Tips to help you cope driving in the winter!! By Jamie Doutt

January 15th, 2013 in Car Maintenance Tips


Driving in the winter weather

Winter is definitely the season which the most care and preparation should be taken to make sure your driving is as safe and avoid a break down. Breakdowns are more common in the winter season; Breakdown Companies get also double the amount of calls during the winter spell. You should take extra car when driving in these conditions; you need to make sure you are alert and prepared for anything that could happen. Here is some more general advice to make the winter season a lot easier for you.

Tyres

Having the right tyres in winter is very important. I would recommend that it would be best to have a minimum of 3mm of tread to make the driving easier. 2mm would have to be the least you can go before it would be dangerous to drive.

A myth that is around is to deflate the tyre pressure which should give you more grip. Well I’d like to let you all know that it isn’t true it doesn’t work and it reduces stability of the vehicle.

It's rare to need snow chains unless you live in an isolated area hit with heavy snow, and where the roads are not cleared. They must be removed to drive on a metalled road without a reasonable covering of snow.

Antifreeze

When starting your car do you hear a continuous squealing? If so then this is a sign that the water pump could possibly be frozen. The squealing sound is coming from the fan belt slipping on the pulley. The cylinder block could also be frozen, if this is the case then you need to switch your engine of immediately and allow it to un freeze by itself. This could take a while but if not they could crack.

If you are driving home and the car over heats then it is likely that the radiator has frozen stopping coolant circulate. Stop straight away to avoid serious damage and allow the radiator to thaw.

·         Antifreeze only cost a couple of pounds compare to a cracked engine block which will cost you a few hundred pounds to get that repaired.

·         Most modern cars use long-life antifreeze - it's important to use the right type and avoid mixing different types.  Check the handbook or ask a dealer for advice.

·         Glycol-based antifreeze should be changed at least every two years.

·         You need a half and half mix of antifreeze and water in the cooling system. This gives the biggest protection down to -34° centigrade, and without it, severe engine damage costing hundreds of pounds can occur.

Vision

Make sure that your windscreen and all other windows are kept clear. If your windscreen is obscured by dirt, snow or lots of stickers then you are eligible for a fine. Clear snow from the roof as well as from windows as this can fall onto the windscreen obscuring your view.  It can be a hazard to other road users as well. Dazzle from a low winter sun can be a particular problem.

·         Greasy smears on the screen that doesn’t go with use of a normal screenwash then you will need to try using a cream glass polish with a slight abrasive action. If that doesn't work then try dishwasher powder dissolved in a little water – Use clean kitchen paper to clean a small area at a time and try not to go back over a patch you've just done.

·         If you have misty windows then use your air-conditioning to reduce this. Also Check windscreen wipers and replace if necessary.

·         Make sure that wipers are switched off in the park position when leaving the car, when there's risk of freezing. If you don't and the blades freeze to the screen, you could damage the blades or wiper motor when you turn the ignition on.

Before you go

To make your daily trips easier then you should give yourself an extra 10 minutes in the morning. Also don’t drive with a little tiny whole in the wind screen because that could cause a very dangerous accident. Use a cigarette lighter to warm a key for a frozen lock. Don't breathe on the lock, as the moisture will condense and freeze.

Put safety before punctuality when the bad weather closes in. Allow extra time for winter journeys but be prepared for the inevitability of being late for work due to unexpected delay.

Driving

Be Gentle when you are driving, don’t use aggressive manoeuvres this is the key to safe driving. When driving in tricky conditions you are going to have to be aware of what you are doing and aware of what the cars in front of you are doing as the stopping distance is 10 times longer in the ice and snow.

·         When driving make sure you wear comfortable, dry shoes. You should also make sure that your shoes are not cover in snow as they can slip of your pedals and this can be very dangerous.

·         When you are moving from a stand still trying driving of in second but bring your foot of the clutch slowly so that your car doesn’t wheel spin.

·         If you are up hill try avoid  having to stop part way up by waiting until it is clear of other cars or by leaving plenty of room to the car in front. Keep a constant speed, choosing the most suitable gear well in advance to avoid having to change down on the hill.

·         When you are driving downhill try and reduce your speed before the hill, a method to do this is to use a low gear this will prevent you from skidding you will be able to slow down naturally.  And you should naturally leave as much room as possible between you and the car in front.

·         If you have to use brakes then apply them gently. Release the brakes and de-clutch if the car skids.

·         Automatic transmission - under normal driving conditions (motorways, etc) it's best to select 'Drive' and let the gearbox do the work throughout the full gear range. In slippery, snowy conditions it's best to select '2', which limits the gear changes and also makes you less reliant on the brakes. Some autos have a 'Winter' mode which locks out first gear to reduce the risk of wheel spin. Check the handbook.

If you 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. Once on the move again, try not to stop until you reach firmer ground.

Jamie Doutt is a new blogger with a keen interest in anything to do with cars. He has a particular passion for road and tyre safety. He has also started up a new blog http://lifeinatoolbox.co.uk/!