Preparing your car
Ensure you make a number of checks on your car before any long journeys. You are 50% more likely to have a breakdown in winter, so making these quick checks are essential, and can prevent a breakdown.
- ❆ Coolant Levels: If your coolant levels are too low you are at risk of your car overheating or getting a frozen engine. Coolant is a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water that is pumped around your car engine.
- ❆ Screen Wash Levels: Ensuring your screen wash levels are topped up is also vital as it can prevent your windscreen from cracking and can help with visibility conditions. As it is mixed with anti-freeze it won’t crack your windscreen in cold weather conditions.
- ❆ Battery Life: Your battery should be checked as it needs enough power to start your engine during cold weather. You can measure the state of your battery charge with a voltmeter. You can use an analogue or a digital voltmeter but generally digital ones are easier to read and give a more accurate reading. You should also make sure the Check your battery terminals – are the nuts clean and tight? You can clean off any corrosion with hot water.
- ❆ Tyres: Tyres are the only thing between you and the road so these are the most important checks to make on your car. Research shows that the overall stopping distance of a car is doubled in rain and for snow and icy conditions that figure is multiplied by ten. Highly worn tyres can also increase stopping distance so it is important to make sure your tyre tread meets the government’s requirements. A tread depth of at least 3mm is recommended but the deeper the better for wintery roads.
Driving on the roads
Once you’ve prepared your car it’s time to think about your driving habits.
- ❆ Drive slower: Speed limits are in place for ordinary weather conditions so naturally these will be a lot faster in poor weather conditions. Accelerate and decelerate slower than usual as you are more likely to skid in these types of conditions.
- ❆ Don’t tailgate: This is bad practice in normal weather conditions but much more dangerous in bad weather conditions. Your stopping distance will increase and if you need to brake suddenly you won’t be able to do so. You may need up to 10 times the normal amount of space between you and the car in front in these conditions.
- ❆ Avoid Cruise Control: Don’t use cruise control during any bad weather. This even applies during rainy weather, as cruise control was designed for normal road conditions. Cruise control doesn’t know when the road is slippery so you need to be under control in these conditions.
- ❆ Know how to brake: To brake on icy roads without locking your wheels, shift down a gear earlier than you would normally, allow your speed to fall and then brake gently.