A Driving Instructor's Blog

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Smearing windscreen in rain

The problem of smeared windscreens in the rain has driven me nuts ever since I started driving, but it became a major headache when I became a driving instructor.

We’ve all experienced it. You get a few spots of rain, and when the wipers wipe you get a mosaic pattern left behind for a few seconds. In heavy rain it’s like someone poured chip fat on the screen and you can’t see properly.

Just to clarify, but there are two separate situations involved here. The normal everyday situation is that muck gets on to your windscreen, and you need to get it off. You do that by squirting some of your screen wash on to the glass, and the wipers wipe the muck away. I’ve talked about how to do that in the article about making your own screen wash. However, over time you get oil and wax bound to the screen which is very difficult to get off, and that is the second situation, and the subject of his article.

Things came to a head some years ago when my lease company replaced my car. From the first day I owned it, in rain you couldn’t see anything. All the previously tried methods, which had given various levels of success, failed completely. Scrunched up newspaper was no good, sodium lauryl sulphate had a minor effect, various solvents also minor, and Clearalex was probably the best but still far from perfect.

The problem was so bad that I seriously thought that the glass must have been damaged in some way.

Normal smearing is caused by gunk on the road loosely binding to the glass. All you need is a bit of water and detergent and it comes straight off. But wax is a totally different matter. A tiny amount of it can affect the entire surface of the glass, and is does not come off with normal detergents. In fact, the process of washing the car can be a major culprit – sponges and rags get wax on them from any waxing process you use, and if you go near the glass with them it gets on there, too. It’s even worse if you use hand car washes regularly (as I do).

The other thing to remember is that your wiper blades can also get wax on them. Even if you get your glass sparkling clean, a few wipes of contaminated blades can mess it up again almost immediately. Furthermore, if you clean the glass and the blades, but leave any wax in the well where the wipers sit, they pick it up and spread it around again.

That lease car – and several others since – appears to have had some manufacturing residue still on the glass, because I was also having problem inside with misting and hazy marks with certain sun angles.

So how can you get it off?

Clearalex is available as a liquid, but you used to be able to buy it in sachets in powder form. It is intended to be added to your screen wash, and it cleans quite well, but the drawback is that it leaves a horrible white residue when it dries. I have had some success with Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), which is an anionic surfactant used in many household products. It removes quite a lot of windscreen gunk, but it didn’t seem to touch wax or my residue, and it also leaves annoying white marks on the glass when it dries.

However, I eventually came across Sugar Soap. I’d not heard about it before, but it is used by decorators and builders to remove grease and dirt from surfaces prior to painting, and it occurred to me that that was precisely what I was trying to achieve with my apparently permanently gunked windscreen.

Wikipedia describes it thus:

Sugar soap as typically found in Commonwealth countries is a cleaning material of variable composition sold for use on surfaces affected by greasy or tarry deposits which are not easily removed with routine domestic cleaning materials. When in dry powder form it looks like table sugar thus causing the name.

The solution is alkaline and its uses include cleaning paintwork in preparation for repainting.

The powder form looks exactly like Clearalex powder, and I suspect that there may be some similarities in chemical composition. But you can get liquid and trigger spray variants of it. The main difference between Clearalex and sugar soap is that the latter is dirt cheap, whereas the former comes at a premium price. You simply make up a bucket of the stuff with warm water and give your windscreen a good going over with a clean rag or sponge.

In the case of my ‘damaged’ windscreen, I soaked some cloths in the solution and gave my windscreen a good scrub. Then I then took the car out for a run in the rain.

Initially, I thought it hadn’t worked. But with each wiper pass the glass was became clearer and clearer. The sugar soap appeared to have softened whatever it was on the glass and it was gradually coming off. When I got back home I soaked the rags again and this time left them covering the windscreen for about half an hour (not forgetting the bit under the wipers). I also cleaned the blades with it. This time the windscreen was absolutely crystal clear.

In conclusion, Sugar Soap is great for one-off cleaning. However, it leaves a nasty  white residue when it dries if you try to include it in normal screen wash.

Traffic Film Remover (TFR)

Not long after all this, I stopped using the Tiger Wash (drive thru) at my local garage and started using a local hand car wash – partly as a result of the garage hiking fuel prices, and partly because the hand car wash also did a damned good vacuum clean of the inside of the car. I was intrigued at how clean they could get the car just using some small hand pumps and a power spray. The next time I was in, I did a bit of snooping around and discovered ‘TFR’ – or ‘traffic film remover’.

After reading up on the subject, I bought some TFR from a company called JennyChem. They also supply the mysterious cherry-smelling shampoo the hand car washes use, along with a range of other treatments used by car washes. In a nutshell, a 1-2% TFR solution gets all the oil/wax film off a windscreen in one go, and it also seems to also attack the residue I’d been plagued with on my lease cars since that first one that had it, though sugar soap is still best for this.

Right now, you can get a 5% discount at JennyChem using the following code at checkout.

BAYJC8628

I use TFR in a small spray bottle to clean my alloys and bodywork in between visits to the hand car wash when I have an upcoming test. It removes brake dust from alloys, as well as summer tree gum and bird crap (especially when the little sods have been eating blackberries and insist on sitting on the telephone wire right above my driveway).

And a final note. You can make your own screenwash using TFR. But be advised this does still leave a slight residue.

Does TFR damage the windscreen?

No.

Does TFR damage paintwork?

If it is the non-caustic type, and if it is used at the manufacturer’s recommended concentration, no. But remember that TFR will remove any wax you have applied, so you will need to re-wax after using it on painted surfaces. However, removing wax is exactly what you want if it’s on your windows, which is ultimately why I use it.

Strongly caustic types – which are cheaper and harsher, and often used to shift several centimetres of crap off the undersides of lorries – could damage painted surfaces if used at high strengths and if left on for too long. However, the stuff supplied by JennyChem is not strongly caustic, and is specifically designed for use on cars.

Is there a non-chemical solution?

A reader (from Australia) wrote to me to tell me that he had had success removing that new-windscreen film using Cerium Oxide paste. You can buy it easily from various places (including Amazon) in various forms – powder, paste, or block – and it is specifically used for polishing glass. If you buy it, make sure you get the finest grade possible – ideally, one which is specifically sold for the intended purpose.

