Top tips for driving in the snow

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 2 years ago

3 min read

  • Advice
  • howto
  • tips

WhoCanFixMyCar offers some timely advice on how best to drive safely when bad weather hits

Poor driving conditions (coupled with bad visibility) have the potential to transform the most straightforward of journeys into something akin to a nightmare. There's no need to panic. Find out how to stay calm and carry on safely on the roads with our guide to driving in the snow.


Before Your Journey

During Your Journey

Related Guides

Before your journey

The first thing to do before you hit the road is to ask yourself if the journey you’re about to make is necessary. If there’s any way you can avoid driving when conditions are at their worst, then you should. 

However, if your journey is unavoidable, there are a few things you can do to minimise the risk.

Plan ahead

Bad weather has an unfortunate tendency to cause lots of disruption on the roads, so check your route for any accidents or closures before you set off. It’s also a good idea to stick to main roads that are more likely to have been cleared and gritted. 

Preparing for the worst might seem like a pessimistic thing to do, but it will prove helpful if you do end up getting stuck, having an accident or breaking down. Here are a few things to pack:

  • A blanket or sleeping bag

  • Spare warm clothes

  • Torch

  • Hi-vis vest

  • Food & a drink

  • Spare screenwash/de-icer

  • Shovel

  • Phone charger

  • Map

  • First aid kit

  • Jump leads

Before you set off, you should also check your tyres (both the tread depth and for any possible damage), your screenwash level, your headlights and your wipers. Make sure your windscreen is completely free from snow, ice and any other obstructions.

During your journey

Use low revs

Set off in second gear, pulling your foot off the clutch slowly to avoid any wheel spin. Change gear as soon as you can. 

Keep a safe distance

At 30 miles per hour, the normal stopping distance is 12 meters (40 feet). However, in wet conditions this number should be multiplied by two, and in snowy conditions by ten! The same applies for all stopping distances; the faster you drive and the worse the conditions, the greater the distance. 

Slow down with engine braking

Move down through the gears to slow your car rather than hitting the brake pedal - though you should still touch it lightly, just enough for your brake lights to come on to warn other motorists that you’re changing speed.

Slow down before you reach a bend

As you approach a bend in the road, try to slow down before you start turning your wheel to avoid skidding. 

If you start skidding, steer into it

This might sound counterintuitive, but steering into a skid is the best thing you can do. Definitely avoid slamming your foot down on the brakes!

Use your headlights

Day lights won’t be enough if it’s snowing, so it’s best to opt for dipped headlights. However, if visibility drops below 100 meters, turn your fog lights on.

Stick to the beaten path

If you’re on a road that hasn’t been gritted, try to drive in the tracks that other cars have left as there will be less chance of skidding. 

Beware of black ice

Black ice earned its name because it’s almost impossible to tell that it’s there until you’re skidding on it. It occurs when rain falls on frozen surfaces, resulting in a thin sheet of ice that simply looks wet. 

If there’s a chance you could encounter black ice - this usually happens in areas that don’t get much sun - then make sure you drive slowly, steering and braking gently. In the event that you skid, keep calm and try to steer straight until you’re over the ice. Resist the urge to slam your foot on the brake.

Related guides

Want to find out more about how you can prepare for the wintry weather ahead? Check out the following related guides:

Or, if you want extra peace of mind, book your car in for a Winter Health Check through WhoCanFixMyCar.