It’s that time of year again – dark nights, icy roads and the official countdown to Christmas. Around this time of year a lot of people will go to visit loved ones which can mean long car journeys. We’ve got a quick refresh on tips for driving during these months, as well as some tips on looking after your car!

Look after your tyres

Tyres are really important all year round but even more so in the winter! Tyres can wear away quicker in the cold months due to rain, snow and grit on the roads. Make sure your tyres are in the best conditions. Check the tread depth and make sure they’re inflated enough, or even invest in winter tyres to keep you safe.

Keep your fuel topped up

It has been recommended to have at least half a tank of fuel at all times in the winter. This way, if you become stuck or stranded, you have enough fuel to get yourself out or keep your car running until you are recovered. Having a steady stream of fuel in the tank also helps to keep the air pump cool.

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Don’t use cruise control

Many cars these days have cruise control but you should never use your cruise control in heavy winds, rain or snow. Cruise control takes over the speed of a vehicle and basically takes the control away from the driver. You’re more likely to lose traction when using cruise control in wintery weather and could lose control of your vehicle.

Prepare an emergency kit

An emergency kit is a great way to keep yourself safe if involved in an accident or if your car breakdowns. Main things you should include in your emergency safety kit includes a small first aid kit, blanket, phone charger, water, torch, hi-vis vest and a shovel.

Clear your mirrors and windows before you set off

It’s actually illegal to have your windows or mirrors covered in snow and can land you with a fine of up to £100. Make sure you clear your windows, mirrors and roof from any snow and also have your windscreen properly demisted before you set off. Leaving your home five 5 minutes earlier means you can clear your vehicle before starting your journey.

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Drive safe and slow

This one sounds really obvious but you’d be surprised how many people don’t adapt their driving to the current weather conditions. If you’re driving in snow, make sure you drive safely and as slowly as possible and plan your journey. When heavy winds and rain disrupt your driving, you should drive with as much control as possible and leave a good few seconds between you and the car in front.

Use the highest gear possible

When the heavy snow hits, you should use the highest gear possible where you can. When pulling away, you should use second gear instead of first as it provides more traction. Driving in the highest gear possible gives you more control and remember that acceleration should be done gently and slowly.

Keep your distance

When driving in heavy snow, rain or wind, you should always keep a safe distant from any other cars. Usually, you should leave a 2 second gap between vehicles. In snow and ice, stopping distances are up to 10x greater! You should extend your stopping distance to up to 5 seconds when driving in winter weather.

Unfreeze your locks with a lighter

If you find that your car lock has frozen overnight, there are a few ways that you can fix it quickly! Use a lighter to warm up your key and gently thaw out the ice from inside. You can also do this with hand sanitiser, which melts the ice due to the alcohol content. Similarly, put hand sanitisers on the key and then wiggle it in the lock to de-ice it.

Don’t drive if you don’t have to

One of the easiest ways to stay safe in hazardous weather is to stay indoors. Only make a journey in the snow or severe rain if you absolutely have to. The risk of an accident is massively increased in bad weather, not only to you but also others around you.

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.