Let’s face it, you’re probably going to have to drive at some point this winter. Unfortunately with winter, it brings more adverse conditions than most seasons, so winter driving is typically more difficult than driving in the warmer months. In Australia, winter driving means more rain, fog, ice, and in alpine areas, snow on the road.

Take these 8 winter driving tips to heart to make winter driving easier and safer.

1. Get your car winter ready

Winter driving preparation starts in Autumn with a full service on your car. If you use GoGet you don’t need to worry about this step, but if you own your own vehicle you should make sure it’s in good form before winter starts.

A few things to get checked:

  • Brakes and brake pads
  • Headlights and indicators
  • Tread on your tyres
  • The general condition of your engine
  • Seals around your doors and windows

Having these checked ensures your car will respond the way you need it to when driving on winter roads.

A car receving a service before driving in winter

2. Check the weather conditions

Knowing is half the battle, so before you drive anywhere check the weather forecast. If there’s rain, fog or icy conditions expected; it might be best to reconsider your plans and find an alternate mode of transport.

Or at the very least, prepare to drive to the conditions.

3. Slow down

When conditions are less than ideal, the first thing you should always do is slow down. By driving even 10km/h under the sign post limit, you’ll significantly decrease the chances of losing control.

Driving slower also gives you more time to respond to hazards, and to regain control of your vehicle if you do slip or slide along the road.

A sign on the highway telling cars to slow down during winter driving

4. Leave a bigger gap

You shouldn’t tailgate at the best of times, but it’s an especially good idea to leave a bigger gap than normal when driving in winter. During winter, the car in front of you is more likely to have to stop suddenly or lose control.

By leaving a bigger gap, you’ll give yourself more time to respond to them and reduce the chance of you being involved in an accident.

5. Brake and turn slowly

On wet or icy  roads, you’re more likely to lose control of the car when you’re braking or turning. So it’s a good idea to brake slowly and turn carefully during bad or cold weather.

Try to get into the habit of slowing right down before your turns and sticking to the suggested speed limit for the turn. While it can be tempting to drive at the higher speed limit, it’s definitely not a good idea during winter.

6. Use your headlights

During winter it’s more likely to be raining or foggy which means visibility can be a big issue. To make low visibility driving safer, turn your headlights on whenever you drive – even during the day. As it’s as much about letting other cars see you, as it is about seeing things for yourself.

If you have fog lights installed, make sure you use them when the conditions call for it. Feel free to put your high beams on when it’s particularly hard to see, but makes sure you still dip them for oncoming drivers.

A car's headlights being used during winter driving conditions

7. Cleaning your windscreen

If you’re driving in the morning after a frost has settled you may find your windscreen iced over (even if it hasn’t been snowing). Most Australian drivers don’t carry ice scrapers in their cars, so you’ll need a different way to clear the ice.

A credit card (or similar) makes for a great ice scraper – just make sure it’s not a card you need in case something goes wrong! A library or private health care card is lower risk.

Failing that, running warm water over the windscreen and wing mirrors will melt the ice. Don’t use boiling water from a kettle, as you risk damaging the glass. Just pour tap water from a hose or watering can, and the ice will eventually melt away.

8. Pack snow chains

If you’re planning on driving through an alpine region during winter, bring snow chains and learn how to use them. You can hire snow chains from many mountain towns like Cooma and Jindabyne, or buy them from some hardware stores and service stations.

If you’re driving a rental or share car, make sure you check your damage cover for driving above the snow line.

About Tim Beau Bennett

Tim is an ex-journalist and radio presenter, and has been a professional writer for over a decade. He regularly writes about technology, lifestyle, and smart cities, and has written for news site including the ABC, SBS, and Australian Financial Review.