Winter Driving Tips


Ireland has just got an unusual dose of wintery weather – so here are some tips for motorists and pointers on getting mobile again:

Clear snow fully from the roof down off your vehicle. Don’t carry snow on your roof – it will only slide on to the windscreen when you break or fall rearward in to other traffic. Scrape any ice off your windscreen and use slightly warm water to clear all glass areas.

Moving off advice: If the snow sits above the height of the bottom of your tyres you may need to dig out a track for the wheels to go through where they can grip a solid surface. Where’s the road gone? The blizzard conditions will have changed the layout of the land so the road you knew will most likely be blurred and the edges, kerbs and ditches will be hard or impossible to spot. Road signage may have disappeared or blown over – so be cautious. Know your route, let people know you are travelling and your estimated time of arrival and make sure you have more than enough fuel for the journey.
Driving Tips: Momentum is vital to maintaining progress – when you have traction and grip – use it! Avoid if you can coming to a full stop so anticipate the traffic flow or a traffic light change. Be gentle with controls. When braking do it when travelling in a straight line if possible to avoid a spin. Drive in as steady a manner as possible.
Hills are tricky: Going up hill you need to keep the tyres gripping so having enough speed built up on the flat will help avoid the wheels scrambling for grip on the slope or worse coming to a stop – moving off then is a tricky task. Going downhill a car on a slipu surface can runaway. ABS anti lock brakes will only do what they can to slow you down and let you steer but there is only so much grip a tyre can get. Caution is advised as its better to crawl along than career out of control. Use dipped lights and fog lights as they are low to the road and will give better illumination in driving snow – avoid full beam headlights as the light will reflect back on you and dazzle.

If Stuck: If you can’t move off and your wheels are spinning there are number of things you can do. First up know your carwhat wheels are being turned by the engine? Most cars are front wheel drive – but find out if your car is front or rear wheel drive (in this case I’m presuming four wheel drive or all wheel drive will be able to move off). Dig out snow from in front of and behind the tyres (this allows you rock back and forth if needed) and if you can put some grit or even a car mat under the front of the driven wheels to let the car grip and move off. Momentum is your biggest friend.

There is always talk of Tyres after bad weather: Should winter tyres be required by law in Ireland? No is the general consensus as we have a mild climate unlike central Europe. Summer tyres are our normal Irish tyres – they are not built to be optimal in low temperatures whereas winter tyres are. Winter tyres stay functional when the air temperature is below 7 degrees centigrade and deliver grip in much colder weather than our regular tyres. Winter tyres also work better in wet conditions than summer tyres also but wear quicker in good conditions and can feel a little vague when being driven hard. Snow socks help as a temporary measure to get extra grip – but get four not just two as when cornering you can swap ends easily without socks on the rear wheels (front wheel drive). Rear wheel drive cars need four socks. Four wheel drive is not a licence to drive anywhere in snow. The laws of physics still apply and while moving off is easy stopping can be as tricky as a two wheel drive car. A four wheel drive on summer tyres is still no match for one on winter tyres. When driving open the window slightly now and again just to stay in touch with the weather and avoid being complacent. Heated seats, steering wheels and great heaters can make us feel cosy and lose sympathy for what the car is trying to do.

In-Car Essentials to carry:
Phone and charger
High Vis vest
Sunglasses (snow glare)
Coat and warm clothes
water & snacks
Shovel or spade
A bag of Kitty litter for traction / car mats
Basic tools, Cable ties, Jump leads, Tow rope
A can of deicer (if your door locks freeze and you have no de icer and need to use a key to get in to your car – men can pee on the lock to unfreeze it)
Warning triangles (for front and rear)
First aid kit
Boots or wellies with a good grip
Empty fuel can

When in doubt don’t drive at all unless your name is Mikka and you’re from Finland!


About Author

Michael Sheridan

Michael Sheridan is a senior and highly respected motoring journalist based in Ireland. He is a frequently heard voice on motoring, transport and mobility matters and has multiple credits on national television, national print media, national and local radio and other outlets. Michael Sheridan has been a Car of the Year Judge for more 20 years (& more recently a Van of the Year judge). Michael has produced and directed many international and national motoring TV programmes and documentaries both on cars and motorcycles - including four films on the iconic Route 66. Michael Sheridan is a former Chairperson of the Association of Professional Motoring Press (APMP).

Comments are closed.