Car News: Ice and Snow

A weekly look at all that’s rotten in the car industry and some good bits


Don’t drive off like Ruthie Tank Commander with a letterbox window

Winter approaches as it tends to late in Scotland’s capital keeping us hoping we reach March without seeing any. Look again and snow already in the Highlands, and warning it will soon be on its way south. I’m known among my family as a ‘safe’ driver but on ice and snow anything goes.

The worst surface can whip the grip from your wheels no matter how carefully you drive. Edinburgh is a hilly city, ready-made to cause vehicles to slide into each other, or off the road and down into a Georgian basement. There’s one corner in Dundas Street that I’m sure has been hit at least twice in five years, railings demolished. The basement owner should keep a hot flask of soup and some bandages ready for the next casualty.

Automobile Association advice.

  • Take it slow – stopping distances are 10 times longer than normal.
  • Pull away in second, easing your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel-spin.
  • Uphill, keep a constant speed and avoid changing gear on the hill.
  • Downhill, use a low gear and try to avoid braking.
  • If you have to use your brakes, apply them gently.
  • If you have an Automatic some have a winter mode or recommend selecting ‘2’.
  • If you do get stuck, straighten the steering and clear the snow from the wheels.
  • Put a sack or old rug in front of the driving wheels to give the tyres some grip.

Most of us rarely have the time to prepare for bad weather driving. We’re in a hurry to get somewhere and worried about encountering worse weather conditions on the way. We check there’s petrol enough in the tank, we take a warm coat in case there’s a long stop or the heater packs up, and that’s about it.


Snowy landscapes always look beautiful – on Christmas cards

Good techniques

A good technique is to pull away in second gear, not first, easing your foot off the clutch to avoid wheel spin. Going downhill on an iced road, every driver’s nightmare, use a low gear and try to avoid braking. If you hit the brake hard you will lose control of the car.

Uphill, downhill, on the level, leave lots of room between you and the car in front.

Ignore idiot drivers passing you at idiot speeds. Accelerate and decelerate very slowly, feather the brakes. (Tap them lightly and fast.) Traffic lights aside, don’t stop until you reach your destination.

When you see a freezing cyclist give him or her a wide berth, and feel sorry for them.

My advice for driving in ice and snow is use common sense: drive slowly. Don’t look at the petrol gauge as if your life’s savings are draining away.

Sensible shoes

Remarkable to know many of us wear unsuitable shoes for driving, in good weather and bad. Wear comfortable, dry shoes for driving.

For heavy snow and slush we wear boots, wellies, and all are thick soled shoes. They stop you feeling anything through the pedals. A thick wide sole can hit the edge of the accelerator when you think you’re pushing the brake pedal. And a wet rubber sole is liable to slip off the accelerator or brake pedal. Keep a pair of thin soled shoes in the car. Avoid any shoe or boot with a big heel.

If you own a sports car, or small city car low to the ground, don’t use it. Call a taxi.

Tyres technology

Scandinavian countries make fitting winter tyres mandatory. Of course, that solution is expensive, hence we all ignore it. I use summer-winter tyres on my SUV, a decent compromise, but tyre technology has come a long way in combating various surfaces and conditions since the days of Dunlop and wooden spokes, so it might be wise asking your local garage for advice.

Before you set off

Allow extra time for winter journeys. If early morning, get up early to give time to de-ice the car windows. If like me you’re vehicle is blessed with heated seats, there no need to have the heating blowing a storm until the engine is warmed up. On dark winter mornings we strain the battery, we switch on ignition, (that uses 15% of juice alone) lights, heater, and radio. Switch on and let the engine run awhile before all else.

If you park outside and find the lock frozen find a way of heating up the key. I’ve used a match once, another time held the key against an electric hot plate on the cooker for a few seconds. Just don’t handle the metal part of the key you’ve just heated up. Ha ha!

