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Extreme weather driving: dos and don’ts

by Hugh Wilson | 30 Nov 2015

Here are some handy tips for driving in the worst the winter can throw at you. Bookmark this page so you always have it to hand…

General tips:

Do…clear all snow and ice from the windscreen and roof of the car before you set off. If you leave it on the roof melting snow could slide down and obscure vision when you’re on the go. It also poses a risk to other drivers, which is why you can be fined if you drive with snow on the car roof.

Don’t…use hot water to clear windscreens. Boiling water can crack glass. Use lukewarm water or an ice scraper, and top up your screenwash with one that protects down to at least -35.

Do…pack warm clothing. Your car may be warm inside, but if you have to step outside to deal with a problem you could quickly get cold and wet. Always pack hat, gloves, scarf, a blanket and food and drink too. Make sure your mobile is fully charged before you set off and keep a torch in the car.

Driving in snow and ice:

Do…check your tyre tread, and if you have to drive regularly in snowy conditions consider changing to winter tyres.

Don’t…drive as you normally do. Drive defensively in wintry weather and accelerate slowly. Keep a good distance between you and the vehicle in front – in snow, your stopping distance will be at least three time as far as in normal conditions, and even more in ice - and don’t rely on your brakes to stop you in time (or your ABS). In icy conditions they may not work well, or at all! Do everything smoothly and slowly.

Do…steer gently into a skid, so if the rear of the car is sliding left, steer left.

Don’t…stick to minor roads to avoid traffic. Plan ahead and use major routes that are more likely to have been gritted.

Do…slow down, and even more so if you’re driving downhill. On a downhill slope, start slowly and keep your speed low. It’s easier to keep speed low than to have to slow down.

Driving in fog:

 Do…use headlights in low visibility. The Highway Code stipulates that you should turn them on when visibility is below about 100 metres. There’s no obligation to use fog lights, but it is obviously wise.

Don’t….leave fog lights on when visibility improves. They can dazzle. As a general rule you don’t need to use fog lights where there is street lighting.

Do…drive only as fast as conditions allow and leave extra room between you and the car in front.

Don’t….rely on automatic lights. They’re designed to react to ambient light and may not come on in fog.

Do…make sure you can stop within the distance you can see clearly. So if you can only see 30ft ahead, you should drive slowly enough to be able to stop within that distance.

Don’t…rely solely on sight. At junctions in poor visibility, open your window and listen for traffic too.

Driving in standing water:

Do…avoid standing water if you can. Turn around (safely) and find an alternative route. Driving through deep water can mean shorted out-electrics or, worse, serious engine damage.

Don’t…attempt to drive through water if it is more than six inches if still or four inches if the water is moving. If you don’t know, park up and watch other vehicles negotiate it first. Keep an eye out for hidden ditches or dips.

Do….stay on the crown of the road when driving through water, if it’s safe to do so. Drive in first gear, keeping revs up to stop water getting into the exhaust pipe.

Don’t…speed through flood water. Rushing can force water into the engine.

Related content:

Ten ways to prepare your car for Christmas journeys

For real peace of mind this winter, book your car into an AutoCare or Approved Garage for a winter check. 

Quick steps to selecting your Approved Garage…


Firstly, pop in your postcode or town


Select a garage near your location


Speak to a trusted mechanic, send an online enquiry or book online


Then, sit back in the knowledge that your vehicle is in safe hands