Winter has well and truly hit, with plummeting temperatures and snow falling in many areas of the country.
As the old saying goes, Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance, and it always pays to take time to make sure your car is ready and prepared for bad winter weather. So aside from bring your car in for its free Winter Health Check, what are the key things to know going into the winter months? And how do you separate good advice from old wives tales? Knowing what you should and shouldn’t do when it comes to care maintenance and driving in winter is invaluable. The last thing anyone wants is to be stranded on the side of the road in dark, cold conditions.
Read on to see some of the common car care advice and what you should really do to give you and your car the best chance of surviving the cold weather unscathed.
Clearing a frozen windscreen
Its tempting to pour boiling water directly onto a frozen windscreen to quickly melt the ice, but the extreme contrast in temperature can cause the glass to crack. Instead, fit a frost cover the night before or use windscreen specific de-icer (though take care not to get it on the paintwork). As a last resort use cold water – you’ll have to be quick with your wiper blades though or the water will freeze on contact with the frozen screen!!
Opening frozen windows
Don’t open frozen windows to try and clear the glass – it can damage the electric motor, the surrounding window trim and the glass in the window itself! Use de-icer and turn the blowers so hot air hits the driver and passenger inside window. If you have Air Conditioning, make sure it is on as it helps the windows defrost quicker, and pulls moisture out of the air stopping the car from then misting up.
Replace wiper blades
The old wives tale that vinegar helps to increase the life of wiper blades is indeed just that – an old wives tale!! While it may help to clean dirty blades, if your wiper blades are starting to wear, the best (and safest) option is to replace them.
Clear snow off the car
It’s not a myth that the police can fine you if your car’s windscreen and roof are covered in snow – as it contravenes the Highway Code. Make sure you clear your car of all snow properly before you set off on your journey, not just enough for you to see!
Not just for sub zero temperatures, – winter tyres hold an advantage over summer or all-season tyres in any weather once the temperature is below seven degrees Celsius. The materials they’re made of is designed to work better in the cold, and the tread is specifically adapted to shift water quickly – ensuring better grip on wet roads.
Driving rear-wheel drive cars in snow and ice can worry some drivers as they are more prone to skidding. Fitting snow belts, snow chains or snow socks to the rear wheels should boost traction considerably if you have a rear-wheeled drive car.
A common misconception is that reducing air pressure in tyres will increase the traction on the road. In fact, it could have the opposite effect if you under inflate your tyres too much. Keep on top of your tyre pressure with a digital tyre pressure monitor and inflator, and make sure the pressure is correct as stipulate by the manufacturer.
Driving with more lights on than you need to see won’t always help during periods of snowfall. Foglamps should be used when visibility is reduced, but in normal circumstances you’ll only need to use a dipped beam to see and be seen. Using your full beam will just dazzle other drivers.
Many people disconnect the battery if their car is going to be left standing for long periods in freezing temperatures. However, while it might conserve a bit of power, it could do more damage than good as alarm power and computer memory can be lost. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to stop a battery losing charge in freezing temperatures, so try and run the car frequently for a reasonable length of time, or look at purchasing a charger.
Avoid the back roads
Although back roads might provide you with a shorter journey, sticking to busier roads makes sense in the worst winter weather. They’re the roads which are far more likely to be gritted and there should be other motorists around to help you if you break down.
Book your winter health check