Can you put oil on the windscreen to prevent smearing?

Or, as it was put to find the blog, ‘can u put oil on wind screen 2 prfent rain’? NO. It will make it worse.

My windscreen is smearing when it snows

That’s probably a different thing, and not ‘smearing’ at all. When the windscreen wiper rubbers get cold, they also get stiff. As a result, instead of flexing to the windscreen contours and bending forwards and backwards on each stroke of the wiper, they snag and bounce across. They may even not touch parts of the screen properly on the wipe. All of this is often accompanied by a horrible grunting sound, and it leaves behind a trail of water streaks.

Also, if there are remnants of snow on the blades, this can leave a trail of melt water as the blades wipe. You get similar effects if a leaf or small piece of blossom gets stuck on your blades.

I see rain spots after my wipers wipe

Then you’ve got wax or some other coating on your screen. I get it after I’ve been to the car wash, and I remove it using TFR and/or sugar soap.

Don’t forget that the wiper blades must also be cleaned (as well as the space below the blades when they are in their parked position). There’s no point cleaning the glass of wax if the rubber still has it on it. The wipers will put the wax back as soon as you use them.

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Smearing windscreen in rainI’ve mentioned this in the smearing windscreens article, but winter is the time of year where it gets wet and cold (well, certainly wet), and along with the salt spreading a lot of crap gets thrown on to your glass and builds up into a nasty film that doesn’t easily wash off.

I’m always surprised that some people – including driving instructors – only put water in their wash bottles. And they try to justify it! But water on its own simply does not have sufficient wetting properties to attack oil, wax, and grease stuck on the glass. You know when it’s there, because you get that mosaic pattern left behind when you wipe in the wet.

You need a good detergent to clean off oily deposits, and a small amount of alcohol to assist with wetting. Alcohol also functions as an antifreeze when present in higher quantities, so whereas water will freeze at 0°C, a proper screen wash solution containing alcohol will freeze at a lower temperature depending on how you mix it – as low as -9°C.

You can buy two types in the stores – concentrated, or ready-to-use. With the former, you dilute it yourself depending on the weather outside, and with the latter you have to buy the correct type (they do ‘summer’ and ‘winter’ mixes, with the summer one containing very little alcohol). In most cases, the ‘concentrated’ stuff can be used neat and will protect to between -6°C  and -9°C depending on the brand. Some types claim as low as -20°C, but these are specialist ones and they likely contain other chemicals, since alcohol alone to provide that level of freeze protection would be quite dangerous because of its flammability.

The price of typical concentrated screen wash varies from about £5 per 5L in summer, to about £8 in winter (when you need it the most). The ready-to-use stuff is similarly priced, even though it is more dilute – so you are paying for water if you buy that. In a bad winter, with lots of rain and slush, I can easily get through 5L of washer fluid each week. I use less in summer, but over a year it can still mount up.

If you’re going to buy it, my advice is to stock up in summer when the prices are lower, and only get the concentrate so you’re not paying someone to dilute it for you. You often get BOGOF offers in summer.

However, it can be cheaper to make your own, and it is certainly more convenient. I got the idea when I had a freeze up one time (I was late switching to my winter mix in the first of the two cold winters we had about ten years ago), and solved the immediate problem by nipping into a hardware store and buying a bottle of methylated spirits. Adding that to my wash bottle depressed the freezing point and I was running again within 30 minutes. So then I thought why not make my own?

Washer fluid essentially needs to do two things:

  • clean
  • not freeze when it gets cold

It’s basically just a mixture of alcohol and water with a bit of detergent. And some smelly stuff and dye if you are going the whole hog with it.

For a normal screen wash, the recipe below is what I now use. In a 5L bottle, I place the following:

  • 10g Alcohol Ethoxylate
  • 50g Butyl Glycol
  • Ethanol
  • Fragrance
  • Colouring
  • Water to make up to 5L

The amount of Ethanol depends on the temperature you want to protect down to. To protect to around -2°C, 250mls of Ethanol is all you need (this is my Summer mix, since Ethanol also acts as a wetting agent and it helps to get rid of tree sap). To protect to -4°C, you need 500mls of Ethanol, 750mls protects down to around -6°C to -7°C, and 1L protects down to -9°C. Any more Ethanol in the mixture than that and the solution (especially its vapour) becomes potentially highly flammable. I adjust the amount depending on how cold it is, but I switch to at least 500mls around November each year.

Surprisingly, the water you use is quite important. Tap water is likely to leave water marks on the glass when it dries because of the dissolved salts in it. For many years, I used boiled rainwater, but these days I use the condensate from a home dehumidifier.

I buy Alcohol Ethoxylate and Butyl Glycol from Mistral Industrial Chemicals. At the time of this update, 1L of Alcohol Ethoxylate costs £15 and 1L of Butyl Glycol costs £16.99. The total value of these in each 5L batch of my screen wash is therefore just under 16p.

Ethanol is the most expensive ingredient. I currently buy mine from Liquipak. To keep the overall cost down, I buy 20L at a time, so a batch of my screen wash set to protect me to -9°C would contain Ethanol to the value of £4. A Summer mix would contain about £1’s worth.

I latched on to Alcohol Ethoxylate and Butyl Glycol from reading the Safety Data Sheets from various manufacturers of commercial solutions, and worked out a recipe from there.

A brief aside…

Some years ago I was having major problems cleaning my windscreen on new lease vehicles when I received them. There was something on them that gave the mosaic effect in the wet, but absolutely nothing would get it off.

Eventually, I found that Sugar Soap would. Sugar Soap is used by builders and decorators for degreasing walls and paintwork before painting, and I found it did remove the stubborn film from my windscreens.

Then, a few years ago, I was snooping around the forecourt while my car was being valeted at a hand car wash. I was intrigued by all the things they sprayed on the car which got it sparkling clean, so I wanted to find out what they were using. This was when I discovered Traffic Film Remover (TFR).

I tried using Sugar Soap in my screen wash, but it left a heavy residue when it dried. For several years I used TFR, which was much better (and very effective), but it still left streaks when it dried which I wasn’t happy with. This is why I came up with this latest recipe.

