27 August 2020
27 August 2020
It’s been a winter to remember in Australia’s alpine region, with COVID-19 forcing resorts such as Mt Hotham and Falls Creek to close its lifts while Mt Buller, Thredbo and Perisher remain open to limited numbers and patchy snow coverage. Yet the 2020 ski season runs until early October, so there’s still time (more if you live in New Zealand) to explore the natural beauty of the high country. Just as you need to pack the right weatherproof coats, gloves and boots, it’s important to make sure your vehicle is properly dressed for winter before you take off.
The number one thing you’ll need in wet, icy or snowy weather is traction on the road, and the safety systems such as ESP (electronic stability program) in Mercedes-Benz vehicles offer peace of mind. “Cold weather testing is an important part of Mercedes-Benz vehicle development,” says the brand’s Australia-Pacific product communications manager Ryan Lewis. “This type of testing typically takes place in northern Europe during the depths of winter, where temperatures drop well below zero degrees Celsius.”
New models such as the GLB are also available with 4MATIC all-wheel-drive, which is ideal for low-grip road conditions. “The GLB is well-suited to driving on wet and loose surfaces,” explains Lewis. The 4MATIC adds additional driver assistance features as part of an Off-Road Engineering Package, giving the driver more information on the internal displays about the terrain on the outside. “This makes it easier to navigate when taking on a tricky descent in the snow, for example,” says Lewis.
Whether you’re driving a GLB or not, there are several things you should consider before you head for the hills.
At your service
Your car must be up-to-date on its regular service – if you can, let your mechanic know you’re heading to the snow before a service. Check the oil and filter levels, and test the battery, brakes and air conditioner are in top working order.
Snow chains must be carried by all vehicles driving in Victoria’s alpine regions; however, chains are not mandatory for 4WD or AWD vehicles in NSW snow country. If in doubt, pack them in the boot – they are still recommended, if not required by law. Risky sections of road requiring chains are identified with yellow line markings and black and yellow signposting. Your vehicle’s manual will likely include information on fitting chains – it’s a good idea to practice putting them on before you set off, not on the side of the road in a blizzard.
Windscreen wipers must be in mint condition to clear ice, snow and rain and keep your vision clear. The air conditioning system is an essential tool to demist foggy windows (and keep you toasty), regulating the humidity inside the car and clearing the glass.
Slippery roads and sharp turns mean brakes are essential. It takes twice the distance to stop on wet bitumen. Remember, high beam lights don’t work in heavy mist – if you can’t see, pull over.
You’re not in a James Bond film, so make sure you drive safely in difficult conditions. Slow down, accelerate smoothly, brake gently and keep a significant distance between you and the car in front. Pack your sunnies to beat the glare – no one says you can’t look like Daniel Craig.
By Michael Harry