Driving in the winter in New Zealand is similar to summer driving in most parts of the country, however, if the weather comes in, or if you are driving up the mountains, conditions can change quickly, these useful winter tips will help make winter driving easy!
Make sure your front and back windscreens, as well as your passenger and driver windows and mirrors, are completely free of ice before heading out in the morning. Use an ice scraper - steer clear of hot water as this can crack your windscreen.
HOT TIP #1: start your car 15 minutes before you leave and let your de-misters do their thing
HOT TIP #2: if you’re struggling to get rid of the ice, try leaving a towel or some cardboard on your windscreen overnight to stop it icing over.
Winter can often mean ice on the road, especially at higher elevations. Slow down and drive with caution, leaving a safe driving distance between you and the car in front.
HOT TIP #3: if you find yourself slipping on some road ice, stay calm! Ease your foot off the accelerator and allow the car to slow itself down, try to keep the steering wheel straight and allow the car to pass over the ice.
The weather in New Zealand can change quickly, especially in winter. Always be prepared when driving and make sure you carry snow chains in your car in case they need to be fitted.
HOT TIP #4: if you’re driving up the mountains for a day’s skiing there will often be a patrol at the bottom of the access road checking that you have chains in your car. If you don’t you may be turned around, save yourself the hassle and always carry chains.
This applies to driving in general but is especially applicable when driving up ski field access roads. There will most likely be a lot of tourists on the road who are unfamiliar with the conditions – drive slowly and only overtake if it is 100% safe to do so.
HOT TIP #5: if you spot a large line of cars behind you, pull over at a safe location (only if there is a safe spot) to allow them to pass. You will feel more comfortable driving without a line of impatient drivers behind you and other road users will be grateful.
If you are feeling especially nervous about driving up the mountain in winter, take driving out of the equation and catch a bus or shuttle instead. The shuttle drivers have years of experience driving in winter conditions, so you can just relax and enjoy the view!