Winter driving is nearly upon us. Summer – or what we saw of it – is now a distant and faded memory. Gone are the days of dry motoring, replaced by the dull and drab drizzle of autumn and soon to be the snow and ice of winter, probably…
Driving in wintery conditions requires a whole different skill set behind the wheel, as well as more concentration, preparation and vigilance. With the cold season fast approaching, here’s T W White & Sons’ guide to winter driving.
-> In wet conditions braking distances double over dry tarmac and in the snow or ice, it can take you 10 times longer to stop. That means you should adjust your following distances accordingly – time the gap between you and the car in front using stationary objects or road markings. It could save you from injury or expensive damage if you have to stop suddenly.
-> Specialised winter tyres designed with special compounds and tread patterns for snow and ice can help with grip and handling in low friction conditions. They can be a worthwhile investment if you live in areas of the country often inundated with bad weather over winter.
-> If you don’t opt for winter tyres, at least make sure your current rubber is in tip-top shape. We’d recommend more than the legal 1.6mm minimum tread depth and to ensure you keep a close eye on tyre pressures, as well as modify your driving style to the conditions. The new tyre guide labelling system can help you choose the right hoops for the conditions too if you require any guidance.
-> Make sure your lights and windows are clear of snow or frost – that means checking indicators and brake lights are working, too. It’s as important to be seen as see other vehicles around you (so also make sure your wipers are in fine fettle) when conditions are poor and the light bad.
-> Ensure your car is topped up with essential fluids. That means the correct grade of engine oil and a decent mix of anti-freeze in your car’s coolant and washer bottle. Braking down through an overlooked area of maintenance is not something you want to do in deepest winter.
-> If you do though, make sure you’ve got a winter driving kit with you. This should include items such as a blanket for warmth, a shovel or grit salt to help free you if your car gets stuck, and a fully charged mobile phone to contact the emergency services or friends and family.
-> Items such as a torch, sturdy footwear, warm clothes, spare fuel, a tow rope and de-icer will also come in handy – even if you don’t need them, other stranded motorists might require help.
-> Your car’s battery gets a serious workout in winter as headlights, heaters and wipers are all used more frequently. Starter motors have to work harder to turn your engine over in cold conditions too, so make sure your battery has plenty of juice and is up to the job.
-> If you’re unsure about the condition of your car, getting a full vehicle health check to ensure all systems are in good working order or flag up any problems is advisable. A full service can be easily done if there’s anything wrong and should help improve reliability over winter.
Overall, the most important thing about driving in winter is preparation; it’s the key to get the most from your motoring. If you get that right – fingers crossed – everything else should fall into place.
Obviously you can’t legislate for freak occurrences such as blizzards, but as long as you’re carrying the right gear and your car is in rude health, you should be ready for most eventualities.
Do you carry any must-have items in your car during winter? What does your winter driving kit contain? Do you have any good tips for driving in snowy or icy conditions? Why not let us know below.