How to Drive in the Snow - We asked an expert!

Snow is something that not many of us get a chance to drive on, but if you do, how should you tackle it?

Snow is something that not many of us get a chance to drive on, but if you do, how should you tackle it? It's icy, clumpy, wet, and a whole bunch of other textures, all rolled into one adventurous experience.
  
We asked Mark from Performance Driving Australia how to drive on snow, what vehicle setup was best, and whether it's actually anything like driving on sand. 

Full transcript:

- So, today we're in the central highlands of Tasmania and we're gonna learn about driving on snow and to tell us all about that, we've got Mark from Performance Driving Australia. So, Mark, what are the basics? So, automatic, manual, do we need to worry about transmission in a car?
- Look, ultimately, the transmission you have is fine either way. Automatic's are generally better in the sense that you're not having to worry about selecting gears.
- [Jared] So it's gonna keep that motion easier as well.
- [Mark] Yeah, that's right, so it's one less thing to worry about particularly when you start losing traction, people tend to want to change gears. That can then cause you bigger problems when you're on the snow 'cause you can cause wheel spin or roll away from where you want it to be.
- Cool.
- Automatic would be great, but either way perfectly fine.
- [Jared] So, what about tyre choice? All terrain, highway terrain, mud terrain.
- The most aggressive tread pattern is gonna give you the best traction in most conditions when it comes to driving in snow. However, still most tyres will work as long as you drive accordingly and that's the biggest thing with driving on snow, is allowing for the type of vehicle, whether the tyres, the transmission package, the ground clearance. All of those factors coming into play. And it's really important to keep that in mind when you're driving and how you're using the throttle and the other controls.
- How does it compare to driving on sand?
- It is similar, but different. Sand obviously offers a probably a slightly more level of grip because it tends to move in around the tyre, whereas snow can push away from the tyre. So, similar, I guess that the driving skills are similar in that you have to be smooth, however, they are still different skills and it does take a bit of getting used to driving on snow if you haven't done much of it.
- And would you lower the tyre pressures at all ?
- Generally speaking, no. The reality is, if it's quite deep snow and you're struggling for traction, then you would look at increasing that footprint by bringing the pressures down a bit. But again, I would suggest that in most cases and in most conditions, particularly here in beautiful Tassie that you don't need to drop the pressures that much on most of our roads.
- Yeah, cool, awesome. It's cold out here so we're gonna go into the car and do a little bit of driving practise in there as well. So, we're in the car now, Mark is there anything we should consider before we actually pull out?
- Yeah, so driving in these conditions, it's a good idea to warm the car up before we head out. So, get in the morning, turn the car on, crank it over and let everything come up to temp, so that we're not running with cold coolant and cold engines, cold exhaust, those sort of things. Perhaps leave your wipers up overnight if you are parked in the snow, so that you don't have a windscreen that's covered in snow and you can't clear it, so that does help. And be aware that of course, other cars are gonna be using the roads in similar conditions, so have your headlights on while you're driving off.
- Yep, one of the things I remember from living in the snow is that you need to make sure all of your windows are cleared. I remember seeing someone driving with a hole about that big in their windscreen and seeing what they can see, but yeah, visibility.
- Not ideal of course, you wanna be able to see out of all your windows including your mirrors if you can. So keep everything clear, it does take a little bit of time, but the first thing about driving in the snow is you probably shouldn't be in a rush.
- Yes, exactly, good point. Well, let's... Get on the road. So the road we're on today is not particularly deep snow. Shh, car. But it's just gonna be enough to illustrate what we're doing, but what should I consider with my speeds on snow? Obviously I don't wanna drive flat out, but what's the recommendations?
- Yeah, look you wanna be able to cover ground, I mean you're driving from A to B, it's not about getting there as slow as possible, but as safe as possible.
- Yep.
- So, finding that happy medium where the car has got good grip, you feel safe, your passengers feel safe. It's always important to remember them because they don't have the control of the car and we don't want people screaming in the back.
- They're not holding on like we are.
- So, it's really important to just drive at that nice steady pace and that pace can vary anywhere from 10 k's an hour in extreme conditions up and down slopes to highway speeds if you feel comfortable and that probably is between 60 and 80 in most conditions.
- Yep and I guess--
- Going any faster than that's probably unnecessary in most environments.
- And watching out for ice and that sort of stuff on the corner as well.
- Yeah, ice and you've gotta read the road. Cruise control, really is a no go. It won't cause the car to lose control, we've heard that rumour go around the internet a million times. However, why would you use cruise control when you're driving in any challenging terrain?
- That's right.
- So, you drive the car and that way you've got better control, better feel for what's actually happening underneath the vehicle.
- Yep, so should I be conscious of anything when actually just driving in deeper snow? Like should I obviously control the car in a different way or is it--
