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Road conditions abroad in winter are likely to be more severe than you would normally see at home
If you're driving to one of Europe's winter sports destinations you need to be prepared for road conditions more severe than anything you would normally encounter at home.
The law in some countries requires residents to use winter tyres at certain times of the year or when conditions are appropriate but then permits visitors to drive on 'summer' tyres – fitted with snow chains when conditions or local signs dictate.
The rules in Germany changed at the end of 2010 - regulations now require all passenger cars and motorbikes including vehicles from foreign countries to be fitted with winter tyres or all season tyres on all axles when conditions are wintery.
If your vehicle becomes stuck during the winter months because the tyres are unsuitable you will be liable to an on the spot fine in Germany. If the vehicle causes an obstruction and aggravation to other traffic, the fine may be doubled. You may also be prevented from continuing your journey.
If you are driving for a considerable distance in mainland Europe during the winter months we would recommend fitting winter tyres before travelling – irrespective of what the minimum legal requirement may be.
Check local rules with your travel company or holiday rep before you go. Check with your insurer too as they may have specific requirements for winter resorts.
Practice fitting snow chains before you go as they may be easier to fit when your hands are cold and the wheel arches filled with snow if you've practiced first in the warm/dry at home.
If you are hiring a car, check with the hire company what tyres are fitted as they may not be suitable for the journey you're planning.
Wax crystals can form in diesel when temperatures are very low. These block the fuel filter and prevent fuel flow.
European quality standard for diesel fuel include winter requirements specific to each country which ensure that fuel is suited to the local climate.
You should avoid carrying UK spec diesel fuel in a spare can as this won't have the same extreme low temperature capability as local fuel at your destination.
So called 'cold flow' additives are not required nor are they recommended.
(12 November 2012)