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Winter driving advice

Posted on 16/12/2016 by David Rennie

Don’t let the mild weather lull you into a sense of false security

As 2016 moves quickly towards a close, we have to consider ourselves lucky so far, where ice and snow are concerned. But, inevitably, the weather will change and with so many of our clients and staff required to drive, as part of their everyday routines, we thought you would find it helpful to get some winter driving advice from those who know best - namely the AA!


The first thing to remember is that no matter how much of a rush you are in, stopping distances are increased by as much as 10 times in snow and ice conditions. So, gentle acceleration, braking and manoeuvres are recommended, because less speed and more care will get there just the same and safely!


To make sure an icy snap doesn’t take you by surprise. Here’s some tips from the experts to help you prepare and to give you the confidence to manage winter road conditions, as you go about your daily business. Drive safely!

Before you set off

  • Allow extra time for winter journeys.
  • Try to get up at least 10 minutes early, to give you time to de-ice the car.
  • Check fuel levels – keep at least a quarter of a tank in case of unexpected delay.
  • Don't drive off like a tank-commander, with a tiny hole cleared in the windscreen.
  • Clear all windows using a scraper and de-icer.
  • Plan routes to favour major roads, which are more likely to be cleared and gritted.

Vision

  • Clean your windscreen inside and out.
  • Keep the windscreen and other windows clear of dirt, snow and stickers, to avoid a fine.
  • Clear snow from the roof – it can fall onto the windscreen and block your view.

Visibility

  • Make sure all lights are working and lenses clean.
  • If the roads are really mucky you might have to clean your lights after every trip.
  • Keep number plates clean, to avoid fines.
  • If you have to clear snow, don’t forget the lights – front and back.
  • You must use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced. If you use fog lights, remember to switch them off when visibility improves so they don’t dazzle other drivers or obscure your brake lights.

Antifreeze

  • Antifreeze only costs a few pounds but a frozen and cracked engine costs hundreds to repair. You need a 50-50 mix of antifreeze and water for the winter – this protects your engine down to -34C. Most modern cars use long-life antifreeze. Make sure you use the right type. Some types of antifreeze need changing after only two years. Check your service schedule.

Batteries and electrics
Car batteries rarely last longer than five years and there are extra demands on them in the winter, thanks to lights, heating and wipers.

  • Turn off electrical loads like lights, heated rear window and wipers before trying to start the engine.
  • Use the starter in short five-second bursts.
  • If the engine doesn't start quickly, wait 30 seconds between attempts.
  • If you don't use your car often, give it a regular overnight trickle charge.

Tyres

  • We recommend at least 3mm of tread for the winter.
  • Don't let air out of your tyres to get more grip – it doesn't work, and it’s unsafe.
  • Only use snow chains if there’s enough snow to prevent damage to the road.
  • Think about getting winter tyres or all-season tyres – these are made from a special rubber that gives better grip in cold, wet conditions.

Driving

  • Pull away in second gear, easing your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel-spin.
  • Uphill – leave plenty of room or wait until it’s clear so you don’t have to stop part way up. Keep a constant speed and try to avoid having to change gear on the hill.
  • Downhill – slow down before the hill, use a low gear and try to avoid braking. Leave as much room as you can to the car in front.
  • If you have to use your brakes, apply them gently.
  • If you drive an Automatic, check the handbook – some have a winter mode or recommend selecting ‘2’ in slippery conditions.
  • If you do get stuck, straighten the steering and clear the snow from the wheels. Put a sack or old rug in front of the driving wheels to give the tyres some grip.

Troubleshooting
A continuous squealing noise when you start up probably means the water pump’s frozen - it's the fan belt slipping on the pulley. Stop the engine straight away and let it thaw out. This could take days unless you can move it into a heated garage.
If your car overheats a few miles from home, it's likely that the radiator has frozen.  Stop straight away so you don’t cause more serious damage.

  • Air-con demists the screen faster and reduces condensation.
  • Replace worn or damaged wiper blades.
  • Don’t leave your wipers on auto when you park up if there’s a risk of frost.  If the blades freeze to the screen, you could damage the blades or wiper motor when you turn the ignition on.
  • Use a suitable additive in your screenwash to reduce the chance of it freezing

For further information on driving in Fog, Flood, or Strong Wind conditions, go to www.theaa.com/driving-advice