about on
this page. For those absolutely
vital trips in icy conditions, ensure each of the following steps are checked before
1) Make sure you have a suitable breakdown assistance policy and have your membership card at hand with you when driving.
2) Ensure your vehicle is prepared for the winter conditions to reduce the risk
of a breakdown/accident due to the weather. These are outlined above in the 'Winter essentials kit' section.
3) Drive slowly and adjust your driving for the conditions, plan well ahead and
avoid sudden braking or movements with the steering wheel. Use our guide for driving
techniques in icy conditions to best avoid problems when driving in slippery conditions.
4) Invest a winter essentials kit, as outlined above on this page. This
kit will be priceless if you are unexpectedly stranded.
5) Try to avoid driving altogether! This is the safest option you can take, so get
those gloves on and enjoy yourself a few snow fights, make some snow angels, find
a hill and a sledge and go snow gliding, just enjoy the moment! Of course this is not always possible due to many people having jobs and other important chores to carry out, so try to use public transport where possible and leave the car at home for a
for a few days, its the safest and simplest option you have.