Preparation is often the better part of valour when driving in winter conditions. Firstly listen to weather and travel advice on local and national radio stations. When forecasters warn not to drive unless ‘absolutely necessary’ they are not usually doing it for the good of their health. Driving in adverse winter weather such as icy-conditions and snow requires concentration and making sure your vehicle is in peak road-worthy condition. Here are a few tips to remind you have driving safely in winter weather conditions:
- Batteries can cause problems in cold weather especially if the car is likely to stand idle over the weekend or for longer periods. Use a trickle charger if possible to boost the battery before it’s needed. Turn off the car’s electrics before starting to divert as much power to the engine as possible and use the starter in short bursts with a break between them if there are problems.
- A frozen engine can break the bank, so always make sure that antifreeze levels are topped up. Check the specifications for your car and use the antifreeze that is recommended. A warming steam appearing from the engine a few minutes into your journey indicates a frozen radiator, stop the car and allow the radiator thaw. It won’t save you time but will save you money.
- Clear the windows of snow or ice before setting off. If road conditions are poor, clear vision gives you the maximum time to spot problems and stop safely without that ‘dancing on ice’ feeling. Again be sure to top up the windscreen wash with the correct fluid to ensure good visibility and safety.
On Road Advice
- Once in the car, get your top layer of clothing off. Your boots at least, as these will probably be wet and also give you less control over the pedals. A thick coat can be very restrictive when at the wheel.
- Use second gear to move off in icy conditions because the higher the gear you can drive, the more likely you are to avoid wheel spin.
- When climbing hills try to keep moving, if there is queuing traffic ahead wait until a clear run is possible, slow stopping and starting usually means wheel spin and slipping. On a downhill journey use a low gear and slow down before you reach the hill. A low gear should help to avoid breaking but if you do need to use brakes, do so very gently.
- Take extra care and keep a good distance from the car in front and well back from Gritters or emergency vehicles. If other cars are ‘tailgating’ apply gentle pressure to your brakes until you have got the message across!
After a prolonged period of icy driving conditions your car will need antifreeze top ups for both engine and screen wash. Check the tyres are well inflated and that the tread depth is correct. When conditions are cold the roads are gritted regularly. Grit and salt combined can cause corrosion particularly if there are any chips or scratches to the paintwork on the underside of your car and around the wheel arches. Left to develop unhindered in these areas of the car rust will cause long term damage. Rust treatment is is more difficult to deal with than rust prevention, so ensuring that your car’s rust proofing remains intact is vital. Clean the car underneath as soon as possible and use a suitable rust treatment product to be sure that problems don’t develop unseen. It’s advisable to do this as soon as possible and not to leave it until the summer.
We have more accidents in our cars during winter due to poor driving conditions and dark nights. However, sensible precautions before and after journeys, can help to avoid delays and problems. Ensuring your car is checked and well maintained including rust proofing applied to damaged areas is essential to safe travel.