If you've only recently passed your driving test, the thought of having to navigate through bad weather can be daunting. Unfortunately, we aren't lucky enough to only drive when the skies are blue and the roads are dry. Sometimes, you'll find yourself having to navigate through heavy rain, fog, hail and ice, and you'll want to do so safely.
These tips for driving in various poor conditions should help.
Before you set off check the condition of your car
There are several aspects of your car which are particularly important to check, especially when you're planning a long-distance drive. Here's what you need to look over before doing any driving in poor conditions:
- Lights: You'll be relying on your lights more so make sure they all work correctly. Furthermore, you'll want to check the condition of your battery as heavy usage of lights can add pressure to it.
- Wipers: Check your front and back wipers are clean and work efficiently to ensure you can clear the screen during bout of heavy rain.
- Tyres: You should always ensure that your tyres are fully pumped and have enough tread, but it's particularly important for when the roads are wet or icy. The RAC recommends at least 3mm of tread for winter driving. If you discover that your tyres need replacing, Carbase offers free winter tyre fitting to all.
- Screenwash: Use concentrated anti-freeze screenwash which has not been diluted and can cope with temperatures as low as -35. In cold weather, you don't want the water to freeze and your wipers to become useless.
If you buy your car from Carbase you'll automatically become a member of our Owners' Club, which means you're entitled to free summer and winter checks - be sure to make the most of them to keep your car in tip-top condition.
Driving in fog
Fog can come out of nowhere and greatly reduces your visibility, but there are ways to boost it. Make sure you turn on your dipped headlights and when visibility is so poor you can't see more than 100m in front, turn your fog lights on. Don't forget to turn your fog lights off when visibility improves as you don't want to dazzle other road users or obscure your brake lights!
Remember that not everyone is as good a driver as you, and some may have forgotten to turn on their fog lights, so keep vigilant. Be careful not to accelerate or decelerate too quickly, as you may not be able to see who's in front or behind you. Always check your mirrors before slowing down suddenly.
Driving when it's icy
The key to staying safe on icy roads is to drive carefully and smoothly. When pulling away from your parking spot, accelerate gently and use low revs; then change into a higher gear as quickly as possible. Doing so will reduce any potential wheel slip. It's worth noting that some cars have a winter driving mode - if your vehicle has this feature, turn it on.
When behind other drivers on the road in bad weather conditions, be sure to leave ten times the amount of distance you usually would on dry roads. Bends in the road should be tackled slowly and with caution - brake gently down to the appropriate speed before approaching the bend to avoid any sliding.
Driving up and downhill can also be nerve-wracking when it's icy. When driving uphill, give the driver in front plenty of room and keep a consistent speed. Ideally, you don't want to have to stop on the hill or change gear. When going downhill use a low gear and take it slow. Again, try not to brake unless it's necessary.
It's all too easy to go into panic mode if your car happens to slide along the road, but try not to. If you experience a front-wheel skid, you won't have control of your front wheels so steering doesn't do much. A short jab on the brake (not a slam) can push the weight of the vehicle to the front and help to regain grip.
With a rear-wheel skid, you need to turn your wheels towards the slid i.e. if the car slides out to the right you need to carefully steer right towards the skid to counteract the effect. Do not slam on the brakes, as this will make the skid much worse, and you won't be in control. If skidding is something you are worried about being able to handle, there are several courses available which provide training on how to handle a skid.
Driving in heavy rain
Heavy rain can cause two potential problems: aquaplaning and flooding. If you've never experienced it before, aquaplaning is when there is so much water between the road and your tyres that the two are not in direct contact anymore, which can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. In this situation, you should try not to accelerate, decelerate or steer your vehicle. Instead, take your foot off the pedal and let your car slow down naturally.
To ensure you avoid routes which are flooded, listen to your local radio station for updates. If you do come across a large area of water, check how deep it is before driving through it - deep water can seriously damage your car and may even leave you stranded. When driving through puddles of a safe depth, do so slowly - not only to protect your car, but to prevent you from soaking any pedestrians or cyclists (which is illegal).
If your car does breakdown in heavy rain and you need to wait for assistance, keep your bonnet closed so that your electrical system does not get damaged.
Driving in a hail storm
Hail storms often occur suddenly and can be dangerous to drive in. If you are caught in a severe hail storm, pull over and wait until it passes (they rarely last longer than a few minutes). Ideally, you should find somewhere sheltered to protect your windscreen from the hail. Stay inside the vehicle to protect yourself, too, as hail can cause injury.
We hope these above tips will help new drivers find some confidence when navigating through bad weather. If you've just passed your test and are ready to purchase your first used car, get in touch with us today.