Even those of us who live in places with snowy winters can forget to prepare for driving in snow each year. The first bitterly cold or snowy day can catch many drivers off-guard — don’t let that be you.
If you’ve recently moved from a warmer climate, or even if you’ve already done some snowy or cold-weather driving this year, here are seven snow driving tips to keep in mind until winter is over.
1. Stock up on windscreen washer fluid
On a wet and snowy day when road salt and grit is spraying onto your windscreen, there is nothing worse than running out of windscreen washer fluid. If your vision is obscured, you put yourself and anyone else on the road in a dangerous situation. Fill the reservoir and keep an extra container of fluid in your car in case you run out.
2. Check your wiper blades
Your diligence with keeping extra windscreen washer fluid in the car will be worth nothing if your wiper blades are worn out. Before you drive in slushy weather, check to see if the rubber on the windscreen wipers is cracked or warped. If it is, replace them — if it’s your first time, take the old ones into the automotive shop to make sure you purchase the right kind for your vehicle.
3. Maintain appropriate tyre pressure
It can be an unpleasant surprise when your tyre pressure goes down when the weather gets cold. If you don’t have a warning light that notifies you of tyre pressure, use a tyre gauge to check for proper inflation after the temperature drops significantly. Check pressure before you start driving for the day, as warm tyres will show a different reading. Get this fixed as soon as possible, because underinflated tyres are dangerous even on a dry roadway.
4. Carry a snow scraper in the car at all times
During the winter months, this tool will come in handy the most often. And as long as you’re keeping extra supplies in your car, carry an extra coat or blanket and snow boots in extreme cold or heavy snow, in case you break down or get stuck on a country road and must wait for a service to help or pick you up.
5. Drive slower when driving in snow
Even if you attempt to drive somewhere fast in the snow, you probably won’t arrive any sooner because most other drivers are being cautious in the slippery conditions. Be safe and slow down to the pace of traffic, or slower if you need to. Don’t change lanes hastily, because snow can build up along the lane divisions. Likewise, don’t make a turn too quickly or you’ll end up skidding around the corner and possibly hitting another car. Put on the turn signal earlier than you normally would, and ease into the turn.
6. Give yourself extra time to stop
Don’t think that you can stop at the last minute at red lights or pedestrian crossings when you are driving in snow, as you might be able to do when the pavement is dry. Driving slowly will help you get used to braking earlier and looking ahead at the activity on or near the road. Know what kind of brakes you have, in case your car slips while coming to a stop: if you have standard brakes, pump them until your car steadies; if you have anti-lock brakes, press down firmly and you will feel the brakes pulse. Increase intervals between yourself and other cars to give them extra distance to stop as well.
7. Be careful on hills
Try to avoid routes with steep hills when the roads are snow-covered. Even on moderate hills, use caution. Don’t accelerate when you are halfway up an incline — you might think it will give you extra power, but most likely it will just cause your wheels to spin. Don’t stop while going up a hill, either. The best way to approach hills when driving in snowy conditions is to gain momentum beforehand and coast up as much as possible. When you start descending on the other side, again, don’t accelerate. See the above tip on braking if you need to stop at the bottom of the hill.