Winter driving can pose its own unique challenges… 

Here are some top tips on how to prepare your car for winter driving if you have to make a journey, and what to do should you be caught in bad weather.

1 – Before setting out:

Tyres: Ensure your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure and that you have a minimum of 3mm of tread on your, in order to cope with wet and slippery conditions.

Battery: In winter, the battery will run down more quickly than in warmer weather. Make sure you do a regular long journey to top it up or trickle-charge the battery.

Engine: Modern engines are more robust than older ones. All the same, depress the clutch when starting the engine, as this will reduce drag on the engine and preserve the battery.

Screenwash: Keep this topped up and use the correct concentration of additive to prevent it freezing.

Fuel: Always keep your tank topped up – that way, if you are caught out, you’ll have enough fuel to make it home or run the engine to keep warm. NB It is also essential to keep snow from blocking the exhaust as fumes can leak into the vehicle.

Windows: Clear all snow and ice from the windscreen before setting off. Do not use water to clear windscreens. Hot water can crack the glass, and the water will only freeze again on the screen or on the ground where you are standing.

Locks: A squirt of WD-40 will prevent your door locks freezing up.

Warm clothing: Your car may be as warm as toast on the inside but if you have to step outside, you could be in trouble if you have not got any warm clothing with you.

The following items make the basis of a useful cold weather kit, should you become stuck: warm coat, hat, gloves, sturdy boots, a blanket to keep you warm. Take some food, chocolate, biscuits, water and a hot drink if you can. Always carry a fully charged mobile, and some old bits of carpet, or cat litter, to put under the tyres and a shovel to clear snow.

2 – Driving in snow and ice:

When driving in snow, getting your speed right is vital – too fast and you will lose control of your vehicle, but too slow may mean that you risk losing momentum when you need it – and braking, steering and accelerating should be as smooth as possible.

Start gently from stationary, avoiding high revs. If you begin to skid, remember to take your foot off the pedals and steer. NB Only use the brake if you cannot steer out of trouble.

Double or even triple the normal distance from the vehicle in front. Remember, on an icy surface your brakes may not be able to stop you. Leaving sufficient space will mean you can use your vehicle’s weight/momentum to help you come to a more natural stop.

Plan your journey around busier roads as they are more likely to have been gritted. Avoid using shortcuts on minor roads – they are less likely to be cleared or treated with salt, especially country lanes.

On motorways stay in the clearest lane where possible, away from slush and ice.

Stay in a higher gear for better control, and if it is slippery, in a manual car move off in a higher gear, rather than just using first.

In falling snow, use dipped headlights or fog lights to make yourself visible to others (especially pedestrians) – but remember, fog lights can dazzle other drivers, so switch them off as visibility becomes greater

3 – …and if you get stuck in the snow?

First of all, make sure you have packed an emergency snow kit, as mentioned above.

If you are trapped in your car, you can stay warm by keeping the engine running. However, it is vital that the exhaust pipe is not blocked by snow. If the engine fumes cannot escape, you could be overwhelmed by the toxic carbon monoxide gas.

If there is any risk the fumes can come into the car, do not run the engine. Even if it is safe, do not run the engine for more than 10 or 15 minutes in each hour.

Stay in or close to your car. In heavy snow it is easy to get disorientated and lost or separated from your vehicle. If necessary you can always hang a piece of brightly-coloured cloth on your car to let others know you are there.

Some of the above tips might only seem relevant in very extreme cases but, as recent winters have shown, it is becoming more and more necessary to prepare for all weather circumstances.

Remember, if snow and ice are on the way, it is best not to drive at all, unless absolutely necessary. Stay sensible, stay safe.

Further Information

If you would like to receive any further information regarding the services available from Surrey Driving Force, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us by either calling 0845 190 2012, texting LESSONS to 81066 or emailing