JK's Guide to Driving and Staying Safe in Icy Weather

JK's Guide to Driving and Staying Safe in Icy Weather

JK's Marketing Assistant
Published 6 January 2022
Heidi Padoin

We here at JK, know just how difficult the Great British weather can be. To avoid getting stuck, we have put together a guide that will help you drive safely in icy conditions. 

Ice is incredibly dangerous and driving on it is a bad idea. If you must press on with your journey, we’ve prepared a few tips and preparations you can take on to ensure that your journey goes well.

Staying Safe while Driving on Icy Roads

We all know that ice is incredibly slippery and driving on ice poses a risk to yourself and your vehicle. But if you have prior engagements, it cannot always be helped. When driving in icy weather usually a good idea to leave much earlier than you usually would, to give yourself time to get to where you need to go safely, and allow for unexpected delays. It will be necessary to drive much slower than usual and this will make your journey longer. Don’t risk yourself and others by racing on at your usual speed because you left late!

Stopping distances are hugely increased on ice
When travelling on roads you much leave roughly 10 x the amount of space between you and the car in front, compared to what you usually would. This gives you time to perform an emergency brake with little risk, if the person in front suddenly stops.

Reconsider your choice of gears
It’s always better to drive in a higher gear when it’s icy outside, because this means the wheels will spin less fast as you accelerate. If you’re confident to do so, it’s best to pull away in second gear to prevent the wheels from spinning and your car to lose grip on the road surface.

Stick to the road more travelled
When you’re driving long distances in snowy, icy or wintry conditions, it’s best to stick to major roads as these are the places most likely to be covered with salt grit. The salt melts the ice and the grit helps to provide a more textured surface to aid grip.

Grit bins are positioned at the entry point to most residential roads and cul-de-sacs. If you’re setting away early and you can see that your road is quite slippery, it may be worth a trip to the salt bin before you leave. Not only will it help you drive out carefully but will help your neighbours out too. This is especially useful if you live on or near a steep hill!

Image credit Anne Nygärd, via Unsplash

Preparing to Drive in Cold Weather

In the colder months, we often experience ice on the roads and every surface in the form of frost. It’s good practise in cold weather to leave your car running for about 10 minutes prior to your journey, to make sure the engine is warm enough.

Give your vehicle a chance to warm up
Air-cooled or water-cooled, it’s bad for your engine to be run and revved straight away when it’s ben sat overnight, but this is especially bad in cold conditions. As your car warms up, it’s a good idea to turn the heaters on and fire them at the windscreen. Not only will this help to warm the inside of the car and clear condensation before you set off but will melt the ice on the outside which could block your vision.

Scrape your windows while it warms up
It's really important to remove all the ice that you can from all windows before you set off, so you might as well do this while your vehicle warms up.

Any reduction in visibility can cause a blind spot and can stop you from spotting important hazards. Get yourself an ice scraper, keep it in your glove box or door pocket, and make sure you clear every window, especially if you can’t wait for the ice to be melted by the heater.

Spray cans of de-icer are a good alternative if you're in a hurry, but we prefer not to use them because the chemicals will damage the rubber of your windscreen wipers with prolonged use. There have also been warnings that they're hazardous for pets, which isn't something we want to risk with our own four-legged friends

Don't neglect the screen wash
Similar to de-icer, you can purchase screen wash with ice dissolving properties in it. Not only will this prevent the screen wash from freezing in the bottle in especially cold conditions, but this will also provide what is essentially de-icer, as you drive. On occasion, it can be so cold during the day that you can see rain freezing on the windshield as you drive on the motorway, this is a great time to use your screen wash as it will prevent more ice from forming, and sluff it away with the wiper. 

Image credit to llum Isart, via Unsplash

Classic vehicles in ice:

As we mentioned earlier, you'll want to ensure that you've kept your engine running for a short while before you set off. When it’s cold outside it'll affect your engine, meaning that any metal components will be minutely smaller than when they are warm. Meal does expand ever so slightly when hot, and so if you put your engine under stress too early, this will cause some areas to experience a sudden change in temperature. As this happens, it can cause immense stress on the engine's tighter-fitting components and cause potentially serious damage. So, best to be patient and warm your car up if its cold out! 