However, if your windscreen picks up a lot of wax from car washes, and other residues from the road, screen wash alone won’t completely remove it. In fact, you can completely degrease your windscreen in the visible areas, but it you leave even a trace of wax on the wiper blades or – worse – in the space where they sit when they aren’t wiping (it gets pushed down there and acts as an ink well), it gets spread pretty quickly back on to the main area of the glass.

An occasional deep clean using Sugar Soap or TFR is still a good idea, therefore. You can get Sugar Soap on Amazon, or at the local Screwfix depots and such like. You can get TFR (among other places, including Amazon) from JennyChem. And if you do decide to order directly from JennyChem, use the discount code BAYJC8628 to get 5% off.

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Alcohol Ethoxylate and Butyl Glycol are the same agents used in commercial screen washes. They are relatively non-foaming, and are designed to attack the kind of stuff you get thrown up on to your glass while you are driving. Don’t try using Fairy Liquid or other household detergents – you’ll have bubble blowing down the street, and it doesn’t work for this purpose anyway at the concentrations it is intended to be used at.

Personally, I make my screen wash fluid ready-to-use as I need it (I make three or four batches at a time and just keep them on hand, making more as required). In summer, I use the minimum amount of Ethanol, and in Winter I just up it depending on how cold it is outside based on those freezing points I mentioned earlier.

As for the fragrance, I found a concentrated Apple scent specifically for car detailing applications like this. It is manufactured by Koch Chemie in Germany, and is called Duftstoff Apfel. If anyone wants to know where to buy it, drop me a line using the Contact Form. And the colouring I use is just three drops of food dye.

How can I prepare for cold temperatures?

Use common sense. If it’s warm, you don’t need a low-temperature screen wash mix, since the higher alcohol content is just a waste of money. But you do still need decent cleaning power for the bugs and tree sap you’re going to get. However, if it gets very cold, you don’t want a freeze-up, so be ready to alter your mix accordingly.

For the recipe I have given here, assuming you have made it to protect down to -6°C to -7°C (750mls Ethanol), you can dilute it 1:1 or 1:2 with water and it will still clean your windscreen. As I say, I make mine as I need it, so I always have the full detergent effect.

Can I make it with more alcohol in it?

Yes, but be careful. Ethanol is flammable, even in water mixtures. On its own, Ethanol has a flash point of 14°C (that means that at that temperature and above, a combustible vapour exists above it that can easily be ignited). A 10% solution in water has a flash point of 49°C, which is much safer. A 20% solution has a flash point of 36°C, which is still safe unless you store it in a very hot place. A 30% solution has a flash point of 29°C, and this is quite likely to be encountered in hot weather. My advice is not to exceed about 20-25% of ethanol.

Do not carry a strong Winter mix in your car in Summer. And definitely do not carry significant quantities of neat Ethanol at any time.

Can I use isopropanol instead?

Also known a Propan-2-ol, 2-Propanol, and Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA).

Short answer, yes – but only if the it’s a few degrees below zero. IPA has a lower flash point than ethanol, and any solution above 20% is potentially risky. IPA also has a very distinctive smell.

Can I use Methanol?

I’m just going to say no. It’s poisonous even in small quantities (it can make you go blind), and could be dangerous if inhaled regularly, so for that reason you should not use it.

Can I use methylated spirits?

Usually, this contains methanol as the denaturant – though sometimes other chemicals are used. It also has a strong smell. Apart from the time I used it in an emergency, I would advise against it. However, if you can find ‘denatured ethanol’ or ‘denatured ethyl alcohol’, and can be sure it doesn’t have methanol in it, that would be fine. It’s usually (not always) the blue stuff that contains methanol.

Can I just use water?

Water on its own is no good. If the temperature falls, it will freeze. Even if it doesn’t freeze in your main washer bottle, it will in the pipes and at the nozzles, and freezing water is quite capable of splitting pipes or closed containers. Attempting to use your screen washer pump if there is no liquid water inside could burn out the motor.

Water alone doesn’t clean many things off the glass – it won’t touch oil, grease, or squashed insects, and it will struggle with tree sap.

Remember that if you are driving without the ability to keep your windscreen clear, you are committing an offence. The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 says:

Every wiper and washer fitted in accordance with this regulation shall at all times while a vehicle is being used on a road be maintained in efficient working order and be properly adjusted.

Arguably, you are not complying with this if you just use water. If it freezes (or the bottle is empty) and you drive, you’re definitely not complying with it. It is shocking that some ADIs are apparently doing this.

Can you dilute ready to use screenwash?

Of course you can – certainly in Summer. It’s not a magic potion – just a mixture of water, alcohol, and detergent. I wouldn’t dilute the ready-to-use stuff more than about 50:50 with water, though, because the detergent probably wouldn’t do its job properly.

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The new Highway Code hierarchyFrom 29 January 2022, new changes to the Highway Code (HC) come into effect.

The new hierarchy for road users is as shown in the graphic above. Pedestrians first, then cyclists, then motorcyclists, then cars and vans, and finally lorries. This is based on who is likely to get the most damaged if any one of the other things hits them. And at this stage – as long as you don’t apply any reality to the situation – it makes perfect sense. Well, apart from the fact they left horses off the graphic, but more on that later.

However, the instant you do apply reality, you can see potential issues.

You see, the top three in the hierarchy consists of the vast majority of the population, who either aren’t aware that the HC exists, or who treat it as advisory even they do. And to make matters worse, the first and second groups in the hierarchy will become acutely aware of these changes thanks to the media, and a significant proportion of those will therefore push it to the limits.

Look at this example of something that happened to me while I was driving to a lesson a couple of weeks ago.

If that road was 30mph (or if he’d have done that in front of one of his neighbours in their Audis or low-slung Corsas who don’t recognise speed limits in the first place) he’d be in intensive care right now, or worse, But this is what cyclists do! And he got a mouthful from me out of the window.The new Highway Code rules

You see, the HC is changing like this. Whereas before, a pedestrian crossing the road at a junction was supposed to make sure it was safe and give way to anything turning in, now it is the pedestrian – one of those least likely to be aware of the Highway Code – who can just walk out regardless and it will be the driver/rider of the vehicle who is supposed to give way. And the hierarchy gives the same precedence to cyclists. I mean, we never see them jump on a pavement to skip lights and ride across a junction, do we?

