Driving on Ice and the presence of Black Ice

Wet or snow covered roads will freeze over creating ice at low or near freezing point. This is not easy to see and you need to be well aware of the hazard Ice or Black Ice can cause. Detecting Black Ice is not easy, but certain circumstances can indicate its presence.

Tell tale areas where there is a strong likelihood of black ice being present will be gullies, shaded roads and corners. The sun may turn the ice to water during the day but as soon as the sun disappears and the temperature drops, ice will form. It’s important to note that ice is more likely to be found near water ways or lake areas and particularly likes smooth surfaces. Course tar sealing may change to smooth tar seal with little warning. Many country bridges are surfaced in timber or concrete with smooth finishes which are highly likely spots for ice to form.

Often “grit” (small stones or gravel) is sprinkled on the road to help break up ice and provide additional traction. The presence of ice grit on the road also poses a hazard to drivers particularly where speed is concerned. Ice grit has a habit of building up along the road verge which has caused many a vehicle to leave the road because of a lapse of concentration or fatigue. For vehicles travelling in the opposite direction the threat is a cracked or shattered windscreen. A sudden steering reaction caused by flying grit from other vehicles can result in you losing control so stay alert. Remember; Ice is much worse than wet roads so extra precautions and concentration is required.


  • No sudden changes in accelerating or braking.
  • If your vehicle begins to slide, ease back off the accelerator and maintain steering.
  • No sudden jerking on brakes or steering.
  • Braking should always be gentle and light.
  • Steer into a slide to have best control and maintain larger travelling distances between you and other vehicles.
  • Slow down well before corners.
  • Travel during the warmer part of the day, if you have to travel at night or in the early hours of the morning then be prepared for the presence of ice.

Winter Road | 4WD Rentals | New Zealand

Mountain safety

Ski areas are located at high altitude with many access roads being steep, narrow and winding. The majority are unsealed (gravel) roads that are prone to snow, ice and rock fall debris. Poor visibility is also a major factor when entering a mountain environment.  Depending on the conditions, much of your trip could be in thick dense cloud which requires extreme concentration and alertness.

Uphill driving

When travelling uphill, select a low gear and maintain engine revs above 2,000 rpm. This will give you best control without over loading or over heating the engine or transmission. If the engine is ‘screaming’, then you are pushing too hard. Avoid sharp turning or swerving under power as this can cause loss of traction and control.

Downhill driving

When descending, a slower and controlled decent is best. Before decent, select a lower gear (2nd gear is a good start). This will aide your control and assists you in slowing the vehicle without overuse of the breaks.  Only use brakes gently and as necessary. Too much use of the brakes for long periods can cause overheating and brake fade or burn out, AVOID over use at all times. If there is a burning smell in the vehicle on decent then you have probably not heeded the advice above and costly repairs are likely to follow.

  • Allow plenty of time to reach the slopes safely. It may take you longer than you think particularly in adverse conditions.
  • Slow down, drive to the conditions and with consideration to others; better to get there in one piece than not at all.
  • Increase your stopping and following distances.
  • In fresh snow drive just to the side of other tyre marks; it’s less slippery!
  • Carry extra warm clothing in case you get stuck or breakdown, you may be waiting a while.
  • Always make sure you have plenty of fuel – have fun & stay safe.
  • Keep engine revs down – travel up hill in the highest gear possible; downhill in the lowest.
  • In poor visibility switch on your headlights to low beam and use your windscreen wipers regularly.
  • Always check out the snow report each day for the present road conditions, it will tell you where chains are required to be fitted.
  • Chains must be installed on the drive wheels, make sure you know if your vehicle is front or rear wheel drive.
  • When fitting snow chains, make sure you are completely clear of the roadway to the left. Do not stop in a traffic lane where you will endanger yourself and block traffic. Same goes when removing them.

Chains | 4WD Rentals | New Zealand