Planning on venturing out for a winter road trip? Here’s a few tips we’ve put together to help you out and make the road trip more enjoyable. Even if the worst happens and you suffer a mechanical or weather delay.
- Prepare the vehicle for travel
- What to Pack
- Tips for driving in Wintery Conditions
- Steamed up Windows
- Road Conditions
Whether you believe in climate change or not, the intensity of our weather is changing. We’re seeing more extemes and records broken year on year. It’s difficult to talk about climate change on an automotive blog, but dallying a retro/classic car in adverse weather is equally as difficult to driving a modern vehicle.
Do your own research and go as deep as you like down the weather app rabbit hole, but find an app and use it religiously. Know it inside and out, what every symbol means, before you embark on any extended winter roadtrip.
Good weather Apps we like
- Met Office
- BBC Weather
- The Weather Channel
Winter takes its tole on any vehicle, new or old – supercar or city car. Long distance winter driving can highlight weakness in systems. Driving in the pouring rain with the demisiter, heater, lights and wipers on can quickly flatten an under charging battery. This is just one example of how battling the weather takes it tole on your car.
Prepare the vehicle for travel
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.Benjamin Franklin
- Winter tyres*
- Service the vehicle or get it serviced
- Antifreeze mixed to a stronger concentrate
- Coolant concentrated to a lower freezing point.
- Lubricate locks and hinges to prevent freezing.
- Double check the battery condition and the charging system.
- Test the heating and ventilation system.
- Check the cooling fan works, some of those mountain passes in France see significant traffic jams as people stop to fit snow chains. If you’re sat idling to keep warm and your fan broke, you would quickly overheat.
- Clean / Valet the car, make sure all the rubbish and junk is out of the door pockets and glovebox. There’s nothing worse than old receipts and packets getting water logged with rain or snow when you open the door, causing the vehicle to steam up. Also having a clean car makes for a happy journey. You’ll have room to pack items away and keep important items to hand.
- Clean the windows with a good quality window cleaner, and treat the outside of the windscreen with a product like RainX – Rain/Water repellent.
RainX – a “synthetic hydrophobic solution” which means in layman’s terms it causes water to bead and slide off the item its applied to.
- Pack Snow Socks
- Fill up with fuel and refill at 1/4 of a tank on longer trips.
*Fitment of Winter Tyres is a mandatory legal requirement in Germany and many other European countries; we covered winter tyres in our “getting ready for winter driving” post, have a read.
What to Pack
Pack for worst case scenario, even if you’ll never need to use the equipment. The list seems extensive and packed incorrectly can take up a lot of space in the boot. We normally fit all the below items in to a collapsible create. It’s bit like Tetris but it all fits.
- Sleeping bag
- Warm Change of Clothes
- Non perishable food
- Torch – Spare Batteries or a USB Torch
- Paper road map
- Power-bank – Able to charge all the items you need charging at least twice
- Snowsocks or chains (know how to fit them)
- Ice scraper & Snow brush (a brush from a dust pan and brush is a good swap in)
- Spare screenwash and de-icer
- Jump leads
- Snow shovel
- Spare Bulb kit.
- Hi Visibility Clothing
- Tyre inflator
- Warning Triangle
- Boots with a decent grip.
Tips for driving in Wintery Conditions
Driving in wintery conditions is difficult! Even before you start driving the challenge of getting into the car can be a battle, from frozen locks to door seals.
Steamed up Windows
Seems to plague every retro car, the cold air outside and the warm air from the heaters clash on the windows causing them to fog up. Our moist breath inside doesn’t help the situation either.
There’s loads of old wives tails out there to stop this, but the two solutions we’ve used with great success are.
RainX Anti Fog
RainX Anti Fog is a chemical solution you apply to the inside of the windows. It’s a simple case of applying it, with clean paper towels, in circles. Let it dry to haze over and then remove with more clean paper towel.
If you clean the windows with a product like Autoglym fast glass or Autofinesse Crystal before the application it does seem to work better. But remember if you use a glass cleaner after the application of Rainx Anti Fog, you’ll need to reapply!
Used by NHL and other ice hockey players for years, you spray a little of the shaving foam on the inside of the glass, spread it around and then wipe the residue off with a clean paper towel. The principles of application are the same as Rainx Anti Fog.
- Slow Down
- Turn lights and fog lights on.
- Do not use main beam it’ll dazzle on coming road users, and just create a wall of light in heavy fog.
- Vent the car, turn your screen dismisters on, its equal to driving in drizzle really.
- Watch out for freezing fog, it’ll start to freeze on the windscreen.
We mentioned in the “Getting Ready For Autumn & Winter Driving” post, the fitment of yellow fog light bulbs really help, after the recent spell of cold weather driven by a high pressure system, the fog has been thick and some times icing. Those yellow fog light bulbs worked a treat, adding the confidence of being able to see further down the road.
Check the weather conditions for both your current location and your destination. Even check a mid way point, doing so will give you the best mental picture of what you’re about to experience.
The Highways Agencies have some brilliant web apps for different parts of the UK, they give you live Motorway / Major A and Trunk Road information.
Twitter is also a good source of live traffic information and road conditions.
We don’t get enough snow in the UK to be fully prepared or even confident in driving in the white stuff, unlike our Northern Europe or Mountain based cousins.
The news channels and weather forecasts tell us “only to drive if necessary” there’s a reason for that, its dangerous. Ok a sprinkling like ice sugar, wont effect you. Anything over an inch, and the country comes to a stand still.
Its going to be cold, its going to be slippy and people are going to be scared and uneasy about driving in snow, our advice, is park the car somewhere safe and enjoy a snow day. Don’t risk your pride and joy to keep the corporate wheels turning, go and buy a sledge from a local business to support them and have some fun.
But if you have to drive in snow, and its safe to do so.
- Use a higher gear and accelerate slowly,
- Brake gently leaving more than ample stopping room,
- If you begin to slide or slip, steer in to the slide and apply light brake pressure. If the back end slides to the left, steer left. Keep your hands on the wheel.
- Don’t panic, the car is more capable than you in the snow.
- Maintain your speed up hill and brake/reduce speed as your reach the top
- Brake way in advance and before corners,
- Put dipped headlights on in heavy snow fall and if the visibility drops – fog lights on too.
- Wear sensible shoes, ones you can feel the pedals in.
- Don’t layer your clothes up too much, you need to able to move freely and quickly to react the changing conditions – big furry hoods can block your visibility
- Take it easy, get there safe not first – you don’t win any prizes.
Ice can be more dangerous than snow, especially black ice, at least you can see the snow falling and laying on the ground.
Black Ice as the name suggests is nearly invisible on tarmac, your car will hit the patch of ice and being to loose traction. The same principles as driving in snow apply when driving in icy conditions.
If the car is equipped with an outside temperature gauge and it’s indicating the temperature is below 4°c, be ready for ice on the road. Do not ignore that frost symbol.
If you‘re rocking a retro car daily, without this technology, consider fitting one or check the conditions on your new trusty weather app before you leave. This will not help whilst travelling along like a built in system, but you’ll have a good idea.
We’ve got a few more tips and tricks posts coming through the winter months keep an eye out for them,
As always these are tips and tricks we use, by all means use them as guidance but these are not as hard and fast rules. Use them with care and at your own discretion. Always abide by traffic laws in your country and follow the advice of weather and mechanical professionals. We cannot take any responsibility if you fail to follow the laws or the directions of any professionals.