Driving in the snow

12 June 2009
Driving in the snow
Carsguide has provided a checklist of things to remember before driving up to the snow.

The survey found that 70 per cent of car owners fail to check ageing windscreen wipers, 62 per cent fail to check for broken bulbs or tail-lights.

Perhaps the most worry is that 58 per cent fail to check their brakes and 43 per cent fail to check for balding tyres.

For this reason Carsguide has a checklist of things to remember before hitting the slopes.


They are compulsory in Victoria and must be carried in all vehicles and fitted where instructed.

In NSW they must be carried in all two-wheel vehicles.

If you are driving a 4WD or AWD vehicle chains can be fitted to the front, rear or all four wheels. Chains go on the front wheels on front-wheel drive vehicles and the rear wheels on rear-wheel drive vehicles.

It is best to check the vehicle manufacturers specifications if you are unsure which wheels get chains.

If you're unsure how to fit them try them out before you need them and check they are the right size.

If hiring them, ask the ski shop or service station folk to help you.

After fitting the chains drive a few hundred metres and get out and check their tension. Lose chains can and will damage wheels and mudguards. Limit your speed to below 40km/h.

If you are staying at a resort for a long period you may also want to fit your chains when you park the car to make it easy to get out.


IF you own a diesel vehicle and plan on spending time in the snow make sure you fill up with alpine diesel, or "winter mix diesel" closer to the snow.

Alpine diesel has a lower freezing point and additives to stop the fuel system waxing up.

Service stations in and around Mount Buller, Falls Creek and Mount Hotham, have alpine diesel and if they don't just ask for the nearest station.

It's best to blend this into the fuel mix so top up your car before you reach the snow.


NOT surprisingly, you'll often encounter snow and ice on the road in alpine areas. Its even a risk on roads around Melbourne and Ballarat.

Black ice is dangerous and you will not know about it until you hit it.

If you do the best thing is to slow down and try to stay in control. Change down a gear to slow the car and do not hit the brakes suddenly.

Black ice often forms in shady areas where the sun does not shine. It is good practice to approach these areas with caution.


ALONG with freezing radiators, one of the other most common problems in the snow is a dead battery.

Check your battery before you head up to the snow and make sure it's fully charged. If not, have it recharged or get a new one.


MAKE sure your radiator has a blend of anti-freeze in it. If not, most service stations sell anti-freeze.

Many newer cars tend to already have anti-freeze but check the owner's manual for guidance.


LIKE the battery and radiator, it's best to check them before you leave.

If the wipers are old or don't clear the glass effectively replace them. Also, pack a plastic scraper to get excess snow off the windscreen and a small collapsible snow shovel to clear around the car.

If the car is covered in snow, do not pour warm water over the windscreen glass as it may crack.

Some people recommend lifting the wipers off the glass so they don't stick to the glass but this raises other problems.

If there is a heavy snowfall, any snow slip off the car's roof may snap the wiper arm.

It's best to leave the blades where they are, start the car up and allow the car's heater to warm the glass gradually.


KNOW where it is and familiarise yourself with how to change it. It is important to pack the car carefully so you can access the spare easily and without too much trouble.

Observe the 80km/h maximum speed limit for spacesavers.

Also pack some gardening gloves and a plastic garbage bag so you can handle the flat tyre and kneel down without getting dirty.


WHEN driving in snow avoid sudden stops, brake gently and progressively and make sure you maintain adequate stopping distance from the vehicle in front, particularly if visibility is bad.


WHEN you arrive at the resort it's best to reverse park into a designated parking bay with the nose of the car pointing outwards.

This makes it easier to get the car out after a heavy snowfall.

Remember to put the car in gear or park and leave the handbrake off. If you do accidently leave the handbrake on it can freeze, locking the brakes.

Before locking the car, make sure the headlights are off and the windows are closed.