Avoid Rear Wheel Drive – Whilst most cars these days are front wheel drive it’s still worth paying close attention when booking a car to make sure that it isn’t a rear wheel drive. Rear wheel drive cars send all the power to the rear wheels. In snowy conditions rear wheel drive can be quite a handle and you could easily end up with the back end skidding out leaving you totally out of control. If you do find yourself in a rear wheel drive car always move off in a higher gear and go easy on the accelerator.
Go a bit slower & leave a gap – In winter it’s always best to drive a little slower as breaking time increases when the roads are wet, icy or snowy. In winter one of these scenarios is almost always going to be in play if not all three. Whilst the three second rule is often regarded as the minimum distance you should leave between the car in front, in winter you need to leave a minimum of 6 seconds. The roads can be wet or icy and you’ll need at least six seconds to stop in time, particularly if you are in an unfamiliar car. If you are unsure what six seconds look like, pick a landmark like a lamppost up ahead and when the car in front goes past speak out loud. ‘Only a fool breaks the three second rule, only a fool breaks the three second rule.’ Make sure you don’t pass said landmark before you’ve got through the phrase.
Check the tyres on the car – If you are hiring a car during the winter months, take a little longer to research the tyres on the car and make sure they have all weather tyres as a minimum. Ideally you’re looking for winter tyres, particularly if you’re renting the car to head into the mountains for a ski holiday. Winter tyres feature large rubber knobs which provide superior grip in snowy and icy conditions.
Heading through multiple countries? - Check the policy - If you’re renting a car to drive to the Alps and will be heading through different countries it’s worth checking your policy. For example the company you hire the car from may not have any rules regarding the tyres on the car you rent in France but if you head into Germany they may require winter tyres. Failure to have the correct tyres in the correct country could lead to your rental insurance being invalid should you have an accident which could land you with a really serious problem.
Pack warm clothes – If you’re driving somewhere where snowfall is a real possibility it’s worth always having additional clothes in the car. If the weather really comes in and you end up getting stranded for a few hours an extra jumper and a pair of thermals could make the difference between being a little chilly and a really precarious situation.
Diesel Cars and the cold – Petrol cars have a much lower freezing point than diesel. When diesel gets really cold it will begin to turn into a gel and the car won’t be able to start. Diesel can begin to turn into a gel like substance at anywhere between -6 and -18C (depending on the composition of fuel.) If you’re heading skiing this can be a real possibility particularly if you aren’t using the car whilst you are away. Make sure when you pick the car up the engine has been treated and always use anti-freeze fuel or add it in to avoid problems.