Imagine the twat in the video above coming round a corner and colliding with a pedestrian being equally twattish by by just stepping out. In Broxtowe, Aspley, and Strelley (among others all over the country) it is deeply embedded in the single helix of their DNA to behave like that.

I’m just dying to see how that will be resolved, since the cyclist would have no insurance, and unless he hangs around – which he’s unlikely to do if he’s maimed someone and knows he was being a prat – there is little chance of finding him. Christ, the police can’t even find the boy racers and illegal off-road bikers in Strelley most of the time, so cyclists are well out of the mix on that one.

A lot of rear-end collisions occur when cars stop suddenly and the driver behind isn’t paying attention. Let’s be under no illusions here: drivers of cars, vans, and lorries can be as afflicted with stupidity as much as cyclists and pedestrians are. However, drivers tend to be more aware of the fact that if they hit one of the specimens of those other groups, they will damage them quite badly. But imagine driving into a junction as some prat walks (or rides) in front of you. The possibilities are endless, for hitting the pedestrian/cyclist, or having some imbecile ram into you if you stop suddenly.

This is a stupid change. Roads were built for traffic, and yet precedence is now given to pedestrians and Spandex fetishists with serious attitude problems, all because of the Green Agenda.

Oh, and horses. I have no problem with horse riders, since they almost invariably do not have attitude problems (those that do are in a small minority). I’m careful with them, and they want to be careful with me, and in all honesty, if they were first on that hierarchy I’d give it my full support. However, the number of cyclists with behavioural issues is close to 100% (though close to 100% of them don’t realise it). Virtually none of them care about anyone except themselves, and they should not be given this bone on which to gnaw.

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Originally posted in 2009. Updated annually, so here’s the 2021 version. It’s the end of November and we’ve had some early snow. The papers are full of photographs of people’s dogs in snow, children sledging on frozen mud with some sleet on it, and dire warnings about the coldest winter since 10,000 BC (the last Ice Age). Same as every year. The original article follows.

Further to a post about cancelled lessons due to weather, I noticed on one forum a couple of years ago someone getting all excited about how there might be a market for specialised snow lessons at premium prices. As of October 2018 (and it hasn’t got even close to snowing yet), some instructors are already going on about not doing lessons.Snow on road scene 1

Let’s have a reality check here.

Until February 2009, it hadn’t snowed to any appreciable extent in the UK for around 26 years! We had two bad winters, but since then they have been relatively mild ones with almost no snow. Even when we get a little of the white stuff it is usually gone inside a week or two at most. Snow – and especially in the UK – is usually extremely localised. The media talks it up so it sounds like the whole country is blanketed in a metre of the stuff, especially if a few wet flakes fall in London. This  is enough to have people cutting down each others trees for their wood-fired stoves, and panic buying Evian at the local Waitrose. It can keep the BBC news bulletins going for days at a time.

Every year, incompetence and bureaucracy at local councils typically means that every time there is any bad weather, it’s like they’ve never experienced it before. This – and the media hyping it to death – makes things seem a lot worse than they really are. Having a ‘specialised snow Instructor’ in the UK (especially in England) would be like having a fleet of icebreakers sailing the Mediterranean: bloody stupid!

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Back here on Planet Earth, I will carry on doing things the way I always have done: use whatever weather comes to hand as a teaching opportunity if it is appropriate, and charging normal lesson rates for it.

One bit of advice. Make sure you have the right mixture in your wash bottle, and a scraper for removing any frost or snow. A further bit of advice. Never, ever, ever be tempted to buy a metal-bladed ice scraper. Always plastic. Trust me, I’ve tested metal ones for you, and you are welcome. Don’t use metal.

Will my driving lessons be cancelled due to snow?

It depends on how much of it there is, how far advanced you are with your training, and your instructor’s attitude to teaching in snow. There is no rule that says you mustn’t have lessons in snow. In fact, it makes a lot of sense to do them if you can to get valuable experience. But beginners perhaps shouldn’t because it’s just too dangerous for them. It’s your instructor’s decision, even if you want to do it.Snow on road scene 2

Do driving lessons get cancelled when there is snow?

Yes. It depends on how much snow and how advanced you are as a learner driver. If your instructor cancels then you should not get charged. If you are, find another instructor quickly.

If the police are advising people not to travel unless it’s essential, having a driving lesson in those conditions is a bad idea. That’s when they’re likely to be cancelled.

Also bear in mind that it doesn’t matter if you’re learning with the AA, BSM, Bill Plant, or any other driving school. The decision is down to your instructor based on the weather in your area.

Will my instructor tell me if my lesson is cancelled?

Yes. If he or she doesn’t (or just doesn’t turn up without telling you), find another. But why take the chance? Just call or text him and ask.

My instructor says he isn’t insured for icy weather

Someone found the blog on that search term (February 2018). I’m telling you in the most absolute terms possible that this is utter nonsense. I have never heard of insurance which says you can’t drive in certain weather, and especially not driving instructor insurance. If anyone tells you this, find another instructor quickly.

Do [driving school name] cancel lessons due to bad weather?

Cancelling lessons due to bad weather is down to the instructor and not the driving school they represent. So it doesn’t matter which school you are with. But yes, lessons can be cancelled for bad weather.

Any decent instructor might cancel lessons due to too much snow – either falling, or on the ground – making driving dangerous. They might also cancel due to thick fog, strong winds, and heavy rain/flooding. The decision lies solely with the instructor. If you disagree with their decision, find another one.

Will I have to pay for my lesson if it’s cancelled due to snow?

There is no specific law which says your instructor can’t charge you, but if he or she does it goes against all the principles of Common Decency. You should not be charged for bad weather cancellations initiated by your instructor. If you are, find another instructor as soon as possible.

However, if it’s you who wants to cancel, but your instructor wants to go ahead with the lesson, it’s a little more tricky. You being nervous is not the same as it being genuinely too dangerous. I had someone once who would try to cancel for light rain, bright sun, mist, and wind when she didn’t feel like driving. You’ll need to sort this out yourself, but as in all other cases, if you’re not happy just find a different instructor – being aware that if the problem is you, the issues won’t go away.

