To help make things a little easier, here are our top 10 tips on driving in the winter for the first time. Hopefully, following some of the below will help make your first winter on the roads as stress-free as possible.
Keep your distance
Your stopping distance on snow and ice increases significantly from what it usually is. This means that driving too close to the person in front of you is a terrible idea because you simply won’t be able to stop in time. Make sure you keep plenty of distance between you and the car in front.
Choose high gears
Driving your car in a higher gear will help you to keep control. If it’s icy and you’re struggling to get started, try pulling away in second gear. This should make it easier to get you going, as pulling away in first gear on ice won’t give you much grip.
Check your lights
The winter doesn’t only see us hit with cold weather; we also see the days getting much shorter which means you’ll be using your lights much more. Before setting off on every journey, check all of your lights are working correctly.
Check your tyres
Your grip will be seriously reduced in the winter, so ensuring your tyres are in good condition is essential. Whilst law requires you to have your tread depth at a minimum of 1.6mm, grip starts to reduce on anything under 3mm, so make sure you keep an eye on your tyres and replace them if needed.
You can also get your hands on some winter tyres which, as the name suggests, will give you a better grip and traction during winter. If your budget allows this is something we would suggest you look into.
Take your time
The last thing any driver wants to be is in a rush. Add in wintery conditions, and a lack of experience on the road, and waiting until the last minute to leave will cause you so much unnecessary stress. When driving in winter, you have to take your time so give yourself as much time as possible by leaving even earlier than you usually would.
The two words that will strike fear into the hearts of many motorists – Black Ice! It’s invisible on the roads, but potentially deadly. It makes driving a worrying event and it’s incredibly difficult to identify and therefore, avoid.
The most obvious advice here is that if you’re driving in freezing conditions, you need to take it slow and steady and avoid doing any risky manoeuvres.
Recovering from a skid
If you do end up hitting some black ice, there are things you can do to recover from it.
When you lose control of the car, keep both hands on the wheel and avoid braking. You should also try to steer into the skid – this should help get you straight and back on track.
We realise in the moment of losing control of your car, you may go into a panic and forget what you need to do. Try your best to keep calm, be aware of your surroundings and use the techniques above.
Prepare for rain, wind and fog
It’s not just snow and ice we have to deal with in the winter – heavy rain, wind and fog also make an appearance, and can make driving just as difficult. There are lots of little tips and tricks to keep in mind when driving in these conditions which you can see in our dedicated blog on driving in wind and rain. Our best tip would be to keep your speed down, keep calm and keep both of your hands on the wheel. Not only will the rain impact the road surface, but it will also affect vision. Pair this with fog and wind, and it’s a very difficult situation to manage.
Keep your fuel topped up
Any other time of year, you may be a bit careless when it comes to how much fuel you have in your tank but running out of fuel and breaking down in winter is much more hazardous than doing so in the summer. Keep your tank topped up to at least half so you’re not left out in the cold if you run out.
Carry a breakdown kit
Keeping the essentials in your car should it breakdown may not be a priority, but you’ll thank yourself for it if you do find yourself at the side of the road with a car that doesn’t work! Take a blanket (no car power means no heater), torch, fully charged phone, some food and any other essentials you think you may need if you find yourself waiting for to be recovered in winter.
If you’re heading out on the roads for the first time this winter, you may also find these blogs helpful!