Winter Driving Tips from Driver Skills North East Instructors


Driving in winter, in cold, icy and snowy conditions can really become stressful and dangerous if you’re not very careful and take the time to prepare before setting off. Here’s a complied guide of handy hints and tips from our Approved Driving Instructors


Handy tips for defrosting your car on freezing mornings

We all dread doing this on cold and frosty mornings but these can help you start your wintery journey right. Stay with the car at all times, if you must go back inside, switch off and lock the car. Don’t drive off until all the glass is clear and remember, don’t leave the wipers in ‘auto’ when frost is expected. If the wipers are frozen to the glass the wiper motor could be damaged. Equally don’t try to force frozen wipers off the glass.

Never use boiling water to clear glass – it could shatter the glass or freeze again quickly and could ice your wipers to the glass.

Clear all the snow off your car, a soft brush is great for doing this. Make sure the front grill is clear too, otherwise there’s risk of the engine overheating. Make sure the lights are clean and working. Air conditioning isn’t just for summer, it can help dry the air and keep cold glass mist free.

Don’t use your hands to wipe misted up windows, you could leave greasy smears, and a diamond ring could scratch the glass. Use a lint-free absorbent cloth if needed.

Winter Driving – Snow and Ice Driving tips

Always wear comfortable, dry footwear. This is really important as inappropriate footwear could impede your control of the car.

When pulling off from the side of the road or from the drive, accelerate gently, use low revs and change up to a higher gear as quickly as possible.

Move off in second gear as this will help reduce wheel slip. Some cars have a winter mode, which does the same job, so to check whether your car has this function in the vehicle’s handbook. Be sure to get your speed right and maintain safe stopping distances between you and the car in front, leaving as much as 10 times the normal recommended gap when winter driving.

Prepare for an uphill stretch by leaving plenty of room in front so you can maintain a constant speed without the need for changing gear. Use a low gear for going downhill and try to avoid braking unless necessarily, make sure you leave plenty of space between you and the car in front. When approaching a bend, brake before you actually start to turn the steering wheel.

What To Do If You Skid

If the worst happens and your car does lose grip, try not to panic; the key to remember is to take your foot off the accelerator and make sure that your wheels are pointing in the direction you want to go in. If you do encounter a skid, steer gently into it – for example, if the rear of the car is sliding to the right, steer to the right. Do not take your hands off the steering wheel or stamp your foot on the brakes.

When driving in heavy snow, make sure that you use your dipped headlights. Relying on daytime running lights is not enough, because they don’t always put your car’s rear lights on. If visibility drops below 100m, put your fog lights on. But remember to turn them off when the visibility improves. This includes when a car is visible behind you, leaving your rear fog light on can dazzle drivers behind too.

If the road has not been gritted, be wary of driving in the wheel tracks of other vehicles as compressed snow is likely to be more icy than fresh snow. Controls such as the brakes, as well as the steering, accelerator and even gear changing should be operated smoothly and slowly. Wearing sunglasses can really help to reduce the glare of low winter sun on the snow. Always remember to keep your speed down and allow more time to stop and steer.

Driving Environment 

Finally, it’s important to think about the environment that you’re driving in, especially microclimates that might appear on the road. These are areas that perhaps the sun hasn’t gotten to, which could stay icy when the rest of the road has thawed. Bridges are a good example. They’re normally the first to freeze and the last to thaw. So be aware of that when you’re driving in open spaces.


When The Tips Just Don’t Cut It

Driving in wintery conditions can be quite daunting, especially after the mild weather we’ve had this year. Remember we also provide winter driving refresher lessons for full licence holders so if you’d like to get booked in for refresher driving lessons, give us a call or contact us via the contact page here and we’d be happy to help you renew your skills.

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