I want to do the lesson, but my instructor said no

You need to be realistic about the conditions. Just because your test is coming up, for example, and you don’t want to have to move it doesn’t alter the fact that the weather might just be too dangerous to drive in on the day of the lesson. When I cancel lessons in snow it’s usually with my newer pupils who I know can panic and brake too hard. On the other hand, if the police are advising against travel, or if the roads are at a standstill, I will cancel a lesson no matter who it is.Snow on road scene 3

As an example, one day in 2016 it began snowing heavily about 30 minutes before I was due to pick someone up late one morning. The roads quickly got covered and traffic began to slow down. His house was on a slope, and it was clearly becoming difficult to drive without slipping. I made a choice there and then to cancel the lesson. The snow lasted for about as long as his lesson would have, but was gone by the afternoon. Cancelling was the right decision.

Do lessons in snow cost more?

No. If you’re charged extra for normal driving lessons in snow, find another instructor immediately.

I’m worried about driving lessons in snow

Don’t be. You’re going to have to do it when you’ve passed, and it makes sense to learn how to do it now while you have the chance. A lot of people never see snow until they’ve passed their tests, then they don’t know what to do and end up crashing, like the red car in the picture above.

You should never drive in snow

That’s total rubbish. Unless the advice is ‘not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary’, doing lessons on snow or ice is extremely useful for when you pass. Partially melted snow is ideal for doing ‘snow lessons’ if you have the right instructor. The one thing you do need is to make sure you are suitably equipped in case you get caught out. A scraper, de-icer, the right liquid in your wash bottle – and perhaps a pair of snow socks.

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Do YOU do lessons in snow?

Generally speaking, yes – as long as I feel it is safe to do so, and unless the advice is ‘not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary’. I do not do lessons in snow because I am desperate for the money – I will happily cancel if I believe it is too dangerous. And sometimes it is. For example, in this 2021 update, I cancelled two late afternoon lessons on the day it began snowing hard (after finishing the one I was on while it was coming down), because the first is trigger-happy with his foot at the best of times, and the other would have been after the slush froze (and it froze bloody hard). And I didn’t know how long it would snow for, or how much we’d get.

Why do YOU do lessons in snow?

Several years ago we had two winters where it snowed properly for the first time in around 26 years. I had not experienced it as an instructor before, and I cancelled a lot of lessons. After several weeks I realised I was being over-cautious. It was one of those head-slapping moments, and I recognised that I could actually use the snow as a teaching aid. Not with the beginners or nervous ones, but the more advanced ones definitely.

Snow - bad enough to cancel or not?Basically, if the snow is melting and main roads are clear, there’s no reason not to do lessons. We can dip into some quiet roads and look at how easy it is to skid. If the snow is still falling and main roads are affected by lying snow, then doing lessons carries a much greater risk. A bit of common sense tells you what you can and can’t get away with.

I can state with absolute certainty that every single pupil has benefitted from driving lessons on snow if the chance has arisen for them.

Will my driving test be cancelled due to snow?

It is very likely. You need to phone up the test centre on the day using the number on your email confirmation and check. Otherwise, you must turn up – even if they cancel it at the last minute. If you don’t, you’ll probably lose your test fee – or end up having a drawn-out argument over it. Make life simple and follow the guidelines.

At one time, tests wouldn’t go out if there was any snow at all in Nottingham. In February 2018 during the visitation by ‘The Beast from the East’ (aka the ‘Kitten in Britain’), I had an early morning test go out with substantial snow on the side roads, repeated snow showers, and a temperature of -4°C showing on my car display. My wiper blade rubbers were solid, and making that horrible sound when they bounce instead of glide. I was amazed (but the pupil passed anyway). You can never be certain, but be prepared.

If my test is cancelled, will I have to pay for another?

No. They will send you a new date within a few days (or you can phone them or look it up online). And it will not count as one of your six ‘lives’ for moving your test.

Can I claim for out of pocket expenses if my test is cancelled?

No. Neither you, nor your instructor, can claim any money back. And you shouldn’t be charged for your lesson or car hire that day.Snow on road scene 4

Will snow stop a driving test?

YES. Snow can easily stop a test, or prevent it from going ahead. It doesn’t matter how you phrase the question, or who you ask, if there is snow then the test could easily be affected. They tell you all this when you book it.

Driving tests cancelled due to snow [insert year here]…

It doesn’t matter if it’s 1821, 1921, 2021, or any other date. If there is snow on the roads and/or it is icy then your test may well be cancelled. It doesn’t matter what you, your instructor, or your mum or dad says, or – in 2021 – that there’s a long waiting list for test dates due to COVID. It is up to the test centre to decide.

Why was my driving test cancelled because it snowed?

Driving in snow is potentially dangerous even for experienced drivers. The side streets will likely be covered in sheet ice and compacted snow and you will skid if you even drive carefully on them. You could easily lose control. That’s why there are so many accidents in snow and icy conditions. You are a new driver and you probably haven’t driven on snow before. DVSA cannot take the risk, and you have to accept it.

PHONE YOUR TEST CENTRE TO FIND OUT IF TESTS ARE CANCELLED AT THAT TEST CENTRE BEFORE YOU SET OFF – YOU WON’T FIND THE ANSWER GOOGLING FOR IT. DECISIONS ARE MADE MINUTE-TO-MINUTE AND YOU CAN ONLY FIND OUT BY CALLING THEM.

In the past, I have had 8.10am tests booked in the middle of winter and sometimes I know for a fact that when I pick the pupil up at 6.30am the conditions are so bad the test is going to be cancelled. But until the examiners get in just before 8am there is no way of checking. That’s why I advise against my pupils booking early tests in winter – cancellations are far more likely when it is cold and icy, and it is more likely to be cold and icy (and foggy) first thing in the morning before the sun has come up properly.

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I originally wrote this in 2011, and updated it in 2013, then again in 2021.


There seems to be a lot of confusion over how to turn right at crossroads when another vehicle is turning right from the opposite direction.

