Winter tips: How to drive safely on ice and snow

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How to drive safely on ice and snow

Winter tips: How to drive safely on ice and snow-safely

If you drive your car in snow and ice, you should always drive with foresight and keep an extra large distance from the cars in front

Source: picture-alliance / M.i.S.-Sportp

It took a long time, but now winter has a firm grip on Germany. And that means that drivers in particular are once again challenged. We give tips on how to get safely through ice and snow.

S.Snow and ice, these weather conditions pose great challenges for many drivers. Anyone who is still on the road with summer tires should act quickly. There is no general requirement for winter tires in Germany, the road traffic regulations only state that appropriate tires are required in "wintry weather conditions".

However, if you are involved in a traffic accident in snow, slush and ice without winter tires, even if you are not the cause of the accident, you can lose your insurance cover. And anyone who hampers traffic by hindering traffic because of the wrong tires, for example, must expect a fine of 80 euros.

Before starting your journey, you should completely remove snow, ice or frost from the windows (as well as the headlights and indicators). A small peephole is not only a considerable safety risk, the driver also risks a fine or problems with his insurance in the event of an accident. In addition, other road users must not be endangered by falling snow or ice sheets.

Driving at low revs gives grip

When starting off on snow, it is important to accelerate very carefully in order to prevent the wheels from rolling and spinning. Driving at low revs makes it easier to get ahead on slippery roads because the tires have better grip. Therefore, it is better to start off in second gear when it is slippery. If the wheels spin or the car starts to roll, you should immediately go into a higher gear to reduce the power transmission to the wheels and to catch and stabilize the vehicle again.

Even if you have mastered your own vehicle, this does not necessarily apply to all other road users. You should therefore expect vehicles to skid. At the same time, the braking distance is considerably longer in ice and snow. The safety distance should therefore be increased, about twice or even three times the length.

On slippery or snow-covered roads you should absolutely avoid accelerating, braking hard or making hasty steering movements, otherwise you can easily skid. If the car breaks out anyway, step on the clutch (switch to "neutral" in automatic vehicles) and carefully counter-steer, the experts advise.

Short brake test on the open road

In snow and ice, it is advisable to do a short brake test every now and then – but only on the open road when there is no danger to others. This gives a feeling for the road holding and for the longer braking distance on a slippery road surface.

Vigorous acceleration should be avoided in bends and the rule before the bend is to take off the accelerator and steer in and out with steady steering movements. When cornering, it is particularly important to brake moderately, under no circumstances let the tires lock up.

This is even more important for old vehicles without ABS. Cars with ABS are different: on snow, modern cars, which nowadays are almost exclusively equipped with an anti-lock braking system (ABS), can even steer the vehicle while braking.

Differences in front and rear-wheel drive

Front-wheel drive cars react differently than rear-wheel drive cars. If the rear of the front-wheel drive car breaks out, experienced drivers can get it back on track with a gentle push of the gas. However, this is not a real alternative, the risk is far too high. In rear-wheel drive cars, take your foot off the accelerator and, best of all, disengage the clutch.

Do not brake if there is a threat of a spin. Only apply the brakes when the wheels have grip again. Beware of load change reactions. If it is still possible to catch the vehicle after the rear has broken away, the rear swings back and usually beyond the middle position.

Black ice, also known as freezing rain, is particularly dangerous, as it usually comes as a surprise. It occurs, among other things, when it rains, which falls on frozen ground and creates a layer of ice there.

The only correct reaction in this case is to reduce speed, drive with foresight and keep a sufficient distance from the vehicle in front. If you turn the steering wheel too hard, you have no chance of catching the car again. In cars with an electronic stability program (ESP), the electronics suppress the rear end breaking away.

Knock off your shoes before getting in

The basic winter equipment in every vehicle includes a scraper, a hand brush and frost-proof windscreen cleaner as a reserve. It is also advisable to pat your shoes off before boarding. Because the higher the humidity in the car, the faster the windows mist up.

If you are traveling long distances, you should also have the following things in your car: a woolen blanket, some sand or an additional mat to help you get there, a small shovel, anti-fog cloth, gloves, warm drinks. At the latest when the tank is half empty, it is advisable to refuel so that you have enough reserve if you are standing still for a long time (e.g. due to traffic jams on the motorway). If you drive into the mountains, you should have snow chains with you.

Anyone who sits in the car in winter without a thick jacket will shudder for the first few minutes until the heater warms up – an inconvenience that few drivers want to put up with. However, with this you run a security risk. Because thickly padded jackets or coats restrict mobility and thus the ability to react on the steering wheel – for example, if you can no longer look over the shoulder properly.

It is best not to wear a thick jacket

If the clothing is too thick, the so-called belt slack can also occur. The seat belt is no longer close to the body because a cavity has formed underneath. In the event of an accident, the restraint system does not provide optimal protection. This also applies to children who are buckled into their seat with a jacket.

Once the car has warmed up, the next problem arises: Then it’s too hot with a jacket behind the wheel. Many a motorist then tries to take off their warming clothing while driving, which is also not without risk.

In addition, you should also pay attention to other clothing whether it is suitable for driving. For example, it is difficult to hold the steering wheel with lined gloves. Chunky winter boots make sensitive use of the brake and accelerator pedals difficult.

Do not mix gasoline with diesel

In freezing temperatures, many drivers fear that their fuel will not play along. The ADAC Berlin-Brandenburg is currently warning of the outdated trick of making diesel more winter-proof by adding petrol and protecting it from flocculating paraffin crystals. Every drop of gasoline reduces the lubricity of diesel fuels. This could lead to costly damage to the injection system.

Mixing gasoline with diesel is superfluous these days. In the cold months of the year, filling stations are only allowed to sell special winter diesel that already contains flow improvers. In contrast to the previously common shot of gasoline, these anticoagulant additives do not harm the self-igniter.

The ADAC also advises against using additives as flow improvers. Most automakers have not given approval for their use. If an additive may be used, the additive manufacturer’s instructions for use should be strictly observed.

Even in the winter in the car wash

Anyone who thinks that they don’t have to wash their car again until spring is wrong. After all, the car needs a little maintenance even in poor winter weather. "Anything that can attack the paint should be taken down regularly, especially if the car is exposed to road salt," said Claudia Weiler from the Central Association of the German Motor Vehicle Industry (ZDK). As a rule of thumb, frequent drivers should have their car washed once a week, occasional drivers once a month.

In order not to damage the laundry and to prevent scratches, the car should be largely freed from snow and ice residues before driving through the car wash. A proper pre-wash would remove salt crystals and small stones that could otherwise act like sandpaper on the paintwork when exposed to brushes, rollers and cloth rags.

Blocks of ice that form on the wheel arches should also be removed beforehand, but with caution, advises Weiler. Because cars often get very dirty in winter, the use of a high-pressure cleaner is often recommended. In general, drivers have to make sure that headlights and windows are clean, especially in winter, so that they can see and be seen better, says Weiler.

In freezing temperatures, drivers should select a program with drying to finish washing the vehicle in the car wash. Otherwise, vehicle parts could freeze, according to the ZDK. Talcum powder or glycerine on the door seals ensured that the door frames did not ice up due to the freezing wash water. A wax seal is also advisable to protect the paintwork. Rule of thumb here: If water no longer pearls off – it is essential to grow.

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