From icy roads and dark, foggy nights to unexpected snowstorms, winter can be a difficult time of year on the roads. Safely driving in snow and on ice and travelling in difficult conditions requires a much more patient approach, as well as some essential preparations to make sure you’re in the best possible position to tackle the elements when driving in winter.
Prepare your car for winter driving
First and foremost, check your tyres are in good condition and properly inflated with minimal tread wear when driving in winter - in most countries, this is 1.6mm.
If you regularly experience prolonged and severe winter weather where you live, it’s worth swapping out your summer tyres for winter tyres such as the MICHELIN Alpin tyre range, which have much better traction on snow and ice due to their widely-spaced tread pattern and depth. If you’re concerned about winter driving on a mountain road, consider investing in snow chains for particularly snowy roads to help improve your traction on the road.
If you live somewhere with milder winters with occasional snowfalls, a good alternative could be to fit your car with all-season tyres which will help you stay safe on the roads when temperatures drop.
Don’t forget to clear the snow from your vehicle, top up the antifreeze in your windscreen washer and de-ice your windscreen before you set off.
Take precautions while driving on snow and ice
Braking can be more difficult when driving in snow and driving on ice, so go more slowly and multiply your usual stopping distance between your car and the car in front by as much as 10 times, particularly on very icy roads.
Avoid skidding by braking gently, and take extra precautions to only drive when you are well-rested and alert. Stay in your lane and give other vehicles plenty of room, and turn off cruise control as this can increase your risk of skidding. Unless the roads have been gritted, you should also avoid driving directly in the tracks made by other vehicles if driving in snow or on ice, as packed snow can be harder to grip than fresh snow.
If you’re travelling somewhere remote, it’s worth keeping some emergency supplies in your car too in case you get stranded by the weather, such as food, warm clothing and a torch.
Driving an automatic car in the snow
If you’re driving an automatic car in the snow , you might find you already have a ‘snow mode’ which helps you drive more safely and reduce potential wheel spinning. Some automatic cars may have 2 positions on the gearshift, in which case put the car in 2 : only the first 2 speeds are used. This gear maintains a low speed driving which is very useful in case of steep slope, ice or snow. It also allows to use the engine brake. For manual drivers, use a higher gear for better control. For more information about driving in snow and driving on ice, read our 7 winter driving safety tips.