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The Welsh Government’s traffic information service for motorways and trunk roads in Wales

Driving in severe weather

Car wedi rhewi

These are some of our top tips to help you get through this winter as prepared as possible.


There is a sharp increase in the volume of breakdowns when the weather turns cold, therefore it’s well worth taking the time to ensure you carry out the right checks on your car.

In cold weather any underlying mechanical issues in your car could escalate as temperatures plummet. The below POWDER checklist can help you with this:

Petrol/Power- or diesel – does the vehicle have enough fuel or if you own a electric car, does it have enough charge?

Oil – a quick check is always advisable

Water – check the coolant and washer fluid.

Damage – a quick visual check of the bodywork to make sure everything's okay

Electricity – are all lights and electrical controls working as they should?

Rubber - check the tyres – they're the vehicle's only contact with the road and are crucial for driving and stopping safely (ensure they’re in good condition and have a tread depth of at least 3mm to be safe in wet weather)

Pack a winter kit

It's worth carrying essential winter supplies in case you need them, especially if there's a forecast for severe weather.

Here’s a few of the essentials that we recommend:

  • Water
  • De-icer
  • High energy food
  • Warm clothes
  • Ice scraper
  • Fully charged mobile and car charger
  • Torch
  • Blankets
  • Boots
  • Shovel
  • Sunglasses to cope with the low winter sun when you're on the road.

Carrying these basic items will help you greatly in an event of a breakdown or an emergency.


What to do before:

It’s important to plan and research your route before you leave. If you have the option, always choose a sheltered route with less exposure to the weather. Remember to let people know you're travelling in case you get stuck with no way to use your phone.

What to do during:

If you can, it’s safer to choose main roads, where you are less likely to be exposed to fallen branches, debris and flooding. If visibility on the roads is seriously reduced you should use dipped headlights. Gusts of wind can unsettle vehicles – in situations like these it’s essential to grip your steering wheel firmly with both hands. This is particularly important when planning to overtake.

When driving it’s necessary to keep an eye out for gaps between trees, buildings or bridges over a river or railway – these are some of the places you are more likely to be exposed to side winds.

Ensure that you maintain enough room either side of your vehicle so you can account for it being blown sideways. Roads will be more slippery than usual in wet weather – be sure to give yourself more time to react when approaching a hazard.

It’s vital for you to increase your following gap to at least four seconds from the moving traffic in front. Also keep your eyes peeled on the road at all times as spray from other vehicles can suddenly reduce your visibility. Remember it affects others too, so anticipate their actions and be prepared.

What to do before:

When it’s windy outside, you should pack provisions before leaving home in case severe weather disrupts your journey or cause a breakdown. We would recommend warm clothes, a fully charged mobile phone, some food and water.

If you do have to travel, please listen out for local news bulletins, and look on our twitter accounts to keep up to date with road closures, the last thing you want is to get stuck in a queue of traffic due to a road closure you could have avoided.

Research and plan your route before heading out to find out if there is a route with less exposure to the weather. If you have the option, always choose a sheltered route and let people know you're travelling in case you get stuck and your phone runs out of battery.

What to do during:

When driving in severe weather you should always drive slowly, and never drive fast. High winds can get under a car and affect its handling and braking significantly, this will be brought on by strong gusts which could take you by surprise. Slowing down will help anticipate these gusts and will reduce the impact they have on your driving too.

Prepare yourself when approaching exposed areas, these areas on the road will leave your vehicles more susceptible to the impact of sudden gusts of wind.

What to do before:    

If you’re thinking of heading out and it’s raining heavily outside, please listen out for local news bulletins, and look at our twitter accounts to keep up to date with road closures, and plan your journey.

Ensure your tyres have adequate tread depth and pressure levels to give you the best chance of avoiding aquaplaning. Aquaplaning is an issue caused when a layer of water is allowed to build up between a vehicle’s tyres and the surface of the road beneath. At this point, the tyres cannot grip on the road and this causes a lack of traction which means the driver loses control and is unable to steer, brake or accelerate, which can be a scary and dangerous experience for a driver.

Your wipers need to be in good working order so you’re able to clean your windscreen effectively, and it’s important to make sure you check them before heading off. Also, please check your lights are working so other road users can see you easier during a heavy downpour.

What to do during:

Always watch your speed in severe weather and leave plenty of room between you and the car in front, we always advise a gap of at least four seconds. Even if you’re driving with rain tyres, your stopping distances will be greater than on dry roads.

If someone’s driving close on your tail, it’s important to let them pass. It’s better to have them in front of you than behind. Put your car headlights on, but keep them on a dipped beam, and do not use your fog lights.

Also, be conscious of spray from lorries and fast-moving vehicles, it could temporarily reduce your visibility. Equally, be considerate about the spray your own car is creating, and avoid driving fast through puddles close to pedestrians or cyclists.

Breakdown numbers do increase in the rain as damp can cause problems with electrics and engines. If you do break down, keep your bonnet closed to prevent any further damage. Do not try to restart your engine if it has cut out after you’ve driven through deep water.

What to do before:

Car mewn eira

If you have to drive in icy conditions, please allow more time than you normally would. Before setting off in your car, make sure that you clear your car windows, mirrors, lights and the top of your roof of snow. Driving with snow on your car could result in you breaking the law, and endangering the lives of others. 

You will also need to de-ice your windscreen - and take time to clear the inside of your windscreen too as it is illegal to drive without full visibility through all of your windows.

It’s also a good idea to carry a lock de-icer with you to clear your lock. If your locks do get frozen, try warming the key or spraying de-icer or an oil-based lubricant into the lock.

The following checks will also be time consuming so it is worth factoring them in too before you set off:

  • Make sure any auto wiper control is switched off before turning the ignition on as this could blow the wiper control fuse if they are frozen to the screen. 
  • Your wipers need to be in good working order so you’re able to clean your windscreen effectively.
  • Check tyres for adequate tread. Poor tyres will not grip when driving on snow and ice.

If you live in an area where snow is common it might be worth changing to winter tyres with deeper tread, and if conditions are really bad outside you might want to consider the use of snow socks or even snow chains.

It’s vital to use a good quality screenwash that protects down to at least -35° to prevent the water from freezing. If you don’t, your windscreen wipers could be rendered useless in extreme conditions.

The most important thing to take with you before driving in snow is a charged mobile phone with the phone number of your breakdown provider stored in it so you can always call for help.

What to do during:

When driving on icy roads, be gentle on the throttle and avoid any harsh acceleration which is likely to cause wheel spin. Pull away in second gear, easing your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel spin.

To slow down, use engine braking through the gears – just touch the brake pedal lightly to show brake lights to others behind.

If you're approaching a hill, drop well back or wait until it’s clear of traffic so you won’t have to stop part way up.

Keep a constant speed and try to avoid changing gear on the hill. Use a low gear and try to avoid braking.

Leave as much room as you can to the car in front. If you drive an automatic car, check your manual to see if your car has a setting for icy conditions.

Use your headlights in heavy snow. Daytime running lights won't be enough, and there’ll be no lighting at the back of your car.

You’ll need to make sure you can see ahead and cars behind you know you’re there.

It’s important to always think about your current driving environment, just because the conditions might have improved on main roads, country roads or bridges might still be hazardous due to less traffic or because they've not been gritted.

When you're driving in icy conditions or snow, you should always be more cautious for at least a few days after.


Call the Traffic Wales information line
0300 123 1213

Rydym yn croesawu galwadau’n Gymraeg
We welcome calls in Welsh

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