Temperatures are dropping across Ireland as winter brings sub-zero temperatures and snow. We thought it would be helpful to arm you with some Irish winter weather driving safety tips and ensure your safety so you can protect yourself while driving in the Snow.
This is the time of year when most preparation is required to stay safe on Irish roads and avoid breakdowns. Radiators can freeze, black ice on the roads can cause skidding.
Driving in snow and ice the right way!
- Wear comfortable, dry shoes for driving. Cumbersome, snow-covered boots will slip on the pedals.
- Pull away in second gear, easing your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel-spin.
- Up hill – avoid having to stop part way up by waiting until it is clear of other cars or by leaving plenty of room to the car in front. Keep a constant speed, choosing the most suitable gear well in advance to avoid having to change down on the hill.
- Down hill – reduce your speed before the hill, use a low gear and try to avoid using the brakes. Leave as much room as possible between you and the car in front.
- If you have to use brakes then apply them gently.
Top tip: If you get stuck, straighten the steering and clear the snow from the wheels. Put a sack or old rug in front of the driving wheels to give the tyres some grip. Once on the move again, try not to stop until you reach firmer ground.
Lower your speed and mind the gap!
Once on the road, reduce your speed and increase the distance between you and the car in front.
A quarter of motorists said they don’t always lower their average speed on icy roads and another 23% do not increase the distance between them and the vehicle in front.
Keeping a distance and reducing speed is important as icy conditions impair breaking performance and cause wheels to slip.
Remember, it’s the ice you can’t see that will catch you out. Black ice is clear snow or rainwater that freezes on darker road surfaces, rendering it invisible. And potentially deadly.
It’s a ‘trap’ many drivers fall victim to because of this much overlooked fact: the ground freezes much earlier than the air.
Indeed, road surfaces can become frozen while the air is over 4°c above freezing. This also means that it’s possible for black ice to form even when there’s no rain or snow – rather like dew that forms on the ground overnight.
So if your vehicle has an outside air temperature monitor – don’t trust it as a guide to road conditions.
What to do if you skid on the road?
If there is ice on the road, you need to drive extremely carefully. Black ice can’t easily be seen, so drive gently and allow plenty of space between you and the car in front. Remember that stopping distances can be longer in ice and snow.
If you do skid, steer in the direction of the skid, and try not to brake or accelerate until you are back in control.
Dropping gears instead of braking can help prevent skidding.
Checklist, before you leave…
- Get up at least 10 minutes early to give you time to prepare the car.
- Don’t drive off with a tiny hole cleared in the windscreen. Clear all windows using a scraper and de-icer.
- Use a cigarette lighter to warm a key for a frozen lock. Don’t breathe on the lock, as the moisture will condense and freeze.
- Plan routes to favour major roads which are more likely to have been cleared and gritted.
- Put safety before punctuality when the bad weather closes in. Allow extra time for winter journeys but be prepared for the inevitability of being late for work due to unexpected delay.
Got supplies to hand?
If you’re involved in an accident or if one happens ahead of your vehicle – you could be stuck on the road for some time.
And if you happen to be in a vulnerable position, such as on a bend or the hard shoulder, it would be too risky to sit in your vehicle. So you need to be equipped to deal with the possibility of cold weather, both inside and outside your car.
Consider equipping yourself with an ‘emergency kit’, including essential items like a torch, snow shovel, spare gloves, blankets, warm clothes, water, snacks, a torch, batteries – even an extra mobile phone battery.
Its time to check your tyres!
- At least 3mm of tread is recommended for winter motoring, and certainly no less than 2mm.
- DON’T reduce tyre pressures to get more grip – it doesn’t work and reduces stability.
- Consider changing to winter or all season tyres – these have a higher silica content in the tread which prevents it hardening at lower temperatures, and therefore gives better grip in cold, wet conditions.
How to protect your car from frost?
Cover the car windscreen with an old blanket or cardboard to help prevent frost settling.
Clear frosted windows with de-icer and a scraper. Also clear headlights and mirrors.
Avoid pouring warm water over your glass, as if there is already a chip, the temperature change shock could lead to a crack developing.
Early signs of trouble with your car: A continuous squealing noise as soon as the engine is started is a sign the water pump is frozen – it’s the fan belt slipping on the pulley. The cylinder block could be frozen too.
How to go about it?
- Stop the engine immediately and allow it to thaw out. This may take several days unless the car can be moved to a heated garage.
- If the car begins to overheat a few miles from home it’s likely that the radiator has frozen, preventing coolant from circulating. Stop straight away to avoid serious damage and allow the radiator to thaw.
Think of conserving your power!
- Lights, heaters and wipers put high demand on the car battery. If your driving is mainly dark rush-hour trips, the battery will die out eventually.
- Batteries rarely last longer than five years. Replacing one near the end of its life can save a lot of time and inconvenience at the side of the road.
- Avoid running electrical systems any longer than necessary, turn the heater fan down and switch the heated car windows off once windows are clear.
- If the car stands idle most of the weekend a regular over night trickle charge is a good idea to give the battery a chance to revive.
- Switch off non essential electrical loads like lights, rear window heater and wipers before trying to start the engine.
- Use the starter in short five-second bursts if the engine doesn’t start quickly, leaving thirty seconds between attempts to allow the battery to recover.
- Antifreeze costs only a few euros, but a frozen and cracked engine block will cost hundreds to repair.
- Most modern cars use long-life antifreeze. It’s important to use the right type and avoid mixing different types. Check the handbook or ask a dealer for advice.
- Some types of antifreeze may need to be changed after only two years. Check the manufacturer’s service schedule.
- You need a 50-50 mix of antifreeze and water in the cooling system for winter. This gives maximum protection down to -34 degrees centigrade and without it severe engine damage costing hundreds of pounds can occur.
Make sure your vision isn’t impaired!
- Keep the windscreen and other windows clear – if your vision is obscured through dirt, snow or even sticker-infested car windows you could face a hefty fine.
- Clear snow from the roof as well as from windows as this can fall onto the windscreen obscuring your view. It can be a hazard to other road users as well.
- Dazzle from a low winter sun can be a particular problem.
- Use air conditioning for faster demisting and to reduce condensation on cold windows.
- Check windscreen wipers and replace if necessary.
- Make sure that wipers are switched off in the park position when leaving the car, when there’s risk of freezing. If you don’t and the blades freeze to the screen, you could damage the blades or wiper motor when you turn the ignition on.
- Top up Windscreen washer fluid and treat with a suitable additive to reduce the chance of freezing. Don’t use ordinary engine antifreeze as it will damage paintwork.
Now you are armed with all the tips and cautions we would suggest that you stay home and if you really don’t have to go out then don’t.
Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else on the road can. Don’t tempt fate, if you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.
However, if you must drive then best of luck, we wish you a safe journey!