Driving on snow and ice puts both the driver’s abilities and the car’s systems to the test. Volvo tests its cars to operate at -30ºC in a typical Swedish winter, so it’s no surprise that Volvo can offer plenty of experience of winter driving, and of designing cars to cope with a cold environment.

Looking after the car

Your car needs to be in the best condition possible to cope with the extra strain of starting and working smoothly in extra cold conditions.

Make sure the engine has quality coolant that can cope with up to -35 degrees without freezing.

Try to keep the fuel tank as full as possible to prevent condensation in the tank and provide the maximum range and running time for the engine if stuck in snow.

Engine oil with lower viscosity (ie. thinner) makes cold starting easier and reduces fuel consumption. For winter use 5W/30 oil is recommended, particularly synthetic types.

Check the state of the battery more frequently as the heater fan and all the electrical items being used put a greater strain on the battery – and a poorly charged battery can freeze and become useless.

To prevent the windscreen washer fluid, hoses and nozzles from freezing, and to avoid damage to the washer pump, add washer solvents with plenty of anti-freeze.

Avoid using de-icing sprays on door locks as they can impair the locking mechanism. Volvo recommends a Teflon lock spray instead, available from Volvo dealers.

Volvo dealers offer motorists with any make or age of car the year-round convenience of a £15 ‘Clean and Check’1 13-point inspection of the essentials that drivers should (but usually don’t) check regularly to keep everything working smoothly. In addition, at this time of year Volvo also offers a more thorough 25-point ‘Winter Check’2 plus a wash and clean for £30.

Looking after the driver

The driver needs to be alert and prepared to drive and take extra care, especially when braking.

Don’t always follow previous tracks in the snow as this compacted snow is likely to be more slippery. The fresh snow between the tracks will offer more resistance and stopping power.

Always brake gently and allow extra stopping distance on icy roads, and if the car skids, steer into the skid, not the other way. Snow by the side of the road may provide extra stopping power – and is always preferable to hitting oncoming traffic.

Air conditioning is not just for summer but equally important in winter as a dehumidifier to keep windows clear of condensation and give the driver better visibility. Electronic Climate Control, as fitted to all the latest Volvo range and tested to beyond -30ºC, is more advanced and works more effectively than air conditioning, and maintains a chosen temperature more quickly.

The air quality inside the car is another important safety factor. Cold temperatures have a negative effect on combustion, so the surrounding air is likely to contain more impurities in winter, so keep the air conditioning on to help purify the air. That’s why Volvo offers effective filters and an advanced Interior Air Quality System to keep cabin air as clean as possible.

Volvo advises against the temptation of turning the car’s heating up too high when driving in winter. Volvo’s research shows that too high an interior temperature jeopardises the driver’s reaction times and increases the amount of errors. A constant, comfortable temperature inside the car is an important safety factor. It is unhealthy and disorientating to have an extreme difference in inside and outside temperature.

Bulky winter clothes can dangerously inhibit a driver’s movements. Volvo’s ergonomic dashboard designs always include large control knobs and buttons for essential functions so they can still be easily used when wearing gloves in winter. Warm clothes and a shovel should be kept in the car in case the car gets stuck in snow, and Volvo dealers sell a wintery range of accessories such as flasks, rugs, and cosy fleeces.

Don’t forget automatic transmissions usually have a Winter setting to aid traction by starting in a higher gear than normal when pulling away in slippery conditions.

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