Winter Survival Guide for Uber Drivers
No matter if you’re in London, New York or Edinburgh, winter can be a challenging time for professional drivers. Too much darkness, cold, rain and snow. We’ve looked at the major issues winter throws up for Uber drivers, and we’ve created this survival guide, with an extra section on COVID-19 and the safety measures to bear in mind there.
Taking care of your car
Your vehicle is your breadwinner. If it’s out of action, it’s costing you money. Keeping it in tip-top shape in winter isn’t just a question of standard cleaning and servicing. Added care is called for.
Wheels: Salt and grit can quickly corrode the bodywork and mechanicals of your car. Steam clean the underside and wheel arches once a month and the bodywork and engine once a season to preserve the value and performance of your most important asset. Regularly check your tyres’ pressure, tread depth and general condition. You need at least 1.6mm of tread over the central three quarters of your tyre around the entire circumference. Any less than 1.6mm and you’ll be at risk. Top tip: use a 20p coin to check your tyres tread depth.
Lights: Try turning your lights on and off to make sure they’re working and clean.
A crust of dirty ice can build-up and reduce the brightness of your external lights by up to 75% according to the UK’s motoring organisation, the AA. This makes it harder for you to see and for others to see you. Not only is this dangerous, but it could also cost you a fine. Spray all your lights with de-icer and scrape the melting crust away daily or more often if needed.
Fluids: Top up your windscreen wash, oil and anti-freeze.
Windshield and wipers: Pouring boiling water on an iced-up windshield can cause the glass to fracture. Use a chemical de-icer. Also, pulling the wiper blades away when they’ve frozen hard to the glass just rips the cutting-edge of the rubber and makes the blades leave ugly smears. Use a de-icer to melt the ice first. Wait a few minutes before gently easing them free.
Brakes: Snow, ice, rain, fog – winter weather has many variables, so make sure your brakes are in good working order.
Battery: Before setting off, make sure your battery is fully charged.
Packed ice and snow: Frozen slush, grit and icy debris rapidly grow around a vehicle’s wheels in bad weather. This can have a dangerous effect on steering. Use a brush or plastic scraper to remove clumps of ice every day, or more if necessary.
Extras to keep in the car
- Shovel: Keep one in the trunk throughout the winter.
- Ice-melt and sand: They could save you the cost of a tow in ice and snow.
- Snow chains: If you must work when it’s very snowy, chains are a must.
- De-icer: Always have a large, full can of this – and a plastic glass scraper.
- Blanket: Have one of these handy for yourself. You never know if you’re going to get stuck.
- Extra fuel: Keep a small, emergency amount in the trunk. Only use a purpose-made, steel container.
- Carpets: Winter riders will track in water, mud, ice and snow. If you don’t have rubber mats yet, put them in to protect your carpets. At the end of your shift, take the mats out, clean them and let them dry. If you park in a safe garage, leave your windows open overnight to let interior moisture escape.
- Towels and tarp: Keep a couple of old towels handy to dry off seats and upholstery in between riders. Keeping a spare tarp in the car can be a lifesaver if you pick-up someone with a wet dog (you must accept service dogs by law). Use the tarp to protect your precious seats.
How to drive according to different weather conditions
Snow & Ice
- The roads will be slippery, so going slow is very important. Don’t forget that stopping distances are multiplied by 10 when there’s ice on the road
- Aim for a smooth drive by avoiding harsh acceleration and braking, especially as there could be invisible black ice about
- Make good use of your de-mister and windscreen wipers, making sure the fluid is topped up regularly
- If you feel like visibility has lowered at all, remember to switch on fog lamps and headlights
- We hope you will avoid this but if you do break down, be sure to put your hazard lights on immediately so others can clearly see you
- A lot more common than snow and ice, you can almost guarantee rain. Stopping distances double when the roads are wet so be sure to drive smoothly and slowly
- Put your headlights on dipped beam so yourself and other drivers can drive safely
- Make sure you leave plenty of distance between you and the car in front
- Internal condensation can be reduced and prevented using your air conditioning
- And if you aquaplane, take your foot off the accelerator – don’t brake
- If the rain is heavy, there’s a risk of flooding. The most significant risk of deepwater is at kerbsides and where the road dips so keep that in mind
- Be careful when approaching a deepwater spot with oncoming vehicles as you may need to give way and wait
- Another likely weather condition, fog needs your full attention. Take your time and keep your speed to a minimum, especially on bends and corners.
- Double-check your fog lights are working and remember to use them when visibility gets really poor
- Leave a generous gap between yourself and the car in front – you don’t know what they’re driving into
- Be careful when driving under bridges as road surfaces are likely to be wet and/or covered in frost, ice or snow
Taking care of yourself
You are the vital element of your business. Keeping yourself 100% fit is more important than anything else.
Chilling out: Stress can be a killer – it’s a leading cause of heart failure and other potentially fatal illnesses. Unfortunately, winter driving, especially during the holiday periods, can be extremely stressful. Find a few minutes every day to chill out, take a break and get your pulse rate back to normal. Don’t rely on medication, tobacco or caffeine for support. Keep photos of your loved ones in the car. They’re the ones you’re working for. (See How to Beat Professional Driver Stress for great tips on how to keep on top of this important but often overlooked issue).
Don’t get too absorbed: It’s easy to chase rides all day during the busy holiday season. However, working huge hours every week is bad for your physical and mental health and it isolates you from family and friends. If you can afford to, take a few days off from time to time. Reconnect with yourself and those around you.
Vitamin D: During the dark months, our daily dosage of necessary vitamin D from sunlight dwindles to almost zero. This can affect bones and teeth. Take a dietary supplement or eat food rich in vitamin D to make up the difference.
Weight: We tend to eat more and be less active in Winter. This means we gain weight. Keep an eye on what you eat and how much you eat and avoid too many foods high in saturated fats, salt and sugar. If you see your weight increasing, take active steps – yes, a diet – to bring it back down. (Check your body mass index to see if you fall in the normal weight range.)
Eyesight: Driving at night is harder on the eyes – and therefore the brain. Fatigue levels rise. If possible, reduce the number of hours you work at night to compensate and if you feel fatigued, stop driving.
Layered clothes: You may be in the car all day, but what if you must get out for a long time? Have some extra clothing handy. Multiple layers give you the flexibility to handle heat and cold.
Boots: Digging your car out of snow in ordinary shoes is not good. Wear waterproof boots (but not so heavy they interfere with your driving), or just keep a spare pair in the trunk.
Coronavirus Safety Checks
Remember to take extra safety precautions in the ongoing pandemic.
- Clean your car after every trip, being sure to cover key touchpoints including seats, door hands and seat belts
- Always carry a bottle on hand sanitizer on you
- Keep fresh air circulating by having the window open slightly when moving passengers
- And of course, always wear your mask and don’t accept riders who aren’t wearing one (except if they have a valid excuse). It’s a good idea to keep spares in case a rider doesn’t have one
Sources and Links
Iced-up Windshield: https://www.bizjournals.com/denver/stories/2009/12/07/daily38.html
Dirty Headlights law: https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/cars/1052605/car-headlight-fine-snow-ice-dirt
Winter weight gain: https://www.shape.com/weight-loss/management/why-you-gain-weight-winter
Body Mass Index calculator: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm
Time Out: https://www.timeout.com/london