Driving: The Essential Skills (TES) – that’s the official DSA guide to driving – says the following:

Turning right when an oncoming vehicle is also turning right

When two vehicles approaching from opposite directions both want to turn right, there are two methods that can be used. Either method is acceptable, but will usually be determined by

  • the layout of the crossroads
  • what course the other driver decides to take
  • road markings

Turning offside to offside

The advantage of this method is that both can see oncoming traffic.

In congested traffic conditions, leave a space for approaching traffic to turn right.

Turning nearside to nearside

This method is less safe because the view of oncoming vehicles isn’t clear. Watch out for oncoming traffic hidden by larger vehicles. Motorcyclists and cyclists are particularly vulnerable, as they would be hidden by any type of vehicle.

Be ready to stop for oncoming vehicles.

Police control or road markings sometimes make this method compulsory.

Defensive driving

Try to make eye contact with the driver of the approaching vehicle to determine which course is best. Your speed should allow you to stop if the other driver pulls out across your path.

What is the difference between nearside to nearside and offside to offside turning? Well, the nearside of the car is the one nearest the kerb, and the offside is the one farthest away from the kerb (the driver’s side). So, the two methods look like this:Crossroads - Turning Right

With offside to offside turning, the two cars go round the back of each other (with their offsides closest). As a result, both can see clearly down the road and both can see if it’s clear to turn or not.

Nearside to nearside turning (with their nearsides closest) creates a large blind spot (coloured purple here), the size of which is governed by the size and proximity of the other vehicle. You cannot see easily down the length of the road, and neither can the driver of the other vehicle.

As TES says, either method is perfectly acceptable.

Another thing to remember is that every junction is different and rarely will you find one that corresponds exactly with the schematic layout I’ve shown above.Crossroads in Mapperley

Let’s look at some real examples. The junction above is in Mapperley, Nottingham. It has clear road markings to guide drivers offside to offside – but since the junction is staggered, offside to offside is what any decent driver would want to do  anyway.Crossroads in Ruddington

This one is in Ruddington, Nottingham. It is marked for nearside to nearside turning because the volume of traffic turning right from both side roads would cause gridlock if people attempted offside to offside. Crossroads in West Bridgford

Finally, this example is from West Bridgford, Nottingham. When turning right from the main road, offside to offside appears to be the best option. In reality, there isn’t enough space and what usually happens is that oncoming traffic either steals the priority and turns in front of you – in which case you just hang back and let them get on with it – or it flashes its lights and you take priority (after making sure they flashed at you, and not one of the vehicles waiting in the side roads), and turn in front of it.  This is simply the kind of thing you have to learn to deal with.

This is an important learning point: learn from roads you drive on regularly, and modify your behaviour accordingly. If you’re unsure about being able to turn, hang back and give way – then the problem usually goes away!

If you’re turning right from either of the side roads in these examples, and someone is doing the same opposite you, who has right of way? Officially, no one does, and the main road is too narrow for either offside to offside or nearside to nearside turning. Some people out there (including some ADIs) would have you and the other driver sit looking at each other until you both keel over from exhaustion. In the real world – if eye contact doesn’t achieve anything – someone will either just force their way out (and the problem goes away) or flash their lights to tell you to go. The unwritten rule tends to be whoever gets there first is given right of way – but you can’t assume that under any circumstances, since there are plenty of arrogant drivers who will do their level best to go whether you’re there or not.

Remember that the Highway Code says you shouldn’t beckon other drivers and road users. It doesn’t say you shouldn’t communicate with them. It mentions eye contact… but what then? Smile? Wink? Nod your head? A simple hand gesture with a flat palm, as if to say “well, what would you like to do?” is NOT beckoning.

What happens when both cars are turning right at crossroads?

Neither car has priority. The options available to you are to turn nearside-to-nearside or offside-to-offside, as explained above. However, in some cases there will be insufficient room for both cars to go at the same time and priority has to be given (not taken).

When you reach the junction, make eye contact with the other driver. It isn’t a contest, so be prepared to give way – you haven’t lost anything by waiting for a few seconds while he gets out of the way. Obviously, if he gives way to you sing some sort of signal then you should check that it’s safe and proceed.

Can you flash your headlights?

Some people out there will be having kittens at reading this, but many other drivers WILL flash their headlights to tell you they are giving way. It’s your responsibility to check there is no traffic coming from your right or left (or from ahead), and that they’re flashing at you, but you can then proceed. If someone is giving you a reasonably clear signal that they’re giving priority to you, only a fool would ignore it. And you don’t have to stretch your imagination very far to work out how this could cut both ways.

Can you wave people through?

Holding your palms out and shrugging as if to say “well, what are you going to do?” is not the same as waving madly to beckon people out. I certainly wouldn’t do the latter, but the former is perfectly acceptable. In most cases, you won’t have to worry, though. The majority of drivers are generally quite arrogant and will try to take the advantage anyway, and that sorts out the problem for you. Even a small hesitation on your part is often signal enough for them to go.

But should you do this on your test?

The short answer is no, don’t flash your headlights or gesture to people on your test. As a learner/new driver you may not be very good at it and it could easily go wrong. However, it is possible that a situation could arise where the only sensible thing to do is to flash your headlights or gesture to someone – even to beckon them.

You have to assess, be confident… and be safe.

Pupils don’t understand what offside and nearside mean.

Then educate them! It’s what they’re paying you for.

Offside to offside turning is stupid – people don’t do it.

No it isn’t, and yes they do. Sometimes it is the best option. Sometimes it is road marked that you should do it. If people don’t do it when it is clearly the best (or the marked) option then they are the stupid ones. As TES says: either method is acceptable.

Marked crossroads are invariably nearside-to-nearside anyway.

No they aren’t! Just because you’ve never seen one doesn’t mean they don’t exist. There are at least two in Nottingham which are included in test routes.

This comment was picked up from a forum which was visiting this article at the time it was originally published, and it is simply untrue. As I’ve made clear, either method is acceptable and which one you use depends on:

  • the junction involved
  • road markings
  • road layout (i.e. is it symmetrical or slightly skewed/staggered?)
  • the time of day (i.e. how busy is it?)
  • what other road users are doing (rightly or wrongly)

Offside to offside is unquestionably the safest method wherever it is possible to use it. Blindly trying to do nearside to nearside without understanding what you’re doing often means cutting corners, forcing others to stop or slow down, and taking needless risks. It points to ignorance of road rules and poor attitude.

