Winter driving thoughts from the O’Rly school of Now Why Didn’t I Think Of That?

With up to a foot of snow in places, it’s been an interesting few days to see just how prepared we were for carrying on with life in the snow. Some things were succesful, others not so much. As ever, one of the biggest risks with driving in the snow is all the other people, it doesn’t matter if I’m anchored to the road if somebody else comes round the corner sideways. I suspect I would be less optimistic if my daily commute wasn’t so lucky.

1) Winter Tyres. Oh my god do these make a difference. I left it until well past the last minute (well, ok, Monday morning) to get some and was lucky enough to get the last two Michelin Alpins from Ian Brown Tyres. I would have preferred something less eye wateringly expensive, but they’ve probably paid for themselves already and they had darned well better last many years worth of winters. These are not magic, but they give you a fighting chance when the temperature is below 7 degrees C or it’s very wet and snowy, some (presumably quite rich) people use them all year round. My car has been a complete liability in previous winters, with the brakes freezing on, the front wheels not being able to grip on the snow on flat carparks and generally been more hassle than just walking. In contrast, this week’s been almost completely uneventful, with the front wheels able to accelerate, turn and brake adequately on a surface that it otherwise wouldn’t have even been able to move on. Driving along our tiny lane and along country roads has been with caution rather than abject panic. The back wheels are just as crap as ever though, so don’t be too surprised by the conservation of momentum when going round corners…

2) Remember chemistry. This is one of today’s lessons that I wish I’d thought of. If you can’t quite get enough grip on ice to reverse out of the snow drift you’ve just gently slid into, then melt it by pouring out your spray bottle of windscreen deicer. This melts the ice a treat and lets you use your sturdy plastic scraper to dig down to the road. It turns out that concentrated screenwash with antifreeze does not work. Chemistry may apply, no purchase necessary, your mileage may vary.

3) Gently does it. Unless you’re practicing your 15mph powerslides in a deserted car park, try to remember momentum. Give yourself bags of time for your car to respond to each command you give it, otherwise you may not accelerate, slow down or turn in time to follow the road or the car in front. Patience also applies. If necessary, carry a spare Little Book Of Calm to chew upon. You’ll get there in the end.

4) Try to be prepared. Make sure your portable sources of energy are as full as possible, be that refined dead dinosaurs in the car’s tank, or mobile phone batteries being full, not half full, or a packet of biscuits in the glovebox. That way, you’re able to call for help and then calmly eat a tasty snack whilst awaiting the cavalry. Pack a 2 ton tow rope and know where your car’s towing points are, it’ll have them front and rear.

I’d best finish with a disclaimer, these are just our thoughts of the week and should be considered to have less credibility than any other unreviewed words you might find lying around the internet. Now go mail order some mid-range winter tyres (because the internet’s the only place with any stock left) and get your local garage to fit them.

Shiny icy lane

Pretty Trees

One thought on “Winter driving thoughts from the O’Rly school of Now Why Didn’t I Think Of That?

  1. Dav Post author

    Edit: don’t forget engine braking too, if you’re careful with the clutch, it can be hugely more effective than applying the disks at all four corners

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