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Cars & travel.

Updated: 5 Nov 2021

How to drive in winter conditions and snow

Driving your car in snowy, wet or icy weather conditions can be a challenge. Stay safe on the road this winter using our top tips and video guides.
Daljinder Nagra
Driving-in-snow advice lead

From de-icing your windscreen to sliding on ice and getting stuck in the snow, driving in the winter poses all kinds of potentially dangerous situations. But knowing how to react can help you avoid any accidents.

We've rounded-up the best expert advice and tips on how to tackle some of the most typical winter driving tasks so you can stay as safe as possible.

The cold weather can play havoc with your battery. Don't be caught out in the cold – make sure you’re covered by one of our best car breakdown cover providers.

Video: how to de-ice your windscreen

Watch our video to find out how to de-ice your windscreen properly, or read our top tips below.

  • Make use of any warm-up or remote start features your car has.
  • Start the car as soon as possible to allow the engine to warm and produce hot air for the cabin. Ensure the blowers are pointed at the windscreen, rather than at your feet.
  • Use a scraper or a plastic edge to remove ice from glass areas. Be careful around the edges, as you may risk damaging paintwork or seals.
  • Use de-icer if you have it.
  • Ensure your windows are completely clear before setting off. Peeking through a makeshift porthole is dangerous and illegal.
  • Remove any snow from your roof, bonnet or boot, or it will blow off. This could be dangerous or distracting to other road users, or fall on to your windscreen when you brake and block your view.

If you want more control over your car when the temperature drops, why not try a set of new winter tyres? We explain how winter tyres work.

Video: how to demist your car

Watch our video to find out how to demist your car, or read our top tips below.

The right way to demist your car

  • Start the heater on cold, and then slowly increase the temperature.
  • Put air-con on if you have it – this will help remove moisture from the air in your car.
  • If you've got a setting to demist your windscreen or heating elements in your front or rear screen, use them.

Demisting your car effectively is essential – not doing so can obstruct your view, which means you’ll be driving illegally and putting yourself and others in danger.

Mist is actually condensation that's created when hot air (normally from your heater) hits the cold surface on your windscreen so it's best to avoid putting the heating straight to hot.

Instead, start the air con to dry the air out, then gradually increase the temperature to heat the air up.

Don't open the windows – the humidity creating the mist comes from the environment and, because the car isn't air tight, opening the windows can make it worse.

If you regularly drive in colder conditions, a model with a four-wheel drive could be the car for you. Take a look at our Best Buy 4x4s and large SUVs that have aced our rigorous tests.

Video: winter driving techniques

Watch our video to find out how to drive in the winter properly, or read our top tips below.

How to drive safely in winter

Good driving techniques are just as important as the tyres fitted to your car. They're not complicated and don't cost any money – the secret is simply to employ a calm, relaxed approach (pretend the controls are made of glass!). Here are some top tips:

  • Use higher gears – pull away in second rather than first gear as this reduces the chances of spinning the wheels and digging yourself into a rut.
  • If your car has an efficiency or economy mode, it will normally dull the accelerator's responsiveness, making it easier to get going without spinning the wheels.
  • Be very gentle with the clutch and throttle – this will also help to reduce the chances of wheel-spin.
  • Avoid sharp application of the brakes as this can lead to a skid, at which point you've lost control of your car. If the wheels lock, release the brakes before reapplying them. ABS doesn't work well on snow, so repeatedly pumping the brakes (cadence braking) may slow you more quickly.
  • Be delicate with the steering – any tyre's ability to offer lateral grip is reduced in these conditions. The faster you travel and the more you need to turn, the less sideways grip the tyre will offer. Once you're sliding sideways, it’s even harder to regain control.
  • Use major routes where possible – these are much more likely to have been gritted and, usually, the higher traffic volumes help prevent snow from settling. Leave much bigger stopping distances (up to 10x greater) between you and whatever is in front of you.
  • Above all, reduce your speed – the car will be easier to control and you'll have much more time to react to developing situations.

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