Chris Alexander

On Engineering

How To Drive In The Snow

13th January, 2010

Or, how not to block all the people in your building in the car park.

So the snow has once again returned to Reading, and this time I’ve had it with people generally making a mess of driving and causing a nightmare for other road users.

So here are some top tips to make sure that you don’t cause a problem, and that I don’t rage at you if I encounter you on the roads.

Use the right car

A smart car is not the right car for heavy snow. A land rover is. End of.

Low Revs, No Spinning

The trick to getting yourself out of a sticky situation is (shockingly) not to spin your wheels and try and dig out.

All this will accomplish is polishing the snow beneath your wheels into ice, and then you’re never going to get out.

Instead, there are a couple of tactics you can try out.

Here is where a nice big 4×4 has a bit of an advantage, but so long as you have a reasonably hefty car and a bit of skill, you should be able to manage ok.

Wheel spin is bad, so keep revs low

Top tactic is if you are going forwards, start in second (or if its really bad, third) gear. Good luck persuading automatics to do that.

If you are trying to get out backwards, unless you are in a suitable 4×4 and can switch to low range, your engine should be only just over idling when you engage the clutch to reverse out. If the wheels still slide, even less revs!


We employed this to get a very heavy BMW out of a fairly deep drift yesterday.

By rocking your car gently forwards/backwards against the obstructing snow, you will eventually compact it down in a way different to the wheel spinning method such that you can actually get out.

This one also works well when you have people pushing to help out.

Wheelspin can help – but using extremely sparingly

Sometimes you just need a bit of a kick out, and for that I disengage traction control and give it a bit of a nudge out. But only do that extremely rarely, as you will just ice it up and make a mess for the next person who tries to get out.

All you end up doing if you spin wheels and slide around is trash the road for everyone else, making it impassable to vehicles that may have managed otherwise.

Please don’t do it wrong

Of course, make sure you have the right vehicle for the job, don’t take unnecessary risks, and if you do leave your car anywhere, make sure it is well out of the way!

Anything I’ve missed, add it in the comments below.