It is worth knowing how to prepare yourself and your car, while also considering different ways to approach your driving when faced with adverse conditions.
Is it illegal to drive with snow on your car? Yes - so remove it from your vehicle before you set off on your next journey.
Before driving in the snow:
Plan your journey:
Before you set off, plan your journey carefully. Make use of any map or navigation maps that are linked to traffic warnings and updated, this will help make your journey as smooth as possible. Consider areas that are going to be exposed to the elements, and perhaps prone to flooding and make sure you have considered and reviewed weather warnsings before setting off.
Leave more time:
Allow for more time than you normally would before you leave to clear car windows, mirrors, lights and the top of your roof of snow before setting off, driving with snow on you car could result in you breaking the law. You will also need to de-ice your windscreen - which is a vital part of winter driving. Make sure you take de-icer and an ice scraper with you. Knowing how to demist your windscreen in double-quick time can be equally as important. Refer to manufacturer guidelines for the best way to do this. It’s also a good idea to carry a lock de-icer with you to clear your lock. If your locks do get frozen, try warming the key or spraying de-icer or an oil-based lubricant into the lock.
The following checks will also be time consuming so it is worth factoring them in too before you set off.
Check your wipers
Make sure any auto wiper control is switched off before turning the ignition on as this could blow the wiper control fuse if they are frozen to the screen. Your wipers need to be in good working order so you’re able to clean your windscreen effectively.
Check your tyres.
Check tyres for adequate tread. Poor tyres will not grip when driving on snow and ice. If you live in an area where snow is common it might be worth changing to winter tyres with deeper tread. If conditions are really bad you might want to consider the use of snow socks or even snow chains.
Check your screenwash.
Use a good quality screenwash that protects down to at least -35 to prevent the water from freezing. If you don’t, your windscreen wipers could be rendered useless in extreme conditions.
Pack for the worst.
Be prepared for every eventuality by ensuring that your car is equipped with the following: demisting pad, torch (wind-up so you don’t run out of battery), a hi-vis vest to make you visible if you break down, a blanket to keep you warm, some food, a drink, spare screenwash, de-icer, ice scraper, blanket, shovel, phone charger, map, a first aid kit, a warning triangle, some jump leads, a spade and a square of carpet that you can use to put under your drive wheels should you get stuck in the snow. The most important thing to take with you before driving in snow is a charged mobile phone with the phone number of your breakdown provider stored in it so you can always call for help.
How to drive in snow:
- Wear comfortable and dry footwear.
- 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.
- 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.
- Prepare for an uphill 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 necessary, 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. If your car does lose grip try not to panic; the key thing 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 lights on the back of your car.
- If visibility drops below a 100m, put your fog lights on. But remember to turn them off when the visibility improves.
- If the road has not been gritted, be wary of driving in the wheeltracks or 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.
- Sunglasses can help to reduce the glare of low winter sun on the snow.
- Keep your speed down and allow more time to stop and steer.
- 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 got 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.
Make sure you keep your car clean. The salt used to de-ice roads can cause corrosion to your car over time, so it’s worth making a point of cleaning it regularly throughout the winter months.
Winter tyres, snow socks or snow chains?
Each of these products will help you tackle the snowy elements, but which should you buy to best suit your driving needs?
Ensure your tyres are up to the task in-hand!
- These are alternatives to the standard summer tyres that most cars are fitted with and offer more grip in adverse weather conditions such as rain, ice and snow.
- They significantly improve a car's performance in these conditions but may not be able to tackle very deep snow.
- They are not a legal requirement in England like they are in some countries but are recommended for those who live in more remote areas which are more heavily and more regularly affected by adverse weather conditions.
Snow socks offer more grip on snow and are useful to have in your boot in case you need to drive in.
- Unexpected snow - for instance when taking a back road that hasn't been cleared of snow
- Tackling a snowed in driveway
- They are a cheaper alternative to winter tyres but must be removed when the road is clear again
- They are easier to fit then snow chains are not suitable for very deep snow
Snow chains offer the best grip in snowy conditions.
- They are best suited for deeper snow
- They must be removed when snow clears or when driving on a clear road as they could damage your car and the road
- They are more time consuming to fit than socks
- They are a mandatory requirement in some countries
When should you use snow chains?
Snow chains must only be used on a layer of compacted snow and should be removed once you reach a clear section of road. You risk damaging your car and the road if you ignore this advice, double check this info when purchasing your snow chains.
In some European countries, carrying a set of snow chains in the boot is a mandatory requirement, which is worth considering if you’re planning a skiing holiday. Normally these countries sign post when snow chains are a legal requirement.
In the UK, the opportunities to use snow chains might be few and far between, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their uses.
In the more remote and hilly regions of the country, where the roads might not be treated, fitting snow chains could be the difference between getting home and being left stranded at the roadside.
How to fit snow chains.
Chains should not be fitted if there is not enough clearance between the wheel arch and tyre.
If your tyres are equipped with electronic sensors, poorly fitted chains can also interfere with them.
Where chains can’t be fitted, it may be worth considering a second set of wheels that can accommodate them.
The first thing to do when fitting snow chains is to check your vehicle’s handbook to ensure your car can be fitted with them, most cars are perfectly suitable.
If your car can accept snow chains, simply follow the snow chain manufacturer's fitting instructions provided when you made the purchase.
What are snow socks?
Snow socks are textile liners for the wheel and tyres and are – generally speaking – a good alternative to traditional snow chains.
They’re designed to be a snug fit, covering the tyres and acting as an extra layer between them and the snow to increase grip and traction.
One major advantage of snow socks is they are much easier to fit than standard snow chains. They’re also quieter and won’t ruin the ride quality in the same way as a set of snow chains might.
On the flip-side, they might not be suitable for harsh conditions and aren’t recommended for use on roads where the use of snow chains is compulsory.
When should you use snow socks?
Snow socks are ideal for the unpredictable nature of the great British weather.
They might not be suitable for the harshest conditions like snow chains and aren’t recommended for use on roads where the use of snow chains is compulsory (like in some European countries) but when the snow starts to fall in Britain they are great to have in the boot of the car to get you out of a sticky spot.
They are particularly helpful for quickly getting off a snow-laden driveway, or if you anticipate a road which hasn't been cleared of snow.
They normally prove their worth when you aren't expecting snowfall and perhaps need to head home after a sudden period of snowfall.
They should be used only on areas where there is snow and must be removed when driving on snow-clear roads.
For further details on driving in snow, feel free to contact any WJ King service department. We are here to help!
If you would like to ensure your car is ready for the colder months, why not book a WJ King 29-point winter health check. For just £29.00, this comprehensive check of your vehicle will give peace of mind when driving during winter. To find out more, click the button below.
For further details on fitting snow socks, check out the video above:
Necessary cookies enable core functionality. Our website cannot function properly without these cookies, and they can only be disabled by changing your browser preferences (please note if disabled our website may not work or show correctly on your device).
We use personalisation cookies to understand how you engage with our website across all your devices, this includes recording your browsing habits and activity. This information is used for profiling purposes and to help identify you, so that we can show personalised content.
We use third party cookies on our site to serve you with advertisements that we believe are relevant to you and your interests. You may see these advertisements on our site and on other sites that you visit on any of your devices where you've accepted marketing cookies. Please note that if you disable these, you will still see adverts but they won't be specifically tailored to you and your interests.