Essential advice for staying safe and mobile this winter
The clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in, which can only mean one thing: Winter is nearly here.
Here are some things you might not have thought of before.
Don't leave home without a shovel in the boot
In spite of the exceptionally mild autumn weather, weather forecasters suggest that there is a real risk of serious snowfall this winter.
A shovel can be used to dig you out of the snow or provide traction when your wheels are slipping on the ice.
Another essential is a high visibility coat that will keep safe if you have to stop at the side of a road for any reason.
Don't drink and drive
There's much more temptation for people to take risks when it comes to drinking alcohol during the winter months, with Christmas festivities and cold nights making it more likely that people will head out to parties in their cars. The best advice is always to leave the car at home and book a taxi, or make sure that you have a designated driver prepared to drink only soft drinks.
Take extra care if you have a cold
Cold winter weather means you are more likely to pick up a bug. Driving while feeling unwell can be really dangerous. Also be sure to avoid cold remedies and other remedies which might leave you unfit to drive.
Is your battery up to the job?
Winter driving places additional strain on a car's battery, with cold starts and headlights sapping its strength. This is the time of year when a failing battery will be found out. Get yours checked and changed if necessary.
Clearing your windscreen
Windscreens of course freeze over in winter, so make sure you give yourself an extra 10 minutes or so to make sure it is fully defrosted. Putting the heaters and air conditioning on will help it defrost but the best thing is to use de-icer and a scraper to get rid of it faster.
Make sure that the full windscreen is clear before you drive off and not just a little bit as you could end up with a hefty fine, as well as putting yourself and others at risk too.
Another way to save a little bit of time defrosting is to purchase a frost guard. They can be picked up quite cheaply, and although can be a bit fiddly to put on, they are definitely worth it.
And although you will still have to defrost the rest of the windows, the windscreen should be frost free.
Be careful if you do improvise using cardboard or newspaper as it can stick to the windscreen if it gets wet and then freezes.
When temperatures drop, there's a risk of the fluids in your car's engine freezing and doing real damage due to expansion. The best way to stop this is ensure your antifreeze levels are what they should be.
Some cars come with lifelong antifreeze these days, but it’s still best to get it checked.
Spending a few pounds now brings peace mind and is nothing compared to the thousands of pounds worth of damage a frozen engine could cause.
Common throughout Europe, switching to winter tyres for the cold months is an increasingly popular option for many UK drivers too. Winter tyres contain more natural rubber so that they don't harden when it's cold, allowing them to maintain better grip on the road. They also have a tread pattern which is better suited to ice and snow.
For those who don't make the switch, it is recommended to have around 3mm of tread on your tyres for winter driving, and definitely no less than 2mm of tread.
There is an age old rumour that reducing the pressure in the tyres gives more grip, this is definitely not the case.
Take a few moments to think about how you and your family would cope if you were stranded as a result of snow.
There is likely to be more traffic in the winter, especially if it snows and there are also more breakdowns during this time too, so make sure your car is well stocked. Keep a bottle or two of water in the boot. This can be for people in the car, or even to add to the engine or wiper rinse as a backup. Also put some food in like cereal bars, if you get stuck you don’t know how long you’re going to be there. A blanket would also be a good idea, again being stranded in the cold isn’t a fun experience, at least keep a little warm.
Get a free winter check
Of course if you don’t have the time, or don’t want to do those things yourself, there are plenty of garages which offer a winter check-up sometimes for a small charge, but if you’re lucky they’ll do it for free, so there’s no excuse not to get it done.
Do you have any unusual advice for winter driving? Share your tips with other motorists in the comment box.