How to Drive in Snow

By , 11 January 2024

8 mins read

How to drive in snow

Poor visibility, slippery road surfaces, and heavy traffic can make driving in snow a daunting experience for even the most skilled drivers.

So, it’s always important to firstly ask yourself, is the journey essential?

If leaving the house is unavoidable, it is important that you are well-prepared and equipped ahead of your travels.

This includes changing up your driving style to suit the conditions, packing emergency supplies, and checking your car’s maintenance is up to scratch.

The chances of bumps, scrapes, and accidents are increased when driving in adverse weather, which can be made more stressful when you’re using a hire car.

Plan ahead and reduce any potential worries with our excess car hire insurance product, which ensures you are covered for any accidental damage to your hire car.

Looking for other ways to make your drive less stressful? Check out our handy list of tips for driving in the snow.

Plan your journey

Driving in the snow is difficult enough without being faced with road closures, route diversions, and traffic along the way.

Make sure you’re up to date with all the latest happenings on your route - you can do this using route planners on RAC and AA, Google Maps, or listening to traffic updates on the radio.

Clear your car of snow

Give yourself plenty of time before beginning your journey to make sure your car is defrosted and clear of any snow.

Ensure you check your windows, mirrors, lights, and roof. Any snow left in these areas can cause obstructions to your view, impacting your ability to drive safely.

What’s more, the snow could slide off while you’re driving and obstruct another motorist.

Car maintenance checks

Much like planning your route, ensuring your car is well-equipped to travel through the elements is equally important.

Screenwash and windscreen wipers

Ahead of your drive in the snow, be sure to check that your windscreen wipers are in good working order. If you notice any wear or cracking on the rubber, it’s time to invest in new ones.

As well as a good set of wipers, you want to make sure that your screenwash is topped up. It is well worth investing in a fluid that will protect you down to sub-zero temperatures. Some brands offer protection down to at least –35 degrees, so it’s worth shopping around.


It is always important to regularly check your tyres, but even more so when you’re going to be driving in snow. The legal tread depth limit for tyres is 1.6mm, but you will require more than this to ensure your tyres have enough grip throughout your journey.

If you regularly drive in snow, it may be worth investing in winter tyres, which have a deeper tread and improved grip.

Alternatively, you could fit your tyres with snow chains or snow socks if you only drive in these conditions occasionally.

With poor visibility inevitable, it’s a particular worry if you hit a pothole in a hire car because you may get charged for any damage, so solve that problem with our tyres, windscreen and undercarriage cover which protects you if you were not driving off-road when the incident occurred.


Before setting off it is a good idea to check that all your lights are working. Visibility can be significantly reduced when driving in snow and you may need to use your hazard lights, headlights,

indicators, and fog lights to signal your presence to other motorists.


Prepare for any delays or detours you may have and visit a petrol station ahead of your travels to make sure you have a full fuel tank.

Whether you’re driving in snow, planning a road trip, or just want to make sure your car is in good health, check out our guide to car checks before a long journey.

Winter driving kit essentials

When planning for a drive in the snow it is always best to consider all possibilities, including a breakdown.

Below you’ll find a useful list of all the items you should pack in your winter driving kit ahead of your journey:

After packing the perfect winter survival kit, it is worth brushing up on how to jump start a car, as chilly weather can cause batteries to wear down and hold less charge.

Top tips for driving in snow

Moving off

It is recommended to move off in second gear, gently easing your foot off the clutch and onto the accelerator using low revs. This will help to reduce the chances of wheel spin.

Use high gears

Once you have set off, you should aim to increase your gears as quickly as possible. The higher the gear used when on the move, the lower the chance of wheel spin – helping you to feel more in control of the drive.

Watch your speed

Take it slow so you can anticipate any hazards, giving yourself enough time to brake and steer. Find the right speed and ensure you are leaving enough room between you and the vehicle in front.

Stopping distance in snow

Adjusting your speed will help with maintaining a safe distance between you and other cars. When driving in snow, road conditions can be wet and cause your tires to have less grip, meaning it will take your car longer than usual to come to a complete stop.

It is advised that you should leave a minimum of ten times the normal gap between you and other cars.

Uphill and downhill

Extra care needs to be taken when approaching or ascending hills. If you are going uphill, be sure to leave plenty of room to avoid stopping and changing gear, allowing you to maintain a constant speed. Similarly, going downhill requires you to leave ample space between you and the vehicle in front, whilst driving in a low gear to avoid braking.


If you do find yourself skidding, do not panic! There are two types of skidding, oversteer and understeer, and depending on which has occurred, depends on how you correct it. To fix an oversteer skid where your rear wheels have lost traction, it is important to take your foot off the accelerator and steer into the direction of the skid.

While if you need to correct an understeer skid where your front wheels have lost traction, you will also need to come off the accelerator and reduce your steering, so the tires can regain their grip sooner.

Regardless of the type of spin, braking is not advised as this will cause your vehicle to spin out. If you do need to brake, it is recommended that you use gentle, engine breaking where possible and ensure you leave plenty of room between you and the car in front.


When taking corners, it is important that you brake gently and progressively on approach, before steering through the corner at an appropriate speed. It is important that you don’t brake as you steer or accelerate as this will cause your vehicle to skid.

Headlights and fog lights

When driving in snowy conditions it is extremely important that you are as visible to other drivers as they are to you. Make sure you have your dipped headlights on to improve visibility and avoid using high beam as they can cause a glare, blinding other drivers.

If visibility has taken a turn for the worst and dropped below 100m, this is when you can use your fog lights. Remember to turn them off as soon as visibility improves.


Wheeltracks are essentially tracks in the snow that have been left by another vehicle. If the road has not been gritted, it is best to avoid driving over these as the snow is likely to be icier. Opt for fresh snow instead.


Whilst it might seem bizarre that we are telling you to wear sunglasses with sub-zero temperatures outside, there is a good reason! Wearing sunglasses can help reduce the glare that can appear from the sun reflecting on the snow and wet roads.

Essentially, learning how to drive in snow is all about plenty of planning, care, preparation, and awareness of yourself and others. All that’s left to do is wish you a safe journey!

About the author

Jon spent years travelling Europe and Asia before settling down in the UK when he met his wife.

He’s hired cars across the globe and is passionate about helping people save money with excess insurance.

Since co-founding Reduce My Excess, Jon has found that he can use the knowledge he picked up from his travels by sharing it in online guides and articles.

He hopes to save people from making the mistakes he learnt from over the years by giving them the travel information they need before they head off on their holidays.