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Winter Driving Top Tips

The roads can be especially dangerous in winter, and there’s a lot of conflicting information out there regarding best practices for driving safely in snow and ice. We’ve complied a definitive list of top tips and advice, sourced from various reputable organisations and industry professionals.

First and foremost, the most important thing to do is take it slow. Stopping distances can be 10 times longer when the road surface is icy. Forethought and careful consideration can dramatically reduce the potential risks associated with reduced traction. Gentle manoeuvres and slows speeds are fundamentally key to safe driving in ice and snow.

Things to consider before setting off:

  • Allow additional time for winter journeys.
  • Plan routes around major roads, which are more likely to be cleared and gritted.
  • Try to get up at least 10 minutes early to allow you time to de-ice your car.
  • Wear comfortable, dry shoes for driving so your feet don't slip on the pedals.
  • Check fuel/charge levels – have at least a quarter of a tank/additional charge in case of unexpected delays.
  • Clear all windows using an appropriate scraper and de-icer, and wait until the windscreen's fully de-misted before setting off.
  • If you drive an automatic, check the handbook – some have a winter mode or recommend selecting ‘2’ in slippery conditions.
  • Ensure that all snow is cleared from the top of the vehicle, and that headlight, windscreen and rear window washer nozzles are unobscured.

Driving on winter roads:

  • Pull away in second gear, easing your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel-spin.
  • If you have to use your brakes, apply them gently.
  • Driving uphill – leave plenty of room between other cars or wait until it’s clear so you don’t have to stop part way up. Keep a constant speed and try to avoid having to change gear on the hill.
  • Driving downhill – slow down before the hill, use a low gear and try to avoid braking. Leave as much room as you can after the car in front.

If you get stuck in snow or ice:

  • Put a sack or old rug in front of the driving wheels to give the tyres some grip.
  • If you get stuck, straighten the steering and clear the snow from the wheels.


Clear your windows of snow, ice and mist.

Do not – under any circumstances - attempt to set-off with a limited field of view, doing so puts yourself and other road users at risk. Make sure all your windows are completely clear of ice, snow and condensation before you set off – no matter how short the journey.


  • Keep the windscreen and other windows clear of dirt and snow to avoid a fine.
  • Clear snow from the roof – it can fall onto the windscreen and block your view.
  • Air-con demists the screen faster and reduces condensation.
  • Replace worn or damaged wiper blades.
  • Don’t leave your wipers on auto when you park up if there’s a risk of frost. If the blades freeze to the screen, you could damage the blades or wiper motor when you turn the ignition on.
  • Use a suitable additive in your screenwash to reduce the chance of it freezing.

Make your car visible in poor winter weather.

With fewer daylight hours and more chance of rain, sleet and snow, there can often be poor visibility when driving in winter – regardless of the time of day.

  • Make sure all car lights are working and the lenses are clean.
  • If the roads are really mucky, you might have to clean your lights after every trip.
  • Keep number plates clean, to avoid fines.
  • If you have to clear snow, don’t forget the lights – front and back.
  • You must use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced. If you use fog lights, remember to switch them off when visibility improves so they don’t dazzle other drivers or obscure your brake lights.

Choose the right winter tyres.


  • We recommend at least 3.5mm of tread for the winter.
  • Don't let air out of your tyres to get more grip – it doesn't work, and it’s unsafe.
  • Only use snow chains if there’s enough snow to prevent damage to the road.
  • Think about getting winter tyres or all-season tyres – these are made from a special rubber that gives better grip in cold, wet conditions.

There we have it, our pick of winter driving tips. Take care and exercise caution when driving in wintery conditions, prior preparation can - and does - make all the difference.


The Unity Automotive Team.

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