Why should you check your mirrors when turning right?

One word: cyclists!

You ought to do a quick shoulder check, as well, just to be on the safe side. Trust me, not that long ago I saw a cyclist race up to a car which was turning right into Netherfield near the Colwick test centre, and turn right on his offside just as the car moved off. I’ve also seen them go round the nearside and do it.

To be fair, it isn’t just cyclists (though it is mainly them who are the problem). Motorcyclists (especially mopeds, which are just powered bicycles when you consider the idiots who usually ride them) will do it, and I’ve even had a van overtake (on the offside) when turning into a side road (I reported him to the police).

Who has priority at crossroads?

The short answer is no one does. That’s because you can never be completely certain what others are going to do, so even if there was a rule which said you had priority, and no matter how many road markings there are, there are far too many people out there who simply wouldn’t follow that rule.

However, as a general rule for yourself, assume that if you are going to cross the path of anyone else, then you don’t have any sort of ‘priority’. In other words, if you are turning right at a crossroads, and someone on the opposite side wants to turn to their left or go straight ahead (and they might not be signalling even if they’re going left or right), don’t take any risks and just let them get on with it.

Make eye contact with the other driver. They may indicate with a gesture that they are allowing you to have priority – priority can be given, but never taken or assumed.

Driving: The Essential Skills (TES) says:

  • if you’re turning right and the other vehicle is going ahead or turning left, you should normally wait for the other vehicle to clear the junction before you make your turn. Otherwise, you’d be cutting across their path

People come up with all sorts of ‘what if’ scenarios for this situation, but the simple answer is not to take risks, and not to assume other people are good drivers. For the sake of a few seconds, it is a minor inconvenience at most. Just give them priority (or let them assume they have it). That way, you are driving defensively even if they aren’t.

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jennychemI’ve mentioned JennyChem many times before. I use their Traffic Film Remover when I clean my car and in my homemade screen wash, I periodically sanitise the inside of my car using their fogging machine, and I also buy my hand sanitising gel from them – along with various shampoos and valeting products.

Right now, you can get a 5% discount using the following code at checkout.

BAYJC8628

I can personally vouch for their products. They’re all excellent quality and they do precisely what they say they do.

To get you started, here are some links to products I use as supplied by JennyChem:

Traffic Film Remover Ultra Special

Snowstorm TFR Maxi Mousse

Cherry Bomb Shampoo

Tar & Glue Remover

Tyre Shine

Fogging/Sanitising Machine

Ceramic Beading Topper

They also supply antifreeze, microfibre cloths, and a vast range of other chemicals and tools. Some items are available through Amazon, but minus the discount code.

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I had a very eventful weekend.

On Friday, the fuel panic-buying started. I’d noticed queues throughout the day, and I knew it wasn’t going to just blow over anytime soon. My main concern was having fuel for Monday, when I have a pupil on test. I’d already started thinking of cancelling weekend lessons if need be to make sure I could do it. By the end of Friday, I had over half a tank, but I knew it wouldn’t last the weekend and cover Monday’s test.

I get my fuel from Asda, but on arriving well after 9pm Friday evening, and after joining the small queue to the 24 hour pumps, it became clear that they were all locked up because Asda was out of fuel. So I nipped to the nearby Esso garage which had also had queues all day, and it was also closed early because it was out of fuel. I then took a long shot and nipped to a local village outside of the city and managed to fill up there (though they appeared to be short of diesel, and people were queuing).

I was still concerned about the Monday test, though. A tank of petrol would not last much beyond Saturday and Sunday with all the lessons I had scheduled. But on my way to my first lesson on Saturday, events took over. I got two texts in quick succession from pupils cancelling because they had something else on (translation: the Detonate festival was on yesterday, and they were going to that), one from someone’s mother informing me they were waiting for the results of a PCR test, and one from another who had a lesson Sunday and thought that Saturday was Sunday, then realised, and didn’t cancel after all. No problem, that would save me some fuel. Then I got stuck in stationary traffic half way along Wilford Lane, which meant there was no way I was going to get to my pupil on time, and which would then impact the second. I called him and explained, and we decided to stick with the one he had booked Sunday (he normally does both days). I turned around, and then immediately got stuck in stationary traffic going the other way, because there had been a crash on Clifton Bridge yet again in the roadworks. Once I got home, I loaded up Google Maps and watched the traffic movement – it was effectively stationary within 2 miles of the bridge, and remained so until the point where I would not be able to get to my next pupil, either. I contacted her and explained, and we decided to stick with Sunday this week (she also does two lessons week). All in all, Saturday went from four lessons to a day off. But at least I knew I’d have fuel for Monday’s test now.

Sunday dawned. My first pupil lives near the city centre, and I checked Google as I usually do before setting off, and noticed that 90% of the city/ring road side was closed – because of the damned marathon. So I went the long way round to his house and came in from the non-marathon side, which took 50 minutes instead of the usual 20. We drove off from his house, with a destination in mind for the lesson, and immediately encountered a police roadblock due to an accident. We turned around with another route now in mind, and as soon as we got to Mapperley we were met with almost stationary traffic.

The marathon causes this problem every year at the best of times, since people have to find alternate routes to wherever they want to be, which increases the traffic volume everywhere else. But this time it was made much, much worse by dozens of twats queuing for fuel at the Co-op garage on Woodborough Road. The video is a time-lapse, and covers about 15 minutes of real time.

You can’t see it in the video, but a bus was bouncing up and down as it had to go over a bollard kerb to get past. The twats who had filled up then decided that instead of leaving the garage by the rear exit, and having to wait for 30 seconds at the traffic lights on Woodthorpe Drive, they would leave by the Woodborough Road exit and turn right across the gridlocked traffic approaching on both sides, thus creating even worse hold ups. That was why the ‘lane’ we were in was stationary for so long when it ought to have been free moving.

Once we got by, the lesson continued to be eventful. We had to stop for an otter in Stoke Bardolph and then, as we waited to turn left on to Nottingham Road in Burton Joyce, we watched a woman on horseback with two children (one on a pony, and one leading a pony) nearly get killed because the horse was bucking and she nearly fell off.