If you’ve given yourself ample time to plan ahead, plan routes to favour major roads, which are more likely to be cleared and gritted.

Take your phone everywhere – great for emergencies.

Here’s my best tip for driving in the snow: STAY AT HOME!


Chinese rescue SAAB and Lotus

Not so long ago I titled an article ‘The Chinese are Coming‘ and that proves true now that Chinese car companies are moving into the electric car market faster than you can say YKK Zippers. (A Japanese company that wiped out crap British plastic zips that burst.) SAAB went into liquidation in 2012 when the Swedish government refused it more subsidies. An investment group named NEVS bought the company’s assets, and is creating electric cars based on the last SAAB chassis. Geely, the Chinese owner of Lotus plans to start producing the British sports car brand in China with the opening of a new £1 billion factory in Wuhan city. The move is in line with Geely’s ambitions to build more up-market cars and throw off its reputation for copycat designs and shoddy quality. For Lotus, it could mean greater production volumes and new models such as SUVs to boost sales. What the new output will do for Lotus UK can’t be ascertained for now, but the late Colin Chapman, founder and engineer of Lotus, could never have imagined in his wildest dreams his little company would be a main player in China.

Glasgow dumps free Sundays

The city administration’s new budget – marked as ‘SNP’ in bold letters in all the Unionist press – brings in Sunday parking charges in city centre streets where it was previously free. It will raise an expected £400,000 a year for council coffers. The increase in parking charges will take the cost of parking in the city centre zone from £3 an hour to £4 an hour. Shame the cash strapped council has to charge because it adds another stress to a day’s shopping or cafe crawling that out to be anxiety free. The loss of freedom is similar to Edinburgh council installing meters around the Royal Botanic Gardens. What ought to be a relaxing walk with your family is ruined because of the nagging worry about the meter time running out, and a £30 fine.

‘Clean’ diesels engines

Expert’s are popping up everywhere to tells us the new diesel engines are cleaner than the old, so “go ahead and buy that diesel engine car”. There’s two good reasons why the media shouldn’t bother giving them air time, three when you are informed those so-called experts are employed by lobby companies on behalf of car manufacturers to concoct an ‘alternative’ view. If drivers do not get their engine regularly serviced it doesn’t matter how efficient is the engine, it will still pour toxic fumes out the back end. We see that every day, from cars, vans and taxis. And in any event, pure diesel and petrol engines won’t be made after 2040, which sounds too far away to trouble us but is certain to be reduced by twenty years when we acknowledge how fast the Earth is burning up.



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6 Responses to Car News: Ice and Snow

  1. The single best thing to do in winter is to fit winter tyres.

  2. Grouse Beater says:

    I awoke this morning thinking, I need a sentence on tyres!

  3. greig12 says:

    I was contemplating all season tyres because they’d be less hassle but then I read this and I’m not so sure.

    Our weather in West Fife is so unpredictable it’s hard to know what to do. I can see more research in my Chrystal ball.

  4. Hugh Wallace says:

    The best option is winter tyres in the winter & summer tyres in the summer. But all season do well enough in the UK for most of the year so if you only want to run one set then on you go. That said, I’ve been running winter tyres all year round for several years on several vehicles & they’ve been fine.

    All diesels, BTW 😉

    I doubt I’ll be buying petrol cars ever again & happily look forward to the day when electric cars cars are ubiquitous (once they’ve sorted their range to something useable).

  5. John Higgins says:

    We have bought diesel cars with AdBlue for some years now. We paid only £20 road tax per year until April 2017 when the government (Westminster) changed the rules which removed much of the incentive to use AdBlue.
    In my experience Mercedes Benz cars really need to be fitted with proper winter tyres to perform well in winter. I understand that in Germany all new cars have winter tyres already fitted, though I could be wrong.

  6. Grouse Beater says:

    European countries are ahead of us on winter safety, John. And I like the mandatory hi-rez pedestrians must wear in Scandinavian countries.

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