Winter driving tips to keep you safe on the roads
Driving in snowy or wintery conditions is not something you do every day, so if you’re heading out on a road trip with the family this winter, it’s important to ensure you know how to drive in wet or icy conditions, as they can change quickly. Subaru have been partnered with Ruapehu Alpline Lifts (RAL) for 22 years, with the team driving our All-Wheel Drive vehicles up and down the mountain safely all year round, no matter what the conditions.
Knowing the challenges of driving on icy roads, we've put together some helpful winter driving tips to help keep you and your family safe on the roads, wherever you're headed this season.
Subaru's tips for driving on snow or ice:
Practice makes perfect: If you haven’t driven in winter weather for a while, find an empty, snow-covered parking lot and spend time accelerating, turning and stopping. After a few minutes of practice, you will have a better feel for how your vehicle will handle and you will be better prepared for driving in snowy conditions.
Getting started: Before you hit the road, clear snow and ice from every part of your car, not just the windows. Make sure the wiper blades aren’t frozen in place. If they are, turn on the engine and use the defroster and rear window defogger to release them. Using a windshield washer fluid with a de-icing agent will help, too. If a door is frozen shut, don’t force it open – this can damage the rubber weather strip surrounding it. Try another door, perhaps one that is in the sunlight. As the vehicle warms up, check that the accelerator, brake pedal and other controls operate smoothly before heading out. Be sure your parking brake has released completely.
Maximise grip: Check that your tyres are inflated to the correct pressures, have more than the road legal 1.5mm of tread and only use a space-saver in an emergency. Carry chains for use in snow (especially if you don’t own a Subaru), and practice fitting them beforehand.
Hitting the road: Winter driving conditions can affect your vehicle’s handling and braking ability, so take your time and drive conservatively. Press the accelerator slowly to get going. As you pull into traffic, keep an 8- to 10-second gap between your vehicle and the one ahead of you – stopping distances increase in snowy and icy conditions, and the extra distance will give you extra time to react.
Watch for trouble as you drive: Stalled cars, patches of ice, poor visibility and snow-covered road signs and lane markers can make for challenging driving. As you prepare to stop, slow down gradually, particularly as you approach intersections. Look out for pedestrians and cars approaching on side streets. If they’re having trouble stopping, you probably will, too. At lower speeds, you can use the engine to help you slow down by shifting into a lower gear.
Learn to read the road conditions: Black ice is tough to pick when it arrives in patches, but if there’s been overnight rain which has cleared to a frosty morning, think before you set out about what conditions this will mean on the roads. If your car has an external temperature display that can be a panel-saver as it will indicate whether the road is likely to be frozen. Remember too that even when it’s dry and the ice has gone, grit spread over a tarmac road can be like driving on marbles.
Show consideration: Driving in ice and snow is stressful, and a little common courtesy can go a long way. Letting cars into gaps in the traffic, easing back rather than ‘closing the gap’ when someone is changing lanes help to keep things moving. If the driver ahead is far more timid than you in poor conditions, just take a deep breath. If you are driving a Subaru please understand that most cars do not have the Subaru invisible advantages!
Avoid distractions: Steering one-ton or more of metal down a street or up a mountain is quite a responsibility, and it is a task deserving of your full attention! No texting or talking on your phone without a hands-free.
Thanks to All-Wheel Drive – which is standard across the Subaru NZ range – Subaru vehicles are the perfect match for winter driving. The Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system automatically transfers power from the wheels that slip, to the wheels that grip. This means you have enhanced control and traction, and helps to keep you and your family safer on the road. Remember, if you need a reminder of why Subaru is the ideal match for the mountain, simply look in the carpark at Turoa or Whakapapa, or the vehicles that the RAL team at Mt Ruapehu drive. They are in a Subaru for a reason!
Find out more about Subaru's All-Wheel Drive SUV range at www.subaru.co.nz/suv