Unlike Scandinavia, there is no obligation on British motorists to fit winter tyres, and unsurprisingly, every year chaos ensues on the roads with the first dusting of snow. It's understandable we're not as used to the adverse driving conditions but there's no excuse for not being prepared. Winter tyres can seem like an expensive outlay for something you may not need during a mild winter. But if you're reliant on the car for getting to the shops or work, they can be a necessity. read more...
Winter driving in the UK can be a challenge, and breaking down in your car at this time of the year is more common than you might think. Here’s our guide on staying safe behind the wheel during the chilly season.
Emergency Winter Kit
Your car might be loaded with the latest safety paraphernalia, but if an accident blocks the road ahead of you, you’ll be sitting pretty with everyone else. And, you’ll eventually start freezing your bits off when you kill your engine to save fuel and battery life. So, if you’re driving, store an emergency kit in your car. This should contain:
- A shovel.
- A sleeping bag or blanket.
- De-icer and ice-scraper.
- Torch with spare batteries.
- Cereal bars and chocolate.
- Spare screen-wash.
Antifreeze will only set you a back a few quid. But an ice-covered, broken engine will empty your wallet. You’ll require a 50/50 blend of water and antifreeze during the wintry weather. This shields your engine all the way to -34C. Most modern motors take long-life antifreeze. Ensure you use the correct kind by checking in your car’s service booklet. Some brands of antifreeze need replenishing after a couple of years.
Electrics and Batteries
Batteries in cars seldom last much beyond five years. There are additional strains on them in wintertime, due to the heating, wipers and lights being on more often. So, follow the tips below:
- Switch off the heated rear window, wipers and lights before attempting to start the car.
- If the car’s engine doesn’t fire into life, wait half a minute before trying again.
- If you don’t drive your vehicle regularly, give it a trickle charge overnight.
- Clean your windscreen outside and in
- Keep the windows and windscreen free of snow and grime to evade a fine.
- Brush snow off the car’s roof – it can drop onto the windscreen and inhibit your view.
- Air-conditioning clears the windscreen quicker and lessens condensation.
- Change tired or shabby wiper blades.
- Don’t leave your windscreen-wipers on automatic setting if frost is likely. If the blades freeze to the glass while parked up, you could wreck the wiper motor or blades when you switch the ignition on.
- Use an appropriate additive in your screenwash to stop the likelihood of it freezing.
- Ensure all lights are operative and the lenses are dirt-free.
- If the roads are filthy you may have to wipe your lights after every journey.
- Keep registration plates spotless, to escape a fine.
- If you need to clear snow off the car, don’t disregard the front and rear lights.
- You must use your headlights when visibility is extremely poor.
- If you need to switch your fog lights on, remember to turn them off when things get clearer, so you don’t blind other motorists.
- We advise at least 3mm of tread during winter.
- Do not let air out of your tyres to get extra traction – it’s perilous and doesn’t work.
- Only stick snow chains on your wheels if there’s enough white stuff to avoid damaging the tarmac.
- Consider getting all-season tyres or winter tyres. These are manufactured from a different rubber that gives enhanced traction in bitterly cold or damp conditions.
Ice and Snow
Take it slowly, because stopping in snow and ice can take up to ten times longer than normal. Calm driving behaviour is fundamental during snowy motoring. So, do the following:
- Drive away in second gear, taking your foot off the clutch smoothly to dodge wheel-spin.
- Uphill – keep a steady speed and try not to change gear on the incline.
- Downhill – slow down before the descent and engage a low gear. Try to avoid braking and leave lots of space between you and the vehicle in front.
- If you need your brakes, use them lightly.
- If you drive a car with an automatic gearbox, look at your handbook. Some auto transmissions have a winter setting. If not, choose ‘2’ in dicey conditions.
- If you do get jammed in the snow, straighten the steering wheel and clean the white stuff off the wheels. Put an old rug or a car floormat in front of the driving wheels to give the tyres some traction.
Before You Set Off
- Allow additional time for winter drives.
- Get up earlier to give you time to de-ice your motor.
- Look at your fuel levels – keep the car filled to a least a quarter in the event of a delay.
- Clean all windows using de-icer and a scraper
- Plan your trip using major roads; these tend to be gritted or cleared.
Carsnip’s editorial chief, Tim Barnes-Clay, says:
None of our seasonal driving tips are complex – they’re all straightforward. But, to be honest, even I don’t always remember to do all we’ve advised. Personally, I’d like to stay alive to see 2018 in, so these tips have reminded me to sharpen up on my winter motoring. We think it won’t happen to us, but there is a real chance of getting caught out in bad weather one day. Let’s be frank; freezing your ass off is not the best way of seeing the New Year in. So, take our advice. Please.