Winter is here, and we are already experiencing freezing temperatures across parts of the UK. It won’t be long before we see the first snow begin to fall.
Snow provides a different challenge to drivers, especially van drivers. Whether you are driving a small van or a large 3.5 ton van, you should take extra care when behind the wheel. There are some additional steps you should be taking in preparation for driving in the snow.
Try and stick to main roads and motorways. In the event of snowfall, you should be trying to keep to roads which are more likely to be gritted and cleared. Allow yourself extra time to reach your destination, as you may have to drive more slowly on your route. If possible, have an alternate route in mind. Accidents are more likely in icy conditions, and a backup route could save you from being caught in a traffic jam.
Check Your Van
Some basic checks before you set off can make a big difference to your trip. Ensure your windscreen wipers work correctly and are in good condition. Don’t use water as screenwash, as it will freeze. Instead, use a specific winter screenwash with a low freezing point. A few extra minutes before you start could save you a lot of time further into your journey.
Your van’s tyres should be in good condition, and correctly inflated. If you expect to be using your van a lot during winter and spending a lot of time driving in the snow, consider fitting winter tyres to improve your vehicle’s grip.
Ensure Good Visibility
Clear any and all snow from your van. It might seem like a good idea to just wipe clear a space on the windscreen so you can set off quickly, but it is illegal to drive your van if you cannot clearly see out of all windows. You should also clear the snow from the roof of the van, as it could fall and block your vision while driving or cause a hazard for other drivers.
Make sure all your lights are clear of snow and ice, so that other road users can see your brakes and indicators clearly.
Take time to demist and de-ice your windscreen to ensure good visibility. Don’t forget to clear your mirrors before you set off!
If there’s an accident on the road ahead of you, it won’t matter how prepared you are. You could be stuck on the road with everyone else. You should always prepare for the worse.
In case you’re going to be stuck in your van for a length of time, take a spare coat or blanket, and some snacks. Your breakdown pack should include a phone charger, jump leads, and a hi-vis jacket. If you’re expecting heavy snow, take a shovel or spade with you. A square of carpet can be useful to put under your wheel if your van is stuck.
Be aware of the road as you are driving and try to predict the conditions ahead. It takes 10 times longer to stop on snow and ice than in clear conditions, so you need to know when to begin slowing down.
Watch for surface ice. Be careful around section of road that are in shadow, as these are more likely to stay frozen during the day.
When you drive, try to separate the controls. Your van moves in three ways; acceleration, braking, and cornering. On snow, you have limited traction, and trying to do more than one of these tasks at the same time can result in losing grip. Accelerate and brake in straight lines and try to stay off the pedals while cornering. You should also be trying to accelerate and brake gently, to prevent wheelspin.
As a rule of thumb, you should be changing up gears as early as possible. Setting off in second gear can help to get going on slippery surfaces.
If you are driving uphill, be aware of the distance to the vehicle ahead. Try to pace your speed so that you don’t have to slow or stop on the slope if the vehicle in front slows down. You should also try to avoid changing gear on a hill.
Even the best-prepared drivers can get caught in the snow. If you do get stuck, and your van won’t move out of the snow, stop and clear the wheels before you try and start off again. Straighten the steering, to give you as much grip as possible and, if needed, put an old sack or piece of carpet under the wheel for more traction.
Modern lease vans come with a host of electronic driving aids to help you stay on the road. Stability controls and traction controls help to maintain balance and grip at all times, and these will help you while driving on snow or ice. If your van is fitted with these types of driving aids, remember not to fight against them if your van is losing grip. Let them do their part in keeping you on the road.
Kitted for Winter
Van Ninja’s lease range includes a lot of vans that have features that are designed to help you during the winter.
Ford vans with trim levels of Trend or Limited are fitted as standard with heated windscreens and wing mirrors for quick demisting and de-icing. They also have heated seats, to keep you comfortable while driving in the cold.