The last leg of the journey was marked only by people driving straight into then out of the garage on the Gedling end of Carlton Hill (because it had no fuel), and to squeeze through the orange cones on the entrance to the one just after Porchester Road to see if the obvious unavailability of any fuel was true and actually applied to them, too. Oh, and my pupil nearly colliding with his mother as she drove away from their house rather too quickly on a blind bend with parked cars on both sides.

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Can you believe this one? It happened today on a lesson. We’d just driven through Bestwood Village and were heading towards Bulwell.

We stopped at the traffic lights at the junction with Hucknall Road, and it was tipping down with rain. Then, a motor hearse drove through the junction just before the lights changed to red. I was just commenting that the day was already depressing enough, when it was followed by a horse-drawn hearse, which went through the the lights when they were probably on red. Then, a second horse-drawn hearse went through – and the lights were definitely on red this time, since ours were now green.

But what happened next was unbelievable. The hearses were being followed by a large convoy of mourners, and they proceeded to go through the lights while they were on red. The blue car in front of us pulled out when our lights turned to green, but then, one of the convoy went through red lights in the other lane to deliberately stop anyone from turning. The blue car blocked the junction, through no fault of his own, and had to reverse back when the assholes on the other side – who could see clearly what had happened – started sounding their horns at him when the lights changed again their side.

The convoy continued, and even after our lights went green again, they still continued through the red! They were all driving with their hazard lights on, so any signals were absent, of course.

Once we turned off Moor Bridge, I told my pupil to stay left, because there was no way we were going the same way that they were (they were either heading for High Wood Cemetery or Bramcote Crematorium). But even then, another one of them deliberately moved into the left hand lane to stop anyone passing.

And when we got to the junction with the A6002 – where they were all going – a white Volkswagen Golf GTi was blocking the junction again so that the convoy could proceed unimpeded!

Nottingham Police still do not accept dashcam footage unless you send them the SD card by carrier pigeon (and at £80 a pop, they can stuff that), but just in case they fancy getting off their fat arses and following any of this up, the registration numbers and vehicle details of some of these twats were as follows:

SP60 ULH – Silver SEAT Altea

GN63 GXX – White Audi A1 Sport

BL06 OCO – Black Lexus IS 220D

DE04 LGK – Silver BMW 320D

YG20 KFT – White BMW 118D M Sport

OY17 XOS – Grey Audi Q3 SE TDi

CE66 COH – White BMW X5 XDrive 40D

FH68 CYJ – Grey Volkswagen Tiguan SEL TDi (this one blocked the left hand lane for a while)

KN53 JVG – Black Ford Fiesta (this was the twat who blocked Moor Bridge to start with)

BJ06 AUL – Grey Renault Megane

CH08 LAN – Blue Maserati Levante D V6

SA17 ULU – Grey Vauxhall Corsa SRi Ecoflex

RF66 WHT – White Volkswagen Golf GTi (this one was illegally blocking the A6002 junction)

These are just the ones I passed – cleverly having their hazard lights on to identify themselves on camera. At least nineteen of them went through illegally in the initial convoy, plus the two horse-drawn hearses. Some were complete pimpmobiles.

Funeral processions obviously happen. But funerals are also personal – and there is no way they should be inflicted on anyone else, and especially not like this. Standard protocol (unless you’re a complete prat) is that you drive normally to the gates of the cemetery, then you can do the solemn stuff once you’re off the road and not inconveniencing the rest of the world. You do not – unless you are one of the aforementioned prats (which these clearly were) – do what happened here.

Those involved in this pathetic show probably had numerous offences against their names already. If the police get to see this, they might get a few more. And deservedly so. It was a show of utter arrogance, created danger and inconvenience for everyone else – and all because they wanted to show some stupid clannish affinity with someone had died.

But they were just stupid pillocks.

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This one happened a couple of weeks ago. I was on my way to a lesson, and turned into Mabel Grove in West Bridgford.

Mabel Grove is a narrow road, and only one car can pass each way at the best of times. So when I take my pupils down it, I always make sure they understand the importance of checking down the road before they turn in.

I immediately saw a van was blocking the road completely. It turned out he was making a delivery to a house that is being refurbished (probably a student HMO). I didn’t know that – I assumed it was a courier dropping off a parcel – so I turned in and parked so he could move away again once he’d finished.

As it happened, the van was making a delivery of building materials. Ironically, there was space either side for him to park, but the driver (‘boss’) was the SIlverback Mountain Gorilla type of tosser, and he chose to just stop and block the road, with no thought for anyone else. He was accompanied by an apprentice or trainee tosser, who walked slowly after each package of material was delivered to collect another, whilst glancing up and down the road at the tailback he and his mate were causing.

The house owner (or landlord) would have been completely aware of the delivery, and should have cleared their driveway to make things even easier. But they didn’t.

They had a full van of building materials, and they took their time. I stress, while blocking a significant through route.

In the video, once I’ve stopped, I’ve switched to time lapse. It took them a full ten minutes to finish, and another five minutes for the queues to clear. They did not hurry one bit, and it was all coolly calculated to be inconvenient – especially after I got out after five minutes and told the apprentice tosser they were just taking the piss (which they were).

They worked deliberately slowly. The apprentice tosser looked at the traffic each time he slowly – very slowly –  walked to and from the van, clearly highly impressed with the arrogance he and his Silverback Mountain senior were exhibiting. People were getting out of cars to remonstrate and take photos.

Once they’d finally done, they calmly and deliberately sparked up to hold things up a little longer (and after the apprentice tosser had told his Silverback Mountain senior what I had said), and waited a little longer before moving away. No hurry, just deliberate stupidity.

There are some very, very sad creatures who are classed as human in this world. These were two such.

The van was a Peugeot Boxer 335, registration number CK17 WPN. The two occupants were registered at Twycross Zoo as exhibits in the monkey cages.

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Last week, I was going to a lesson in Clifton and caught this near miss on my dashcam.

When you consider what the blue car was, and the speed he shot off at across the mini-roundabouts once the taxi turned off, the FedEx driver was nearly involved in a very unpleasant situation.

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