10 Tips For Driving in Winter
Each season brings different driving challenges. Winter is the most challenging of all as it brings with it ice, snow and fog. As with most things in life, preparation really helps, making sure your car is well maintained and you have planned your journey ahead. Here our 10 tips for driving in winter:
1. Check Your Anti-Freeze
It sounds so simple doesn’t it? But it is so easy to forget. The last thing you want is a frozen engine, it’s a very costly bill. So, if you haven’t done so already this winter make a date this weekend to check your car’s anti freeze. If you’re not sure how to do this, here’s a handy guide on the AA’s website.
2. Check Your Car’s Battery
It’s a driving fact of life that car batteries will eventually fail, but they are more likely to do so in the cold. The first sign of a problem is usually your car struggling to start in the mornings. If this happens we highly recommend you book your car in for a check with your local approved dealer. You can check the battery yourself too and Car Buyer has some advice on how to do so. The average life of a battery is about 5 years old, so if your car’s battery is nearing the end it’s time to get it checked before an inconvenient breakdown.
3. Dress Appropriately
Most modern cars have lovely cosy air conditioning now, some even have heated seats. It’s easy to think I’m only going a short distance I don’t need a coat, or gloves or a scarf. Which is all great as long as you don’t run into any problems on your journey. What happens if your car breaks down or you have an accident? Suddenly you’re dressed very inappropriately for the weather conditions and could have put yourself in unnecessary danger. Always take the right clothing with you appropriate to the weather conditions outside of your car if you were walking.
4. Don’t Rush
Another simple, but common mistake. Your car is icy and you haven’t left enough time for to scrape the ice off the windscreen. You don’t do it properly and rush off to work with the smallest area demisted so that you can just about see. You haven’t taken the time to plan your journey properly and you’ve hit roadworks or obstacles on your way. Which leads you to drive faster and a little more recklessly than you would normally. Mix that with a bit of ice or fog and it’s simply an accident waiting to happen. Don’t rush and plan and you will have a much safer drive.
5. Clear Your Car Properly
It’s so easy when you’re rushing off on the way to work to do the bare minimum when it comes to de-icing and demisting your car. But did you know it’s illegal to not clear your car properly? Before you drive in the mornings, you need to consider is your car safe, can you see the road clearly through ALL of your windows, and also ensure that your car will not cause any debris to fall and cause danger to other road users – for example snow on the roof of your car.
The Highway Code clearly states the following rules when driving in winter conditions:
“you MUST be able to see, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows
you MUST ensure that lights are clean and number plates are clearly visible and legible
make sure the mirrors are clear and the windows are demisted thoroughly
remove all snow that might fall off into the path of other road users
check your planned route is clear of delays and that no further snowfalls or severe weather are predicted.”
6. Consider Using Winter Tyres
This is not something that people do commonly in the UK, but there are some definite benefits of switching your car over to winter tyres when the temperatures begin to drop. They improve traction on icy conditions and significantly improve your stopping distance. Here is an article from RAC on the benefits if you would like to know more.
7. Keep Your Fuel Tank At Least Half Full
You never know when anything unexpected might happen in the road, be it roadworks or adverse weather conditions increasing journey times. The last thing you want to do is break down in cold temperatures because your car ran out of fuel. It’s miserable any time of the year, but even worse when it’s freezing.
8. Accelerate and Decelerate Slowly
In the ice and snow allowing extra time for braking is essential. You need to double your braking distance, to allow time to do it safely and smoothly. Fast acceleration or braking can lead to skids and slides and ultimately accidents as your tyres have less traction on the road. If you do skid remember it is best to steer in the skid, also take a look at this article on She Knows which has got some great advice on how to prevent and recover from skids.
9. In Fog and Snow use Dip Beams Rather than High Beams
A common mistake in the snow and fog when you’re struggling to see is using your car’s high beams. Fog and snow will actually reflect your high beams back at you and reduce your visibility. If the fog isn’t too thick you can simply use your normal headlines. You only really need to put your fog lamps on when the fog is thick.
10. Pack a Winter Emergency Bag
Finally, it’s always a good idea to keep an emergency winter bag in the boot of your car. You will be very grateful for items such as a shovel, ‘high vis’ jacket, phone charger, food and blankets should you have an break down in the cold or snow. The RAC recommends you include the following items:
“Ice scraper and de-icer
Torch and spare batteries – or a wind-up torch
Warm clothes and blankets – for you and all passengers
First aid kit
Jump start cables
Food and a warm drink in a thermos
Reflective warning sign
Sunglasses – the glare off the snow can be dazzling
Mobile phone charger”