Driving in snowy conditions can be a frightening and tricky experience. In severe snow conditions, it is best to avoid driving, but if it is an absolute must, bearing in mind certain tips before venturing out in your vehicle can definitely help. Some of these tips can come in handy even in unforeseen scenarios, such as when bad weather hits unexpectedly and you are caught unprepared.
Before winter hits, its best to schedule a maintenance tune-up for all components of the vehicle, from wipers to the radiator and exhaust manifold. While having a planned excursion out in the snow on your automobile, it is best to err on the side of caution in terms of the time taken to reach your destination.
Your vehicle will need to be de-iced if left outdoor overnight, especially if it is ice that has settled in. This entails de-icing your windshield and your windows and this is best done with time on your hands. Alternatively there will only be one way to get out with decent visibility – frantic scraping.
You should also take time out to plan your route well before embarking on your journey. It is ideal to use major roadways as there is a greater likelihood of them being cleared of snow. Using shortcuts that you might typically rely on to get to your destination may not be the best idea.
It is also a great idea to prepare for the worst possible eventualities, like getting stuck and having to leave your vehicle by the road. A survival kit of sorts should be kept handy. Among the few things that it can contain would be warm clothing including gloves and boots, a blanket and some non-perishable food like biscuit packets and chocolate. It is also useful to carry tools that will help get your vehicle unstuck, such as pieces of thick carpet fabric or more practically, a shovel.
There are various devices that can be used, especially if you stay in a region that regularly experiences snowfall. Winter tyres, for one, are a relatively inexpensive way to increase the grip on a snow riddled surface. Winter chains can also be considered. If not winter tyres or winter chains, then it should be ensured that regular tyres are well-pressurised to generate ideal tread. Be sure to read our review of the best winter tires for recommendations on the most popular winter tire brands. If the harsh winter only hits sporadically, then a good set of all season tires will also suffice.
Another thing to keep in mind is that batteries lose power far more quickly in cold conditions. Trickle chargers will be handy to keep the battery topped up. In very cold conditions, door locks can get frozen too. A lubricant like WD-40 could be of great use to prevent this from occurring. If the door locks are frozen irrespective, heating up the key with the flame of a lighter can be an easy hack to solve the issue.
Manoeuvring in the Snow
It is important to note that there is fresh learning curve for braking distances when driving in conditions that involve water as rain, snow or ice. The tyre traction significantly dwindles and as a result the ability of the automobile to come to a completely safe halt without skids is greatly reduced.
Having mentioned skids, it is crucial to understand that braking is not a solution to skidding and driving should be such that brakes are needed only very rarely. This is so because rolling traction goes for a toss on frictionless surfaces like water and ice. To stop safely, tires need to have complete contact with the surface of the road whilst rolling at the same time – this is what rolling traction is all about. In summation, the key to safe driving in snowy conditions is gentle manoeuvring when it comes to acceleration, turning and braking.
Despite all safety precautions, sometimes the vehicle may end up getting stuck anyway. There are several ways to combat this, one of them entailing the use of the survival kit. For starters, moving the steering wheel from left to right can help move the snow aside for the vehicle to progress. If the wheels keep spinning in one place, it is best to not move at all as it will cause the vehicle to sink deeper into the snow. Using the shovel from the survival kit can also help, coupled with gentle reversing and forward acceleration.
If none of this works, the best solution is to stay put. Keeping the engine switched on will help stay warm. A word of caution is in order here: check if the exhaust pipes are not blocked by snow. If they are, then it will cause noxious fumes to enter the vehicle itself. Also, if it is safe to leave the vehicle, it is important to stay close to it. Getting a sense of direction in the snow is virtually impossible and thus you may just as easily lose your sense of orientation.