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In winter it is imperative that we adapt the way we drive to suit the conditions on the roads. We need to be prepared for journeys that may take us through varied weather, traffic and road conditions and know how to handle these changes competently.
In periods of heavy snow, road casualties tend to decrease as less people take to their vehicles, but accidents still do happen. In 2014, the Department for Transport reported 29 people deaths, 251 serious injuries and 2,274 slight injuries when there was snow or ice on the road surface.
In periods of heavy snow it is always worth assessing whether you absolutely have to take to the road in your car. If your journey is not essential, it may be worth leaving it until the weather has improved.
For those that choose to venture out on the roads, it is important to winter-proof your car in preparation for the journey, to help avoid expensive repairs. Below, Trusted Dealers provides a 10-step guide to essential winter checks.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to invest in some good quality anti-freeze for your car. Without adequate anti-freeze the, the freezing temperatures can inflict damage onto your engine. Look in your car’s manual to ascertain the best type of anti-freeze for your car and the right amount to use, or use an online tool such as Halfords. Remember to replenish fluids in your car omce the engine has fully cooled down.
In the winter, elements such as grip, snow, rain and ice can all clog up your windscreen and obscure the view. Make sure your wipers and working smoothly and that your washer fluid is topped up with screenwash that contains anti-freeze components. Keep a supply of screenwash in your boot in case you need to top up mid-journey.
During the winter months, your battery has to work a lot harder to maintain the heating, de-misters and headlights which are often in overdrive. Cold temperatures can also have an effect on your battery’s life and reduce its capacity. Eventually your battery will give out – they rarely last more than 5 years, so always make a note of when your battery was last changed and replace it with a new one in time to prevent any inconvenience.
Tyres can be a hazard at any time of the year if they are not regularly checked and pumped with air. In winter the risk of an accident can be greater, so make sure that all of your tyres have a safe amount of tread left in them. The depth must be 1.6mm or above by law, but tyres with 2-3mm of tread are recommended. If you regular drive in rural area, investing in a set of winter tyres is a good idea, although they will only work effectively once temperatures have dropped below 7 degrees.
The roads tend to be more slippery in winter, so it’s essential your brakes are in full working order. Newer cars may be fitted with a sensor which will notify you when your brakes need replacing, otherwise you can ask your local garage to test your brake pads, discs and pipes if you have any concerns. If your car is due an MOT, you can ascertain this information then.
Unfortunately it is a well known fact that sale on the roads has an aging effect on cars. It can cause cars to corrode and rust if traces are left on your car body for too long. Washing your car regularly following periods of cold spells will ensure that any residue that might be clinging onto the paintwork is dissolved. Better still, if you have the time to wax your car, this will provide an added protective layer to the paintwork before the harsh weather ensues.
Protecting your windscreen with a sheet or blanket prior to a frost of snow fall will stop it from freezing up and will save you time in the morning when it comes to de-icing your car. If you do find your windscreen is iced up, never throw hot water onto it as this could cause the screen to crack – then you’ll have a bigger problem on your hands.
Keep your tank filled up
If you’re driving in freezing temperatures, it’s a good idea to keep your fuel tank more than half full where possible. Not only is it safer to have more petrol in your cars in the event you are held up in heavy weather-related traffic, you can also prevent your fuel line from freezing up.
In the event of a breakdown it’s a sensible idea to carry an emergency kit in your boot at all times. Items you should include in your kit are:
Many of the above winter driving tips can be addressed when you visit your local garage so make sure you keep your car up to date with regular services. Check your manual to see the recommended distances travelled in between servicing. If your car isn’t due a service, many garages offer special winter checks which include checking tyres and mechanical parts and ensuring essential lubricants are topped up.