Don't be a victim of bad weather this winter

Winter driving and how to keep moving

Winter is coming and we can expect anything from several foot of snow to the same in flood water. The question is, though, are you able to keep your family rolling if the worst happens? Here’s the Crawley Down Group’s guide to driving this winter.

How not to drive in snow or ice

Don't be a victim of bad weather this winter

Don’t be a victim of bad weather this winter

If the snow’s falling or ice is forming, then here’s how to avoid common mistakes that could cost you dear…

4X4 complacency: Your four-wheel-drive transmission might be driving you forward at an impressive rate of knots, but it’s worth remembering you still have to stop just like anyone else. Happening on a mere two-wheel-drive mortal floundering in the slush could easily end in dented pride, or worse… Keep your speed down and don’t get seduced into thinking that delivering power to all four wheels makes you invincible.

Don’t wait until it’s too late: We might be having a mild winter so far, but that doesn’t mean it’ll last. Waiting until the weather deteriorates before giving your wagon for winter make-over won’t end well. The most dangerous time is usually the first day of poor weather as drivers realise they’re totally unprepared. Check your vehicle now for the following
Tyres: Ensure you have plentiful and equal amounts of tread on your tyres
Anti-freeze: Check that your anti-freeze is topped up
Windscreen wash: Refill your windscreen washer bottle (including a windscreen cleaning solution). The wash will stop it from freezing and leaving you blind.
Lights: Test all your lights
Battery: Check the condition of your battery – KwikFit will do this for free. Details here
Heater: Check your blower, heater and demister all work efficiently

Pull back:
In the event of heavy snow, many people think that poor visibility and treacherous road conditions can be countered by remaining close to the vehicle in front. This will, in fact, cut reaction times, reduce vision and increase the likelihood of you having an accident or getting stuck. Give yourself at least six seconds gap from the vehicle in front.

No slamming: If your tyres start to slip, stamping on the middle pedal harder won’t increase your ability to stop and will simply prolong your skid as you head straight to the scene of the impending accident. Briefly remove your foot from the brake and let the tyres regain traction before re-applying pressure. If time, stay calm and attempt to steer round the hazard.

No slamming 2 – aquaplaning: Effectively, this is where your car hits a flooded piece of road and is left floating on a layer of water, leaving you with no steering control. If you find yourself heading for a large area of standing water, you should prepare to aquaplane. Do not slam on your brakes – ease off the accelerator and de-clutch the car if it’s a manual or gently feather the throttle for automatics. Keep the car as straight as possible as your enter the water – your tyres will need to be straight when they reach the other side and regain grip. Aquaplaning is caused by going too fast for the road conditions, so reducing your speed is the best way to prevent it occurring.

Gears and revs: Driving in snow requires you to understand your car and how traction is delivered. We’ll leave the physics to boffins in their white coats, but putting your car in first gear and flooring the throttle will merely bury your (2wd) wheels in the snow and halt any forward progress. Always try to pull away in second gear, which will aid traction while also forcing you to keep the speed low.

Top four 4x4s for you

Despite what the majority of mums dropping off their lone child at the school gates might suggest, there are alternatives to buying a four-wheel-drive vehicle that’s bigger than the average family home. Here are our top tips for those who want to revolt against the Range Rover and buy something that won’t melt the atmosphere or cause gridlock on the school run.

Fiat Panda 4×4 1.3 Multijet

MPG: 60.1mpg
CO2: 125g/km
How much: £15,295


This great-looking Fiat is the only supermini that offers genuine off-road ability with economy that would shame many of its 2wd counterparts. It really is a decent car, too, and will certainly keep your family on the move whatever the winter can throw at it. Along with the excellent economy and low-CO2 emissions, it’s a sensibly sized car that’s perfect for everyday use.

Skoda Yeti 2.0 TDI SE 4×4

MPG: 47.1mpg
CO2: 157g/km
How much: £22,030


The Skoda Yeti has just about everything you’ll need. It’s stylish, practical and provides an interesting alternative to the banality of many traditional family hatchbacks – without becoming just another road-clogging barge. It’s an excellent car to drive and brings genuine 4×4 ability  for inclement weather or simply heading off the black stuff just for fun.

Dacia Duster 1.5 dCi 110 Ambiance 4WD 5dr

MPG: 53.3mpg
CO2: 135g/km
How much: £13,995

dusterMost Chelsea tractor drivers might faint at the thought of arriving at the school gates in a Dacia, but should their vacuum-packed craniums ever be breached by the reality of economy versus vanity, they might just think again. The Dacia Duster is certainly where the smart 4×4 driver is lodging their cash, with a fully functioning family vehicle available from £11,495 you really can’t go wrong. However, we’d swerve the entry-level four-wheel-drive version and go for the mid-range Ambiance trim that offers the best blend of value and ‘luxury’.

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross Crossover 1.6 SZ-T 5dr

MPG: 51.3mpg
CO2:  127g/km
How much: £17,749

The Suzuki Swift 4×4 is a real gem of an option for real-world drivers.  Despite its off-road abilities, the Swift S-Cross is great for everyday driving, too. Take it off-road or point its nose at some snow and it simply won’t miss a beat. It’s small, nippy and certainly worth a test drive.

Faux X four…

Just because your car is 2wd, it doesn’t mean you can’t pack a little 4×4 traction in your boot. Here are our tips to ensure you’re always on the go whatever the weather.

Stay safe….

If you’re heading out in bad weather, make sure that someone knows where you’re going and when you should get there. A great way to do this is the StaySafe tracker app. Here’s the info you need.

Staysafe Tracker… make sure someone knows where you are

Let someone track your progress

Let someone track your progress

What is it: Heading out on a road trip in winter weather, then this GPS tracker app will ensure that a family member or friend can keep an eye on your progress to make sure you’ve not hit problems. From breaking down or being trapped by a flood in remote locations, this app will help alert others to your predicament – even when you don’t have a phone signal. The tracker uses separate GPS technology. It will automatically email or text your location to an ‘emergency’ contact (defined by you) if you fail to check-in as expected. An exact GPS location will be provided so that you can be instantly located. How much: £4.99 Get it here for Android  Get it here for iOS 

Don’t lose the power to survive

Getting stuck in cold or having a crash winter weather can be a killer if you’re left in a remote location, so make sure you’re phone never lets you down – even if your car does. Cold weather can zap a car’s battery in minutes – especially if it’s in poor condition – so always carry one of these alternative phone chargers when travelling in poor winter weather.

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