At Rix, we believe that following a few useful winter driving tips is the best way to minimise the risk posed by driving in inclement conditions. Ultimately, the best advice when driving in winter is to be prepared, be alert to forecasted low temperatures and don't leave everything until there is snow on your vehicle. We've compiled some of our best winter driving tips, as well as some ways to care for your diesel engine in winter and the things we do at Rix to make sure we can get to our customers in all weathers.
Check your battery.
A battery usually only lasts around five years, and replacing it at the end of its life before it dies can save you standing, freezing, on the side of the road when it does. If the car stands idle most of the weekend, a regular overnight trickle charge is a good idea to give the battery a chance to revive.
Avoid running electrical systems any longer than needed.
Turn the heater fan down and switch the heated rear window off once windows are clear when driving in winter. It can also help not to have the stereo when starting the car up on especially cold mornings.
Check your Antifreeze levels.
Antifreeze only costs a few pounds, but a frozen and cracked engine block costs hundreds of pounds to repair. Most modern cars use long-life antifreeze - it's important to use the right type and avoid mixing different kinds. Check the handbook or ask a dealer for advice.
Switch off your wipers.
Ensure that wipers are switched off when leaving your car after a journey when there's a risk of freezing temperatures. If you don't, and the blades freeze to the screen, you could damage the blades or wiper motor when you turn the ignition on.
Check your bulbs.
Make sure that all bulbs are working and that lenses are clean. When roads are dirty, you might need to clean your lights after every journey. Keep the number plates clean, too, as you can be fined if they are dirty and illegible.
Use your headlights.
Driving in winter often means reduced visibility, so it's vital that you have your headlights on. You can also use front or rear fog lights, but these must be switched off when visibility improves as they can dazzle other road users and obscure your brake lights.
Clear all snow off your vehicle.
If you have to clear snow from the car, it's important to clear it from all the lights - front and back - as well as from the glass and roof. Falling snow from a moving vehicle can cause a serious hazard to you and other road users.
Be extra careful.
Wear comfortable, dry shoes for driving in winter. Gentle manoeuvres are the key to safe driving - stopping distances are ten times longer in ice and snow. Pull away in second gear, easing your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel-spin.
Avoid having to stop part-way up by waiting until it is clear of other cars or by leaving plenty of room between you and the car in front. Keep a constant speed, choosing the most suitable gear well in advance to avoid having to change down on the hill.
Reduce your speed before the hill, use a low gear and try to avoid using the brakes. Leave as much room as possible between you and the car in front.
When the conditions are really poor, stay at home or use public transport if you can (and if you need heating oil or diesel, you can order it online or over the phone). This not only minimises your risk of injury and car damage but also decreases the number of people driving in winter, and fewer road users means more space for each vehicle.
• Keep your tank full. Maintaining a full fuel tank reduces the amount of condensation inside the tank, leading to water in the fuel. As such, there can be difficulty starting a diesel engine in cold weather unless the tank is full.
• You can buy many different additives to add to your diesel engine in winter – these are specifically designed to stop the wax in cetane (which contributes to combustion in most types of diesel) from hardening and slowing the flow of fuel.
• Be aware of the fuel filter. The fuel filter holds a smaller amount of fuel than the tank itself and therefore is more liable to freezing. It can be helpful to keep a spare one in your vehicle just in case.
• Keep the vehicle warm. Diesel has a high freezing point, so if it's possible, you should try to park it somewhere sheltered from the wind, ideally a garage.
As well as our winter driving tips for the average road user, we have to make sure we at Rix can still travel to ensure no-one is without our products. We have invested thousands of pounds in equipping our fleet of tankers with winter tyres designed to offer maximum grip and safety when driving in winter. The tyres are made from a compound that has been specifically engineered to work at temperatures below seven degrees centigrade and have a special tread pattern to perform well in icy conditions. Rix has also invested in new steel wheel rims to quickly swap over to the bad weather kit as and when it's required.
We ask that residents allow a couple of extra days for delivery in poor weather conditions. High demand, combined with slow-moving traffic, makes getting out to more isolated parts of the country a challenge. Homeowners who rely on heating oil for power can help themselves by ensuring they order early to avoid panic buying should the weather turn bad. It is also good practice to keep a close eye on how much oil they have left.
We know just how vital our services are to our customers, especially during the difficult winter months. Our winter driving tips will help keep you on the road if you need to be and as safe as you possibly can be. For more information, please find your nearest depot or give us a call on 0800 542 4207.