Get a quote

Driving tips and other life stuff

How to drive in icy weather

Ice skating is fun. Ice cream is delicious. Ice on the roads? Nope.

Although our winters in the UK are hardly like a scene from The Revenant (I almost never get attacked by bears), harsh weather can still take you by surprise. We're so much less prepared for weird weather than many countries that it can be really dangerous.

Here's how to cope with icy weather.

Preparing your car for icy roads:

  1. Check your tyre tread depth

    Without a decent amount of tyre tread depth, you won't have enough grip to deal with snow and ice.

    Legally, you need a minimum of 1.6mm of tread depth around the middle 3/4 of your tyres. In winter, that's seriously pushing it. Go with the AA's recommendation: 3mm.
  2. Clear your windscreen of ice

    • Don't use hot water unless you WANT a cracked windscreen
    • Don't be tempted to use your wipers - if they're frozen to your windscreen you could bust a fuse
    Remember: it's illegal to drive with your vision obstructed. Clear the whole thing.
  3. Getting your car going in icy conditions:

    1. How to start a cold car

      Freezing conditions can wreak havoc on your poor car. If it won't start, it could be that your engine is just really cold. Give it a few goes, accelerating lightly to avoid flooding your engine with fuel.

    2. How to know something's wrong...

      A horrible squealing noise when you start your engine could mean your water pump is frozen. THIS IS WHY WE BUY ANTIFREEZE. Unfortunately, if any part of your engine is frozen, all you can do is wait for it to thaw.

      Check your car manual for details of the antifreeze you need to put in your cooling system. You'll need to put in half antifreeze and half water.

      If your car really won't start, it's fairly likely your battery is dead. It's a common problem in winter and you'll need to get someone to jump start you.

    3. Driving on icy roads

      1. How to move off on ice

        Normally you put your car in first gear when you want to go anywhere. If you're sat right on a patch of thick ice though, that ain't gonna cut it.

        For ice (and snow), getting second gear and accelerating really gently (keep the revs low to avoid wheel-spin) will help you move off. Be careful to ease your foot off the clutch very slowly.

      2. Skidding on ice

        Try not to brake sharply on ice as this can make you skid. If you do start to slide, steer gently in the same direction. So: if you're skidding to the right, steer right.

        Don't slam your brakes on if you start to skid on ice - it'll only make things worse.
      3. Updated: 09 January 2020

        Check out our tips for driving in snow so you're prepared for anything.

        Source: AA and RAC