Top tips for driving in snow and ice

UK roads can be unpredictable, especially during the colder months. With plenty of rain and freezing temperatures to contend with, there’s more of a chance that something may go wrong on your travels – so it’s important that drive prepared and stock up on some winter essentials.

Here are some tips to successfully navigate your winter roads.

What are the dangers?

The main dangers to consider while driving in bleak mid-winter can be broken down into two main components: snow and ice (particularly black ice), and damage to your car from salt and grit.

While it’s certainly very pretty and, arguably, one of the better things about winter (generally, non-driving types seem to enjoy festive flurries), snow is a real problem for anyone wanting to take to the road during the winter.

We would always advise against taking unnecessary car journeys in snowy or icy conditions, but if you must drive, here are our top five tips to help you stay safe:

  1. Be comfortable! – When the conditions on the roads are already hazardous enough, you don’t want your mind wandering off thinking about how sore your feet are, or how cold your hands are. These are unnecessary distractions and are easy to avoid with proper attire.
  1. Low speed, low revs – Obviously you don’t want to be going fast in icy conditions, so keep the speed nice and low to give yourself plenty of time to stop and react if needed – a good rule of thumb is 10X the amount of space you would usually give. At the same time, you want to keep your revs as low as possible. This means travelling in as high a gear as you can, such as moving in to second gear as soon as possible (maybe even starting the car in second if the roads are really bad). This will prevent wheel spin and help give your car a bit more grip.
  1. Keep your movements smooth – Jerky motions, like changing lane sharply or braking hard, will make it more likely for you to skid. Keep your motion smooth and in control.
  1. Steer into the skid – If you do happen to start skidding, don’t panic! Keep your movements smooth and steer into the skid (so if the car is skidding right, you want to steer left to try and correct your cars direction). And don’t brake! Braking in the middle of a skid is a sure-fire way to spin out of control.
  1. Sunglasses, not just because you are cool – If there is a blanket of snow on the ground, then glare is a major consideration. Having the sun bouncing up from the ground into your eyes is a dreadful hazard, and there are no mechanisms in the car to help alleviate this. Bring some sunglasses to avoid this. 

And of course, it’s not just winter driving you have to be careful about. Traveling on gritted roads will expose your vehicle to a corrosive salty mixture, and leaving this on your vehicle have far-reaching repercussions.

If you want a full breakdown on how to keep your car sparkling clean, then check out our guides on car cleaning and cleaning your wheels.

Key points to remember in winter:

  • Wash your car regularly – especially after long trips. If you can, try and use a power washer to easily get into the crevices and blast the salt off your car.

  • If temperatures are low outside (below about 4°C) it can cause water to freeze on your vehicle, and on the ground causing ice to form.If you're planning to wash your car and let it dry naturally, it is best to do so about midday, when the temperatures are at their warmest, and you'll have more daylight.

  • Be cautious of using hot water on your vehicle - if it's too hot, the drastic change in temperature can cause windows can cause cracks or smashing, and paint to bubble.

  • Wax your car – Adding a layer of wax to your car will give it an extra bit of protection, always a good thing while corrosive salt is about.
  • Top tip: avoid water and use a waterless wash spray.

  • A car cover – It’s true that, late in the evening, it can be a little daunting to then wrestle a car cover on. But with the time it can save in the morning, not to mention the protection it adds for the coldest part of the night, it can be well worth it!

With these tips in mind, you’ll sail through the wintry period with a smile on your face! 

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Header image credit: Adrien Olichon via