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DRIVING

Driving in Sweden: When should you change to winter tyres?

Winter is here, and navigating the icy, slippery, and snow-covered Swedish roads is nothing less than a challenge. But it's not just a different sort of driving you need to get used to: you also need to winter-prep your car.

File photo of cars on a snowy street in Stockholm
Stay safe on Sweden's roads this winter. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Swedish winters are pretty much as tough as they come, with snow and ice storms, freezing cold temperatures, and a harsher environment in general. If you plan to drive in these types of road conditions, you need to be prepared. We’ve gathered together our best tips:

Prep your car

– Change to winter tyres. Swedish law states that all cars must be equipped with winter tyres between December 1st and March 31st if the weather conditions require it. If your car doesn’t have them or if they are not up to scratch (a tread depth of at least three millimetres), you risk a fine of 1,200 kronor ($140).

But don’t leave it too late, as temperatures may very well plummet before December 1st in many parts of Sweden. Winter tyres radically decrease the risk of skidding and improve a vehicle’s overall braking capacity on slippery surfaces, reducing the risk of accidents. In general, studded winter tyres are better suited for icy roads or on surfaces with hard-packed snow, while stud-free tyres work better on roads with soft snow. Pay attention though: studded tyres are illegal on some streets in major Swedish cities for air pollution reasons.

Studded tyres are allowed between October 1st and April 15th, or in wintery driving conditions.

– Make sure the windshield wiper fluid contains anti-freeze. And remember to check the temperature range it can handle – if you’re driving to Sweden from a warmer country your windshield wiper fluid may not be suitable for very cold temperatures. That means it could freeze or even, in the worst-case scenario, crack the tank.

– Check the car lights. Visibility decreases radically in winter, especially during storms.

– Equip your car for emergencies. In case you get stuck in the snow, make sure to always have a warm set of clothes and a blanket in your car. It’s also a good idea to have an ice scraper, a shovel, a torch, a tow-rope, a reflective vest, starting cables and a bag of sand (sand helps the tyres get a grip). Also stock up on fast energy foods, such as raisins or candy, as well as tealights or candles, matches and a lighter to keep warm.

Scroll down for more tips, or watch this video:

How to drive

Driving on a winter surface requires different skills and reflexes than we are used to. Plan your car’s movements in advance, since the more slippery surface adds to the risk of losing control of the car, and makes braking distances far longer. You should therefore:

– Avoid braking abruptly.

– If you still have to brake, and your car is not equipped with an ABS-braking system, use the “pump-braking” method, meaning you first step on the brakes and then let go to, then step on them again. This prevents the wheels from locking (which will cause the car to skid). If your car is equipped with an ABS-braking system, then use the brakes as you would normally.

– Drive in the highest gear possible on slippery surfaces in order to get a better grip.

– Only accelerate in a controlled and moderate manner.

– Keep a greater distance from other cars than you normally would.

– Avoid sudden movements of the steering wheel.

High-risk ice zones where you should pay particular attention

– Bridges

– Areas in the shade

– Valleys

– Near lakes and rivers

– Open landscapes

Signs of slippery road conditions

– Ice and frost on the windows of the vehicle

– Shiny road surface

– Other drivers seem to be driving unusually slowly

If you get stuck in the snow

– The rule of thumb is always: warn, leave and alert. Turn on the car’s hazard-warning signals, put on your reflective jacket and place a warning triangle on the roof of the car if you’ve driven off the road, or well ahead of the car if it’s still on the road. Then stay out of the road and call or look for help, and alert authorities if you have to. If someone is seriously hurt or their life is in danger, call Sweden’s emergency number 112. 

– If the wheels are spinning in the snow, you can place spruce twigs (widely available in northern Sweden) by the front of the tyres to allow them to get a better grip, and/or use sand for the same purpose.

Other tips and tricks

– Clean all dirt by the doors with a cloth. If the temperature drops below freezing, any remaining dirt could cause a door to freeze shut. Apply silicone spray or glycerine on door weatherstrippings to make them less prone to freezing.

– If your car is equipped with a keyless system, make sure to know how to turn on the car manually.

– Keep in mind that a car needs a lot of energy to warm up and will therefore drain your car battery faster in cold conditions. One of the best ways to save your battery (and ensure your car always starts) is to equip your car with a heating unit that you turn on five to ten minutes before heading out on the roads.

– If you wash your car, ensure that it is completely dry before you head out with it in the cold to avoid doors and windows freezing.

Member comments

  1. I noticed that the new LED rear lights doesn’t have the suficiente heat to unfrezze the ice and this block the break light to be visible. EU needs to prohibit LED rear lights.

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For members

DRIVING

Everything you need to know about Sweden’s fuel bonus

Sweden's fuel bonus, referred to by the government as a "fuel compensation", will be paid out to all car owners in Sweden. But how will it work, and how much money can car owners get?

Everything you need to know about Sweden's fuel bonus

What is the fuel bonus?

The new fuel bonus is designed to compensate drivers for the rising prices of fuel in Sweden caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It will be complemented by a number of other measures such as temporarily lowered taxes on fuel between June and October 2022 and a pause in renewable energy requirements for fossil fuels for 2023.

Who is eligible, and how much money will be available?

As a rule, those registered as owning or leasing a car in Sweden will receive 1000 kronor. This will only be awarded once per person, so if you have more than one car, you will still only get 1000 kronor.

Residents of some areas which the government has identified as particularly reliant on car transport will be awarded an additional 500 kronor on top of the 1000 kronor bonus. The full list of these areas is available here.

How do I get the bonus?

The details of the bonus have not yet been confirmed, but the government have said that they expect it will be paid out automatically.

When will it be available?

Again, there are no clear details on when exactly the bonus will be in car owners’ bank accounts, but the government is aiming for payments to go out in August.

Will I still get the bonus if I lease a car or have an electric car?

Yes. The bonus will be paid out to anyone owning or leasing a car in Sweden, regardless of how the car is powered.

If you have a company car registered in your name, you will receive the bonus. If the car is registered under the company’s name, you won’t be able to receive the fuel bonus.

Listen to a discussion on Sweden’s rising cost of living on Sweden in Focus, The Local’s podcast. 

Click HERE to listen to Sweden in Focus on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

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