Severe weather can make driving safely more difficult in winter. Whether it’s heavy rain, ice or snow, both the car and driver need to be prepared.
- Your car is at more risk of damage in winter when weather conditions are more severe
- Effective car care in winter can be the best way to prevent problems
- Adverse weather can happen at any time, so it helps to be prepared
It's already that time of year when clocks go back and everyone questions whether it means lighter mornings or lighter evenings... either way, we'll be driving in the dark a lot more, so make sure you've got your lights on before you set off after all you've probably not had to use them much over the last few months. Maybe even keep a torch in the glove box - nobody likes scrambling to open their front door with cold hands and no light, do they?
So, as the winter well and truly approaches and we begin to drive in darker, colder conditions, we thought it would be a good idea to look at how best to care for your car in winter...
Get your car serviced
If your next car service is due, try to book your appointment before winter.
The difficult and ever changing weather conditions in winter can take its toll on your car, as well as your driving. Your risk of being involved in a road incident can be reduced by a thorough car service and regular maintenance checks, such as:
- Checking your tyre pressure and condition
- Keeping your oil and windscreen fluid topped up
- Checking all lights and brake lights work
- Keeping your breakdown details with you or in your car
- Ensuring your windscreen wipers are in good condition
Keep your car dry
Keeping your car dry is an essential part of car maintenance, especially in winter. Moisture in your vehicle can lead to rust and damage to electronics.
Your car is more susceptible to condensation when the weather is cold. To reduce the risk, keep wet clothes, shoes and even coffee cups out of your car. Breathing can also trigger condensation so as soon as you get in the car, flick on your heat and the air conditioning system to clear up your windows.
Make sure you can see completely clearly out of all your windows before setting off. Driving with obscured vision is illegal, as well as dangerous.
Clean your lights
Make sure your lights, rear reflectors and both indicators are clean before driving, and that no lenses are cracked. Most people will drive to and from work in the dark throughout winter so maintaining your lights is key to make sure you arrive safely.
Charge your battery
With colder, wetter and darker days, your battery works extra hard during winter to run your headlights, heater and windscreen wipers. Keep an eye on your battery as winter approaches. If it’s regularly running down, consider replacing it or getting it checked.
There are two types of antifreeze, one for your screen wash and one for your engine cooling system. They can cause damage to your car if used incorrectly. Using antifreeze in your screen wash helps prevent your car's windscreen wash from freezing. Using a coolant antifreeze in your car engine’s cooling system can help stop your water from dropping to freezing temperatures. Check your antifreeze and water levels every week in winter, as you’re likely to use more due to dirtier road conditions from grit and ice. Always check your car manufacturer's guidelines before using antifreeze.
Check your tyres
Regularly checking your tyres is especially important in winter. Cold and wet roads can dramatically affect the condition of your tyres.
The minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm across the central ¾ of the tyre and around its circumference. However, in winter especially, you should replace your tyres well before they get to the legal standard.
The cold weather can also reduce the air pressure in your tyres, so be sure to check the pressure levels every other week. You can pump up your tyres at most petrol stations or with a home pump.
Fully defrost your car
The cold weather is likely to freeze over your car, so give yourself enough time each morning to fully defrost your vehicle. Being able to see clearly out of your car and into all your mirrors is a legal requirement, and essential for your safety.
Start the car and let it heat up before you start scraping away any snow and ice. Your car will clear up any condensation and thaw out frost from the windshield. Turning on your headlights while defrosting your car can also help, as the heat from the bulbs will make it easier to scrape away from the lenses without damaging them.
Driving responsibly and safely is always a must, but extra care is needed during winter. Knowing how to handle dangerous driving situations in winter is not only helpful to your safety but to the care of your car.
Here are some top tips on winter road safety:
- Keep a distance of at least five seconds between you and the driver in front.
- If the vehicle behind you shows signs of intending to overtake, back off as much as possible so you’re both safe.
- Old roads are often worn and without much surface texture, meaning rain water and snow may not drain off. Take extra care on old roads, dropping the speed as much as is safe to do so.
- Plan your route ahead of time and check forecasted weather conditions before driving.
- Use extra caution on bends and roundabouts, it can be difficult to see ice and wheels can easily lock up or skid in winter.
Roads are likely to become icy during winter, especially quiet routes that may not be gritted. In the case of skidding, it’s important not to panic and hit the brakes. Instead, should something go wrong while driving, keep steering and work to regain control of the vehicle.
In the case of an accident or breaking down, it’s always good to be prepared.
Here are some items that are essential to keep in your car during winter.
- Warm clothing, such as jumpers and scarves, are handy in case you need to walk to the nearest service station or wait for your breakdown provider.
- A bottle of screen wash in case you run out when road conditions are muddy or icy and salty.
- Wellies, boots and thick socks in case you need to trek through rain or snow.
- A hi-vis vest or jacket if you need to leave the vehicle.
- A torch in case you need to walk through the dark or look under your bonnet or at your tyres.
- A car phone charger in case your phone runs out of battery.
The contact details of your breakdown provider.
Keeping on top of your car maintenance is always necessary, but this is especially important during the colder weather.
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