Our top ten tips for driving in winter
There are lots of things you can do to make your journey less stressful. Simple steps, such as checking your route for delays before you set out, and allowing for extra time, can make your journey easier. To help you be better prepared for winter conditions here are our top ten tips.
- Don’t freeze
Ensure that the anti-freeze level in your coolant tank is checked by your garage. This can be difficult to do yourself. If there isn’t enough anti-freeze, the liquid can freeze and expand and could cause engine damage or the engine to overheat. If the radiator is frozen, your car could begin to overheat shortly after you leave home. Stop the car and let the radiator thaw out, then the coolant can circulate around the engine again.
- Watch the wipers
When you park and switch off, make sure that the wipers are completely down. This will help you to apply de-icer to the windscreen the next time you drive. If it is icy when you return to the car, lift the wipers off the screen to check they are not stuck. If they are stuck apply de-icer around them.
- Gripping stuff
Check all tyres for tread depth. At least 3mm of tread is recommended for winter motoring, and certainly no less than 2mm. The legal requirement is 1.6mm of tread across the central 75% of the tyre.
- Pump it up
Also check the tyre pressures are at the levels recommended in your manual. It’s simply not true that reducing tyre pressures gives you more grip in snow.
- Safe starts
When it’s icy, select second gear when pulling away, easing your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel-spin.
- Soaking it up
If you break down in heavy rain don’t prop the bonnet open while you wait for roadside assistance to arrive – the engine will be more difficult to start again if the electrics are all rain-soaked.
- Bigger than a puddle
If you have to drive through standing water be mindful of it’s depth and be aware that water can enter the engine through the air intake which is usually situated around the front bumper. Any water that enters via the air intake can cause engine damage.
- Consideration at all times
Be careful not to splash pedestrians if driving through large puddles. You could be fined up to £2,500 for inconsiderate driving.
- For automatic drivers
In slippery, snowy conditions you can make driving much safer by changing your setting from ‘automatic’ to ‘manual’ and selecting second gear, which limits the gear changes and also makes you less reliant on the brakes. Many modern automatic cars have a ‘Winter’ mode which reduces the risk of wheel spin. Check the handbook if you’re not sure.
- Expect the unexpected
Always be prepared, as Boy Scouts would say. Here’s a short list of what to carry in your vehicle besides an ice scraper and de-icer.
In the Boot In the Car
- tow rope
- de-icing equipment
- spare bulbs
- first aid equipment
- working torch
- hazard warning triangle
- car blanket
- spare wheel
- a fully charged mobile
- high visibility jacket
- jump leads
- wellington boots or similar