- Ideally you'd want to be able to pick where the grip is, and there's two options. If the snow is deep, driving in the wheel tracks, generally is best. However, if the wheel tracks have melted and there's ice in there, sometimes you might need to make your own tracks, 'cause the ice can sometimes be more slippery than the actual soft snow itself. And remember, the snow can slow you down.
- Yes.
- So, if anything else, you feel like the vehicle's getting away from you, don't be afraid to drive off the line a little bit and use the snow just to pull you up a little bit. It's pretty harmless, just stay away from the edges where there might be big drop offs and ruts.
- [Jared] That's right, 'cause you can't see anything can you?
- [Mark] Yeah, that's right, it's all hidden.
- One of the things that I've heard is that snow likes sticking to snow. So you're actually better off having tyres that will capture the snow in and actually you'll be, it would be easier to drive on tyres that actually stick the snow in there. Is that true?
- Look, I think there's a lot of different theories about any type of off road driving and snow driving. And I've delivered training all over the world and overseas in very snowy conditions and found that generally speaking, that the variety of tyres we come across, they all work quite well.
- Yep.
- However, again, like we said right at the start, the more aggressive the tread pattern, the more chance it's got of biting into the snow
- Tearing into that snow, yep.
- But it's more to do with getting off and getting the vehicle moving perhaps and braking. Once you're driving at speed, like you said, it probably works to have a bit of snow in your tyres.
- Is it worth touching on recovery at all in snow, 'cause I mean if you're going to be driving in snow there's some stage you're probably gonna come across someone else.
- [Mark] Of course.
- [Jared] Is there anything we should consider about recovery on snow?
- Yeah, the golden rules apply with recovery with taking a minute to have a cuppa tea first sometimes.
- Yes.
- People rush in all the time, especially to help people which is great, but you don't want anyone to get hurt. Remember the road's gonna be slippery, your hands are cold, everything's cold, so, using the right gear, follow the instructions, basically like any other recovery. Good idea to have some gloves with you.
- Yes, everything's gonna be colder, so, yeah...
- Absolutely.
- Things might get stuck as well in the ice, your recovery gear might be a bit colder, might not work as well. So, like you say, slow down is probably the biggest tip.
- Yeah, that's the key and my experience being if you can't do the vehicle recovery safely because obviously on snow you may be recovering with another vehicle on snow, you may need to look at winches or having multiple vehicles involved in the recovery to make sure that it's done safely. Don't risk the vehicle, don't risk yourself.
- Yep.
- If it means getting a ride back somewhere and waiting for the weather condition to improve.
- Yep.
- Because you only ever get stuck in the middle of a storm or something when it's really bad.
- That's right.
- And that's not the time you wanna be out doing a recovery.
- Exactly, we actually had one the other day where the tyre of your Land Cruiser was pulling out a tow truck, and the tow truck was actually stuck on the shoulder of the road and as the Land Cruiser was winching it, the Land Cruiser's actually hooked up to a tree behind him, it was actually going along the shoulder of the road. So they'd ended up deciding to use the winch from the back of the truck to winch the back on first as he was being winched forwards. So, they actually brought the truck back off the road.
- Yeah, and that's the thing. I had a similar recovery the other day where we needed to use multiple straps to be able to get the vehicle away from the ditch. 'cause otherwise you're just basically dragging it along the ditch.
- Yeah!
- And sometimes dragging yourself in there at the same time.
- And that's the thing, the stuff's slippery. So you just gotta think about that.
- It is. And it is slipperier than mud.
- Yes, really.
- It is, I reckon, when it's icy it is. Like you can't stand on it and in mud you can generally stand and it will push your feet through the mud.
- Yep.
- You'll find a bit of a base.
- Yep.
- With ice and really icy conditions, you won't. Snow, not so much.
- Yep.
- But definitely if it's ice, and if there's snow, there's gonna be ice somewhere.
- Yeah, good point. Anything else we should think about?
- Just generally about with driving, stay smooth. Smooth throttle application, smooth steering. If you start reefing at the wheel, the worst thing you can do, 'cause you're basically just gonna end up having no steering control and possibly running off the road with a lot of lock on which always ends badly.
- Yes.
- So, smooth steering inputs, smooth brakes, smooth throttle application. Look ahead, plan ahead, use your vision skills.
- Look out for Skippy.
- Look out for animals, but the key thing is that reading the road conditions, drive at a pace that you're comfortable with and that you feel safe because again, your passengers and you wanna get from A to B. There's no rush, you do wanna travel at a reasonable, comfortable pace, but don't take any unnecessary risks.
- And remember, two hands on the steering wheel.
- Two hands on the wheel. Try to get your hands roughly opposite if you can, that just means that if the vehicle is moving around, you always know where the wheel is pointing when you bring your hands back.
- And probably actually drive a little bit closer to the steering wheel as well.
- I find myself doing that, I try and always sit in the right position, but when I drive either off road or on snow, I always bring the seat forward just an extra click.
- So. Less gangster, more control.
- Absolutely.
- Excellent. Well, thanks Mark.
- My pleasure.
- Everyone, if you wanna see more of these videos, make sure you hit that like button or subscribe button and we'll bring you some more videos coming very soon. Thanks very much. Cheers.

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