It has started to snow on the hills of Pakistan, and the beauty our northern areas present is second to none. Naturally, it entices people from south to go and enjoy all the natural beauty Pakistan’s northern areas have to offer. But, it must be said that with rain and snow comes the challenges of driving in situations that are tricky and can become treacherous very quickly if you are not cautious enough.
In this blog, we will be talking about some tips and tricks that you can follow to make sure your trip to the beautiful northern areas of Pakistan is safe and enjoyable.
Tyre or snow chains are your lifeline when you get stuck in the snow. Most cars are usually front wheel drive and with an open differential. So when one tyre gets stuck, the diff transfers the power to the free tyre instead. That results in your tyre spinning yet you being stuck in the snow and sometimes even ending up burning your clutch plates when trying to throttle your way out of it.
Get yourself some quality chains if you are visiting any area that is predicted to see snow or if it already has snowed there. You can usually rent them as well but if you are a regular tourist, its better to have your own set. There are other options as well like tyre snow ties. Also, practice putting on the chains on your car before venturing out. Make sure they fit right. With low temperatures and your hands freezing, putting on chains for the first time can be a daunting task.
Talking about tyres, just make sure you have good tyres on your car. A new passenger car tyre has a tread depth of 8mm. If the tread depth is less than 2mm, well it’s time to get some new shoes for your car. Also, there are specific mud and snow (M+S) tyres out there which work excellently in slushy conditions but they are not the correct choice for year round driving in hot weather.
Choose the correct size tyre, and make sure they meet your requirements.
By coolant we mean antifreeze. Even water is a coolant but in reality, water freezes in extreme low temperatures (zero and below), and that is horrible for your vehicle. Antifreeze, as the name suggests, does not freeze. Antifreeze coolant has freezing temperatures far below than normal plain water (usually -30 degree Celsius and below). Ice is not supposed to be inside the engine. There are moving components, like the water body aka water pump, inside the car’s cooling system. Frozen water means those parts will not move and will fail. Also, in some cases, the solid ice inside the radiator, head or block of the engine can cause the them to crack or the gasket to fail. Water expands when it freezes. So its very common for radiators to spring a leak in case they have gone through frozen water cycle once.
So make sure you have a quality coolant inside your engine. Either use premixed coolant or if you are going for the concentrate, make sure the ratio of coolant and water is correct. Read the label for the recommended ratio. Usually it is either 50:50 or 60:40 depending on the weather conditions. Besides, good coolant not only stops water from freezing, it also stops it from boiling in extreme high temperature cases. And it also keeps the rust away from your car’s cooling system as well.
Be extra cautious of black ice on the roads. You will see there is no visible snow on the road, yet your vehicle will start getting out of control and skidding and slipping around. That means you have found a patch of black ice. The water on the surface of the road completely freezes below zero degree Celsius and makes a non-visible super slippery layer on the road. The rubber of the tyre itself hardens in freezing temperatures and loses its gripping properties. And that is a recipe for disaster in extreme cases.
If you have hit such a surface, make sure you don’t slam on the brakes and lock the tyres. The moment tyres lock, they will lose traction, and you will have no control over the vehicle. Needless to say, that is very bad by all accounts. As long as the tyres are rotating, you have some control over the car. Locked wheels means you are just a passenger in a big metal box which is at the mercy of laws of physics.
So once you have found yourself in such conditions, it is time to whip out your snow chains. If you don’t have them with you, well I’ve got some bad news for you. There is a chance either you will rear-end someone else’s car, or get rear-ended yourself. And in some extreme cases when stars are not in your favour, and lady luck is angry with you, you might also end up in a ditch.
General maintenance of car
Just pay attention to the regular maintenance of your car if you want to go on a journey like this. Have its oil changed, air filter and spark plugs checked/changed, brakes inspected, tyres inspected, car’s battery inspected, and as mentioned before, have good quality coolant in the radiator. This is a must list for older cars especially.
People sometimes don’t even take their cars out of the city. Their vehicles are mostly driven within cities at limited speeds and for limited time. But when you put the stress of motorway travelling, or high altitudes, you realise how poor in shape your car was. And having it break down in the middle of nowhere is definitely not something you want to happen.
So have your car routinely maintained so that you don’t catch a nasty surprise during your travels.
Things to keep with you
- Jumper cables
- Tool kit
- First aid kid
- Air pump
- Packaged food that isn’t going to expire in a day or two
- Tow rope/cable
- Extra fuses
- Torch/emergency light
Keep space from front. Don’t lock up brakes. Follow the tracks made by cars in front of you. Do not put extra load on your car (cars with small engines struggle more in higher altitudes). Be gentle with the race and brake pedals. Keep the car slow. Windscreen washing fluid and good wiper blades. Spare tyre in good condition or puncture repair kit. Use fog lights when necessary. And lastly, don’t panic.
We hope some of these will help you whenever you are on your way to the North and have a safe trip. Happy motoring!