Learning to drive in winter weather

Learning to drive in winter weather

Whether it’s a driver’s first time behind the wheel or just their first winter, taking to the road during icy, snowy conditions poses unique challenges. For safer, more comfortable winter driving, everyone should enter their first snowy season on the road with these skills.


  • Before turning the ignition key, a vehicle and driver need to do some prep work for winter driving.
  • This includes simple routines like scraping ice from windows, to more involved processes like installing tyre chains or dedicated snow tyres.
  • Being prepared also means dressing appropriately. If drivers wear boots or gloves, they should still afford enough grip and traction to safely control the steering wheel and pedals.

The engine warming myth

  • Unless the vehicle was made in the 1980s or earlier, it’s not necessary to let the engine warm up for a few minutes before driving in very cold weather.
  • Modern cars use electronic fuel injection systems, rather than strictly mechanical systems, so they aren’t adversely affected by low temperatures.
  • In cars made in the 1990s or later, letting the car idle in cold weather just wastes fuel.

Taking it slow

  • Winter weather is a mix of unfavourable road conditions. It’s wet, it’s icy and snow causes low visibility.
  • Rather than driving in winter the same way one drives during the warmer months, it’s a good idea to slow down and be especially careful in wintry conditions.
  • This gives the driver the chance to see how his or her car performs in the winter, as well as what little tricks and idiosyncrasies the car demands on more challenging roads.

Salt care

  • Cities plough and salt roads to melt the ice and snow, but salt can do real damage to a car’s paint and metal.
  • Road salt corrodes vital parts like the brake lines and speeds up the rate of rust on the body. Prior to winter, drivers should thoroughly wash the exterior and undercarriage of their vehicles, finishing with a coat of wax and sealant.
  • This process should be repeated throughout the winter. Many car wash services in snowy regions offer special service for salt prep.

With all the unique challenges and concerns of winter driving, new drivers or those who recently relocated to a colder climate need to be more careful than usual. Preparation is a big part of safe winter driving; the rest is being extra-attentive from the first snow storm of the year to the last thaw of spring.

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