February 01, 2012

Winter driving - Coping with cold, snow and ice

Winter is the season requiring most care and preparation if you're to stay safe on the roads.

Below are some tips for driving through the winter

Battery and electrics

Check your battery  - Batteries rarely last longer than five years.  Replacing one near the end of its life can save a lot of time and inconvenience at the side of the road.

Avoid running electrical systems any longer than needed– turn the heater fan down and switch the heated rear window off once windows are clear, it can also help not to have the stereo when starting the car up on especially cold mornings.

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.

Be prepared

Stock up on Antifreeze – make sure your windows and windscreens are fully clear of snow and ice before you start your journey.

Check your Antifreeze levels - Antifreeze costs only a few pounds, but a frozen and cracked engine block will cost  hundreds of pounds to repair.

Most modern cars use long-life antifreeze - it's important to use the right type and avoid mixing different types.  Check the handbook or ask a dealer for advice.

Make sure that wipers are switched off  when leaving your car after a journey, when there's risk of freezing. 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 really mucky you might need to clean lights after every journey. Keep the number plates clean too, as you can be fined if they are dirty and illegible.

If you have to clear snow from the car it's important to clear it from the lights - front and back - as well as from the glass and roof. Falling snow from a moving car can cause a serious hazard to other road users as well as yourself.

You must use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced. You may 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.

Driving in snow and ice

Be extra careful.

Gentle manoeuvres are the key to safe driving - stopping distances are 10 times longer in ice and snow.

Wear comfortable, dry shoes for driving.

Pull away in second gear, easing your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel-spin.

Up hill -  avoid having to stop part way up by waiting until it is clear of other cars or by leaving plenty of room to 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.

Down 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.

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