in the winter - Things to check
To ensure smooth and trouble free
winter driving you should check the following things.
- Get your battery checked at least once per year. An average car
battery will last for approximately 5 years; most garages will offer
you a free battery check so there's no reason for your breakdown to
be due to battery failure. To maximise the life of your battery
ensure you do not over use your car's electrics; turn the fan speed
down and remember to turn off the rear heated window when it's done
it's job. If you care fails to start due to poor battery condition,
ensure that your activities that could drain the battery power are
minimised, such as lights, wipers, music, and the fan. Try
repeatedly turning the key for five second periods, with a gap of
thirty seconds in between.
- An antifreeze to water ratio of 50/50 should be used in the
winter, this will protect your car in temperatures of as low as -34°c,
far colder than you would ever expect to see in the UK. Check the
levels at least once per month, if your unsure of the correct level,
consult your manual. Antifreeze is very cheap to buy, costing only a
few pounds, but the cost of repairing the damage caused by not using
it could run into hundreds of pounds. If the radiator freezes your
car will quickly begin to overheat during the first few miles of the
journey, if this happens, stop the car immediately and wait for the
radiator to thaw out to avoid any further damage.
- Ensure you have a minimum tread depth of 2mm on all of your
tyres, although this is a minimum, we would highly recommend at
least 3mm. Winter is the time of year when your tread helps your car
stick to the road. Ensure your tyres are correctly inflated,
over/under inflating your tyres will lead to uneven wear or cracked
walls. Reducing your tyre pressure does not improve grip, this is a
myth, you will instead increase driving instability and damage your
tyres. Check you're manual if you are not sure of the correct tyre
pressure for your car.
Ensure you have a working jack,
correctly inflated spare wheel, and wheel brace in your car, and
that you are able to change a tyre if necessary. Although breakdown
recovery services will come and do this for you, they will charge
you for the privilege.
Preparing to travel
Although it might sound obvious, get
out of bed five or ten minutes earlier than normal, this will give
you the extra time needed to de-ice your car. Ensure you completely
clear all of your windows of ice, failure to do so can lead to
either an accident, or a hefty fine and points on your license.
Use your cigarette lighter to warm a
frozen lock, but never breathe on it as the moisture in your breathe
will freeze inside the lock and make the problem worse.
Ensure you carry the following
essential items as they could be very useful; ice scraper, deicer,
fully charged mobile phone, torch, tow rope, blanket, warm clothes
and shoes, and an old rug to put under your wheels if you get stuck.
Plan your routes in advance to
include major roads as these are more likely have been gritted and
be clear. Accept the inevitable - you might be late. The best way to
remedy this is to leave early where possible. Put safety first and
accept that you may be late; it's better to arrive late than never
at all, this is unless the the weather is so bad that you are not
able to travel at all.
Driving in snow
Driving on an icy or snow covered road
is can be very dangerous. It catches people out, especially when the
weather turns and you can find yourself in a dangerous situation
which you can not prevent from becoming an accident. Remember;
stopping distances can be up to 10 times longer in icy conditions.
Slow and gentle manures are the key
to success in these conditions, and pay attention to what's
happening several cars ahead, not just the one in front. This will
allow you to react to a situation much more efficiently.
Big boots might be good for walking
in the snow, but they are no good for driving in the snow. Try to
drive wearing smaller shoes, preferably one which are dry.
When driving up a hill; avoid
stopping on the hill, as you may get stuck. By leaving a sufficient
gap between yourself and the car in front, you should be able to
approach and tackle the hill at a constant speed without the need to
stop. If you are driving down a hill ensure that you slow down
before the hill and maintain a slow speed by using your lower gears.
Try to avoid the use of the breaks as this will increase the chances
of a skid and be sure to leave sufficient distance between yourself
and the vehicle in front, just in case you can't stop.
Floods & surface
Before traveling through a body of
water, firstly ensure it is not too deep for your car. Drive through
it slowly, and at a constant speed, with relatively high revs, as
this will avoid the water from flooding your exhaust. Be sure to
test your breaks as soon as you can, and only if it is safe to do
so. Do not attempt to drive through fast moving water as your car
could easily be swept away.
You should never drive quickly
through standing water as it is dangerous. The force of your car
against the still body of water will lift your car off the road
(this is known as aquaplaning), causing your vehicle to quickly
change speed and/or direction, which can cause a serious accident.
If even an egg cup amount of water makes it's way through the
engines air intake, this can cause hundreds of pounds worth of
damage. And the bad news is that this is quite common as the the air
intake is normally low down at the front of the engine, these
problems are more likely to cause problems in diesel or turbo
If you break down in the rain, do
not leave your bonnet up while your wait for assistance to arrive,
as this will dampen the engine and make it more difficult to