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Precautions taken before driving in snow will impact on how your car performs on snow and ultimately increase your safety. Listed are some simple tips.

1. Car battery – Keeping your car battery in top condition is important in helping to ensure your car will start. Your car will recharge the battery but only on long journeys. Frequent short journeys maintain a partial charge only in your battery which decreases its lifespan and in cold weather, the lack of power may render your car unable to start.

2. Clearing snow off car roof. if there’s a build-up of snow on your car roof, as your interior begins to warm, the interior roof will warm and in turn begin to melt the connecting layer snow which is sticking it to your roof. As you brake, all of this snow build-up could find itself covering your windscreen. Also as you begin to build up speed, this snow will blow off from your car, heading directly into the windscreen of the vehicle behind, making it hazardous for them.

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3. Winter tires offer extra grooves and channels ideal for driving in snow. Check your tires – Keep tire pressures at the recommended pressure outlined by the car owner’s manual. Whilst lowering or raising tyre pressure in a particular weather condition may be of benefit, if a road surface condition changes, it could be hazardous due to less control of the vehicle. When driving on snow, it is recommended that you have a minimum of 3 mm tread depth to allow for the dispersal of snow within the tread.

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4. Allow more time – One of the most important aspects of preparing to drive in snow is to allow extra time for the journey. A common reason for accidents when driving on snow is inappropriate speed for the conditions.

5. Windows and lights – Ensure all lights are cleared of snow so that other drivers can see your indicators and brake lights.

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6. In the event you breakdown or get stuck in snow – Take along a fully charged mobile phone, extra warm clothes and blankets. Keeping a full fuel tank will allow you to keep the engine running for long periods if you get stuck in snow and keep heating on to keep warm. In bad weather, it’s often necessary to take alternative routes due to roads being blocked. A full tank should ensure there is no risk of running out of fuel.

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Many accidents happen when driving in snow in exactly the same way as when driving on a perfectly dry road. This is when your vehicle needs to change direction or speed and if travelling too fast for the road surface, loss of traction will occur. In snow and ice, a vehicle takes much longer to stop.

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Stopping distances in snow and ice

Anticipation and planning is an essential skill that all drivers must possess and is a skill you will have acquired whilst learning to drive and used to pass the driving test. Due to the increased stopping distances, you will need to anticipate any potential hazard that will require your vehicle slowing down or changing direction much sooner than on dry roads. Taking action or ‘planning’ will require slowing down much sooner than usual.

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Braking in snow

Using the brake whilst driving on snow can lead to a loss of control. Increasing these driving skills will reduce the use of braking, allowing your vehicle to slow down naturally. In snow, you will need to use engine brake. What is engine brake? As you take your foot off the accelerator and begin to slow down, gradually run down through the gears as you get slower without using the brake pedal, this is called engine brake. See what is engine braking for other advantages of using engine braking.You will of course still need to use your brakes albeit much less than usual. When braking in snow, use the brakes very gently. If you do find yourself in a situation where you need to stop within a short distance, use a technique call cadence braking if your vehicle doesn’t have anti-lock brakes (ABS) fitted. Cadence braking essentially mimics what ABS does. Instead of hitting the brakes and keeping your foot on the pedal, apply pressure, release, apply pressure and release, using this technique until you stop.

Does ABS work in snow ABS is highly effective on dry and even wet roads. ABS does not work as effectively on snow and ice however. Certain car manufactures even suggest turning off ABS when driving on snow and ice due to the possibility of it actually increasing the vehicles stopping distance. Regardless of whether you feel ABS benefits in icy conditions or not, the problems often come in the form of a false sense of security.

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Steering in snow

Try to steer gently and slowly if possible. The higher the steering angle, the slower you need to travel as the front tyres will lose traction if traveling too fast. You can’t steer and brake at the same time, especially on snow, so ensure you have used engine brake to gain the correct speed before steering round a corner. When accelerating round a corner, feather the accelerator very gently as rear wheel drive cars in the snow are particularly vulnerable to loss of control at the rear.


There are many techniques for controlling a skid on snow or ice. Some advanced techniques even include accelerating – which in some circumstances can work. For the average driver however, it’s best to keep things simple.

If you find your car going in a different direction in which you are steering, keep your wheels pointed in the direction you intend on taking and take your foot off the brakes, this will give your wheels a better chance of gaining traction as you are not braking. Once you feel control and traction is returning, brake very gently. If traveling in a straight line and you have left braking too late, you have two options. Slamming on the brakes can help as it can build up a wedge of snow in front of the tyres that helps to slow you down, but you will not have the ability to steer. If you need to avoid hitting something in a straight line, you are better off coming off the brakes and trying to steer your vehicle away from the object you are approaching.

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The all-important driving in snow emergency kit is essential in the event of a breakdown or getting stuck. The kit should comprise of:

  • • Fully charged mobile phone
  • • Snow shovel or spade
  • • Extra clothes / blankets
  • • Food and drink
  • • Windscreen ice scraper
  • • Torch
  • • First aid supplies

Other recommended items for your snow kits are:

  • • Jumper cables
  • • Carpet strips, sand or kitty litter to place under tyres for traction
  • • Reflective triangle
  • • Full tank of fuel
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