Is your classic mechanically ready for the trip? 
Are your lights working? Do your brake lights work? Are your wiper blades in good condition? What about your tyres? Is your horn working, in case you need to signal for help? We strongly recommend giving your classic car a good check over before each journey, especially if you're going to be driving at night. 

Look at fixing up your heating system
Not all classics are blessed with great heating systems, and your VW may struggle to melt the ice on your windscreen with the blower. Alls not lost, though - it's relatively easy to diagnose the issues with your aircooled Volkswagen's heating system and then repair it.

When it's all in good working order, the heating in your classic VW is pretty impressive, but there's quite a few points where it can fail.

The backup plan: a good old cloth!
In addition, to help clear the mist and fog, a good thing to have handy is a microfibre cloth or pad. These are great at soaking up the moisture from your windscreen and help to quickly clear the condensation caused by the ice. It's best to make sure you don't leave it inside your vehicle all the time when it's wet, as it'll evaporate moisture into the air inside your vehicle and cause even more condensation.

An alternative to this would be an old tea towel or any old flannels you have stowed away in the back of an airing cupboard. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but an absorbent cloth that won’t leave fibres or dust on the windscreen is what you want! 

Don't be ashamed of using a hot water bottle
Another thing to have handy, especially if your heater matrix isn’t amazing, is a hot water bottle! But if you find yourself shivering most of the time in your classic, it may be worth digging one out for longer journeys. Along the same lines is a flask of tea or coffee, it never hurts to have one ready before you leave. If you don’t have to stop at a service station for anything, it’s nice to carry one on your journey so that you have something warm to drink when you want it. 

Image credit Bailey Zindel, via Unsplash

Modern vehicles in ice:

Driving on ice may be easier and arguably safer, but there's still checks you should make to ensure you reach your destination without any issues.

Check your coolant
It's really important to make sure your coolant is topped up, and that you're using the right type. Not only does engine coolant keep your engine cooler than just water when it reaches a high heat, but it also stops the water in your system from freezing while you're not using it.

It’s a good idea to check your vehicle's manual to confirm which type your vehicle needs. Some engines may need a different ratio in colder months, or you may want to use a new coolant all together if you’re unsure.

Are your brakes working right? 
Ensure that your ABS is working. Icy roads are prime time for your Anti-Lock Brake System system to kick in and if it’s not working properly, you may be in big trouble. This is something that should be checked and taken care of annually at an MOT or vehicle service, but it’s good to double check before the colder weather sets in.

It's also a good idea to makes sure that your vehicle's heated seats, heater matrix, heated windscreen, heated wing mirrors and other useful accessories are working correctly. These make getting going a little bit quicker in the mornings and it’s best to test them before you need them rather than to be late because your heater isn’t working and now you must scrape all the ice off your car.

How are your tyres looking?
Another really important important checks on all cars hitting the roads in icy weather is the tyre tread and tyre pressure on your wheels. Most modern cars will alert you if there appears to be an issue but it’s good practise to take a look before you head off. If you know you'll be making lots of journeys in your vehicle this winter, it may be worth investing in some winter tyres.

A great way to prepare for the upcoming winter is to check the forecast ahead. Visit the Met Office website via this link. Use this website to check the weather forecast before you set off, to check for any potential interruptions to your journey.

Just Kampers Insurance

If you cover your vehicles with Just Kampers Insurance, modern or classic, then we’ve got you covered. If the icy roads get the better of you and you end up stuck, then JK Insurance can help you out!

JK Insurance customers get UK and European roadside assistance and home-start cover from just £42.00 for cars, £47.00 for vans, and £90.00 for campervans annually. Which means that we can rescue you rain or shine, if you break down and need a helping hand.

For more information on Just Kampers Insurance, please visit our website 

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