When severe weather hits the country the advice is always not to travel. Staying curled up safe in our igloos isn’t always practical though, so we need to make absolutely sure that we’ve prepared ourselves and our cars before we head out.
These checklists will only take a moment to read through but being prepared could make all the difference once you’re out.
Before you set off, it’s important to consider certain points:
In extreme weather conditions most of us encounter driving situations that are unfamiliar to us. We have listed a few of the more likely situations and some basic tips on how best to react to them.
First of all, make sure you clear any snow off your car, including the roof, windscreen, windows and lights before you drive off. If your car is iced up, ensure all windows are fully clear before setting off - don't be tempted to drive through a 'letterbox' windscreen. Drive with extra care, keep your speed down and keep well back from the vehicle in front - stopping distances are much greater in the snow and ice.
When roads are icy, drive slowly in a high gear and take extra care on bends, braking progressively as you approach. Make sure you get into a low gear early when you need to stop and only brake gently.
Look out for vehicles spreading salt and snow ploughs. It’s generally best to stay well back and only overtake if the road ahead has been cleared and you’re certain it’s absolutely safe.
Ice can be difficult to see and therefore difficult to anticipate. Black ice forms when running water or standing water freezes on the road and it can stay for some time even after the sun comes out. Be particularly careful on corners, bends and roundabouts so it won't take you by surprise if you come across it.
It’s important not to panic and not to brake. Depress the clutch and turn the steering wheel into the direction of the skid. When the vehicle straightens, steer along the road.
Windscreen chips often create tiny holes in the glass where water can get in. If the water freezes it will expand and can make the chip worse or crack the windscreen.
Your windscreen provides up to 30% of the vehicle’s structural strength and the passenger airbag relies on the windscreen to provide support if the airbag deploys!
Repairing a chip will result in your windscreen being as strong as before the damage happened.
Drive slowly and use dipped headlights so other drivers can see you. Only use your fog lights if visibility is less than 100m and switch them off once conditions have improved.
Fog is often patchy so drive with caution even when visibility improves - there may still be fog further on. Make sure there is plenty of space between you and the car in front, and don’t hang on to their tail-lights.
When approaching floods slow down and avoid driving through surface water if possible. If you do have to drive through, stop and assess the shallowest part (do not get out the car) remember the deepest water is usually nearest the kerb. Use first gear and keep your revs high. Move forward immediately to avoid stalling the engine.
After you have passed through the water test your brakes to make sure it’s safe to drive at your usual speed.
If you travel through deep water your vehicle could aquaplane. This is when your tyres are no longer in contact with the road. It’s important not to panic, but to slow down gradually without braking or steering sharply.
In very windy weather strong gusts can blow a vehicle off course. This can happen on open stretches of road or when passing bridges and high-sided vehicles. Be prepared for this type of deflection.
Don’t forget that preparation and an understanding of what to do if you come up against any problematic road problem will give you peace of mind when you leave the house.