The ultimate guide to winter driving
There are a variety of reasons throughout the year that might require you to check your oil or have you feeling your tyre tread. Trip to the coast? A long journey to visit family? Important conference or meeting?
With winter on the doorstep, it’s important to give your car a little more than a quick once over. Spend a few minutes reading these top winter driving tips, then take a little time to make sure your car passes its virtual winter service!
How To Prepare For Winter Driving
Learning how to drive in the snow comes with experience, but no matter how long you have been driving it’s important to know how to fully prepare.
So, only go out in the snow if you absolutely need to. If the snow has settled and the roads are clear, be sure to follow these tips before setting off:
- Give yourself more time in the morning in order to clear your car windows and mirrors of snow or ice before you set off.
- Switch off your wiper control before you switch on the ignition – if you don’t, you could blow the wiper control fuse if they are already frozen to the screen.
- Never use hot or boiling water to de-ice your windscreen! Always use lukewarm water or de-icer when defrosting the outside of your car.
- Always remove snow from your roof before you set off. Sudden braking can cause snow to slide on to your windscreen, temporarily blocking your vision.
Dealing with a change in weather
If you’re already out driving and the weather changes for the worst, try not to panic! Give these pointers a try:
- Accelerate gently. Use low revs and move up to a higher gear for driving.
- Set off in second gear where possible to help avoid wheel spin.
- If you do skid, don’t slam on the brakes! Gently steer in to the skid – if the rear of car slides to the left, steer to the left too.
- If you find the snow is bright, try wearing sunglasses to reduce the glare.
- Drive slower and leave more room between the car in front of you where necessary – as much as 10 car lengths if required.
Test Car Battery
Temperatures dropping and damp setting in can be a killer for your battery. There aren’t many sounds as dreadful to hear than when you turn your key to hear your battery groan. If you can feel your battery struggle when starting your car, there’s a good chance it could need replacing.
With the right equipment you can easily test your car battery, although it’s much easier to ask a specialist at your local dealer.
Have your car battery tested. Better to be safe than sorry!
Check the Electrics
Keeping on with the electrical parts of your car, it’s important to ensure that all of your exterior lights are kept in good working order. With days getting shorter and the weather becoming drab and dreary, you need to be visible on the road at all times.
Check your lights regularly and clean them where required. Dirt and salt from the road can build up quickly, reducing your car’s visibility at night. Not only that, but you’ll be even less visible in fog, snow and rain. Always keep extra bulbs in your glove compartment in case of light failure.
Top up Engine Coolant
While engine coolant can prevent the engine from overheating in hot temperatures, its alias antifreeze also prevents the water from freezing over through the winter months.
You can buy antifreeze testers, or visit your local dealership to have your levels of antifreeze checked.
Anti-freeze is an absolute necessity and should not be forgotten about!
Throughout the year when the rain pours, we’ll use our wipers to clear off the water and any residue from our windscreens. If you run out of screen wash, you’ll be left with a smeared windscreen and reduced visibility. In extreme conditions, your washer jet could freeze if you don’t use screen wash that covers you to -35 degrees, rendering your wipers useless. Don’t miss this one out!
To be sure you aren’t left without a working washer jet this winter, simply open up the windscreen washer unit under your car bonnet and fill with screen wash. Simple! Some screen wash will come ready mixed, though some may be concentrated and will need to be mixed with water.
Winter Tyres: All you need to know
It is vital that your tyres are kept in good health throughout the year, but even more so in winter. The legal tread depth for your car tyre tread is 1.6mm. However, once it reaches any less than 3mm, the stopping distance increases dramatically in the event of an emergency.
According to Tyre Safe, the best way to check the depth of your tyre’s tread is with the commonly known ‘20p Test’. However you decide to check, just remember – extra tread equals extra safety.
Going the extra mile
When temperatures drop below the 7°C mark, the rubber in your regular tyres will begin to harden. This reduces the grip your car has on ice and snow, but also wet, cold roads too.
Putting a set of winter tyres on your vehicle. In cold temperatures they work best, retaining grip and improving your traction, braking and handling on the road. In some instances, winter tyres can reduce your braking distance by up to six car lengths.
Note: winter car tyres must be changed as a full set and not just a pair. Changing just the front or back pair may affect the balance and stability of your car.
Check Tyre Pressure
Tyres that are under inflated can increase your braking distance, whilst also having a dramatic effect on the handling and steering of your car. Not only this, but under-inflation also causes your tyres to wear quicker.
In the winter months, it is extremely important to ensure that your tyres are all correctly inflated. Consult your owner’s manual to check your tyre pressure requirements. If you don’t have a pump at home, you can fill up the air in your tyres at most petrol stations.
Winter Car Essentials
You’d never hope to break down, but unfortunately it can and does happen to thousands of people every day across the country. It may sound a little extreme, but carrying an emergency kit with you at all times during winter is almost essential. If you do find yourself stranded, for whatever reason, you’ll definitely be glad you have it!
We recommend you include the following:
- A mobile phone AND charger
- Hi-visibility vest
- De-icer and screen scraper
- A torch
- A shovel
- A tow rope
- A first aid kit
- Wellington boots
- A hazard warning triangle
- Warm clothes
- Food and drink
Remember: a good set of car mats not only protect your carpets from mud and dirt in winter, but they can also double up as a wedge under your tyres to get you moving again if you get stuck.
So, there you have it, everything you need to know about winter driving – all you need now is the weather.