Getting a grip in icy conditions

Getting a grip in icy conditions

Typically only a very small percentage of South Africans have to concern themselves with driving in snowy or icy conditions. However, last year’s widespread “winter wonderland” turned this reality on its head, as many motorists found themselves out of their depth and learning to drive all over again. This winter, with its cold front spells and freak showers, might deliver yet another snowy spectacle.

Joe du Plooy, marketing executive of Tiger Wheel & Tyre, says: “Unlike countries that experience severe winters, we don’t need ‘winter tyres’. These have a high silica rubber compound and special tread pattern, which performs optimally in conditions of 7°C and below; in ice, rain or snow.”

He adds: “We are blessed with moderate winters but, on the rare occasion when it does snow or the roads become iced over, we don’t have the experience or skill needed to drive safely under these conditions. At the very least, South African motorists should be mentally prepared for the possibility of adverse winter conditions and have a game plan for driving on ice or snow.”

Tiger Wheel & Tyre gives some basics to keep in mind:

Slow is better, when driving in snowy conditions. Accept that you won’t be getting anywhere fast and drive as slowly as possible, without losing momentum. Because, if you do lose momentum, it will take greater effort to get going again and greater skill not to slide in the process.

Drive in a lower gear to improve traction, and don’t speed up for hills. Doing so will set your wheels spinning in the snow or on the ice.

Keep at least three times your usual following distance to allow sufficient space for braking. And, when you brake, do it gently – releasing the pedal if your wheels start skidding. If your vehicle doesn’t have ABS, gently pump or tap the brake to slow down. With ABS brakes you should apply gentle but firm and constant pressure – you’ll feel a light shuddering that is perfectly normal. 


However, if your vehicle does slide, don’t overcorrect by steering in the opposite direction to the slide, as this will put your vehicle in a spin. Should your rear wheels slide to the left, steer to the left until you regain traction, before gently and slowly correcting the steering in the direction that you want to go.

Even if ice or snow don’t make the forecast this winter, Tiger Wheel & Tyre cautions all motorists to ensure their driving safety by keeping tyres inflated to the correct pressure and making sure they have at least the one mm minimum legal tread depth.

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