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Driving in Snow - Tips and Precautions

Driving in snowI was recently reminded of an incident many years ago while driving in snow, when I was a passenger in an old beat-up Valiant station wagon heading to the alps for a week of snow boarding with a few friends.

The conditions on the mountain were not the best to say the least, overcast, snowing and the driver didn't have much experience driving in snow and was traveling a bit too quickly for my liking.

Heading down a steep gully on the snow covered mountain road where a sharp bend was looming, I noticed that there was a patch of ice in the shadows of the bend; at the exact same moment, I heard the sound of three other seat belts unclick and the doors fly open!.. Whoops!.. I think it was probably the survival instinct kicking in as we all had the same thought at the same time; "Get Out" - while the goings good!

As fate would have it, when we hit that patch of ice, the car gently slid off the road and cannoned into a large snow bank, just to the side, that bounced us back onto the road and our “insane” driver just merrily continued on as if nothing had happened!

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Anyway I digress, back to the article.

If you plan driving in the snow, you will need to take some special precautions to prevent your vehicle from breaking down and help you negotiate the slippery conditions.

Here are a couple of tips for driving in snow

The first tip is to add anti-freeze coolant to your radiator, as this will lower the temperature when the coolant throughout your engine will freeze, thus avoiding expensive engine damage.

Next, make sure your battery and the terminal connections are in very good condition. A weak battery or poor connections will fail in sub zero temperatures. If in doubt, replace them before you leave. It’s a good idea to also carry jumper leads with surge protectors.


  • Always park with your snow chains fitted.
  • Lift your wiper arms so they don’t stick to your windscreen.
  • Instead of applying the emergency brake, if safe to do so, chock your wheels; if the brake if left engaged it can freeze and prevent you from driving away.
  • Another trick is to lay a Hessian bag or old woolen blanket over your motor and battery overnight to keep some of the cold away, then remove just before you start the engine.

Always carry properly fitting wheel chains when driving in snow and have someone show you how to fit them correctly. Always tie up the adjusting chain, it can be 6 inches long or more and when you get up to speed the chain hits the side panel of the wheel arch and causes damage. It does provide more work for panel beaters though!

Extra Tip: Make sure you fit the snow chains to the drive wheels when driving in snow, for example, if your car is a front wheel drive, fit them to the front wheels. It seems obvious, but I have seen many cars to the side of the road spinning the front wheels like crazy, wondering why they are not moving and have fitted the chains to the rear wheels, looks hilarious, but they never seem to be laughing. If you own a 4 wheel drive / all wheel drive, fit the chains to the front wheels to aid with steering.

DANGER BLACK ICE: also known as "clear ice," generally refers to a thin coating of glazed ice on a roadway. It's not actually black; it’s transparent, which allows the black asphalt roadway to be seen through it. It is extremely slick compared to other roadway ice, and contributes to a massive amount of car accidents. Watch for areas of the road where the snow has melted during the day and then re-frozen. Particularly on bridges, at night or early morning but can occur during the day in shaded areas (like the spot I described at the bottom of the gully) or on overcast days. This situation is treacherous and commands vigilance and respect, once your sliding on 'Black Ice' without chains, there is generally only one way of stopping. When you hit something!

Driving in the snow can be very hazardous, but if you are sensible, take the right precautions, and are aware of the weather forecasts, road conditions and most importantly, LISTEN to any direction from mountain staff, you will be fine.

If you found this article on driving in snow interesting, you might like the following:

Driving safety tips
Driving in winter
Tips on driving

Driving fear program

Do you Fear Driving in Snow?

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Remaining Calm and in control while driving will enable you to experience more challenging and exciting activities.

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