If you’re new to New Zealand, planning a winter road trip or driving up to the ski slopes in a rented car, you need to take quite a few precautions that are included in this blog post. Meanwhile, let me remind you that through the spectacular scenery comprising the snow-covered Alps and pristine lakes may look majestic in winter, they can also be a bit distracting and so prove perilous, especially when you are driving through snow-covered roads. This includes driving through the Mackenzie District, covering towns such as Fairlie, Twizel, and Tekapo where there will be snow in winter because of high elevation. While driving from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo normally takes 2.5 to 3 hours, it would consume much more time during the winter months. Incidentally, winter in New Zealand runs from June to August, but you may also encounter late snow flurries around the Alpine regions well into September.
Precautions Needed For Winter Driving In NZ
>> Monitoring The Weather Condition
Prior to setting out on a winter road trip, make sure that you are adequately advised about weather situation and the road conditions you would be driving through. And for this, you need to monitor the weather to know areas likely to be affected by heavy snowfall, rain or sleet. When in doubt, you can always depend on:
- NZ Metservice
- AA Roadwatch
- NZ Transport Agency
Use Snow Chains
While renting a car during the winter months, make sure that the company has provided you with snow chains along with the car. However, here is a short description of how to install the chains.
How To Fit The Snow Chains
Engage the car’s parking brake, while you also put the car in gear. Now place the chain on the left-hand tire (front wheel tire), holding it at the top and allowing it to fall down evenly over the front of the tire and the wheel. Needless to say, it can never reach the bottom of the tire at this stage as it is touching the road surface where you cannot set it. Of course, there are a few types that are provided with rings that go on the inside of the wheel to help guide the chain into place. For these types of chains, make sure that the open connection remains at the bottom of the wheel.
However, once this is done, install the other chain in the same way on the right-hand tire. Now, release the parking brake and push the car a few inches forward or backward, whichever way you may like. This will expose the portion of the tire previously touching the ground, thus enabling you to complete the job. The only thing that remains to be done now involves tightening the chains by utilizing a closer link where they lock.
However, when using snow chains, make sure that these are fitted to the driving wheels (front wheels for front-wheel drive cars and rear wheels for conventional rear-wheel drive cars).
Also, after the chains have been installed, drive a short distance on the snowy road to check the fitting of the chains.
Beware Of Black Ice
Black ice basically is a dark colored sheet of ice often found on motorways during winter months that prove perilous for most drivers. So try to avoid it as much as possible.
Among the many threats facing motorists during winter is the most perilous, difficult-to-locate and potentially deadly black ice. However, the biggest hazard with black ice that you are at the mercy of your vehicle, especially when it glides over it. The car may veer left at the slightest inclination or turn right on its own.
Steps To Be Taken When Driving Through Black Ice
The flowing steps may be taken when driving through the black ice to curtail risks
- Avoid abrupt braking
- Drive slowly
- Avoid sudden direction changes
- Leave large following distances
- Look for shiny, wet patches on the road
If you can sacrifice a few creature comforts, a motoring trip in New Zealand during winter can be most enthralling, provided you abide by the suggestions offered above.