Winter is many people’s least favourite time of year to drive. It’s a challenging time of the year to be on the road, as the weather and conditions can vary massively. You could face rain, wind, snow, ice and even low sun, which, in some circumstances, can be as dangerous as adverse weather. Here are a few pointers that could help you stay safe in winter.
It’s advisable to get your car serviced before the start of winter if you can afford it. If that’s not feasible, make sure you check the essentials regularly. Keep an eye on the battery, as it’s under a bit more strain in the winter. Have it changed if it starts playing up, because you don’t want to be stranded somewhere with a flat battery!
Make sure you check all your bulbs and wipers often, and keep all the car’s fluids topped up. To be prepared, you should have plenty of oil, screen wash, antifreeze, brake fluid and anything else mentioned in your handbook.
If you drive a Ford, you can take advantage of a Ford Motorcraft service at Hartwell for just £149.
With rain or mud on the road, the surface can quickly turn slick and your stopping distances will be a lot longer. Keep a safe distance away from the car in front. Avoid harsh braking if possible but, if you see a large puddle or mud patch, try to slow down to reduce the risk of skidding or aquaplaning.
We’d advise not driving through floodwater if you can help it – follow diversions and watch out for flood warnings. If you absolutely have to go through it, go slow but keep your revs high. The water may be slightly shallower in the middle of the road, but remember that driving through floodwater will create a bow-wave ahead of your car.
Hopefully this one goes without saying but, if you have to venture out when it’s icy or snowy, take it slow. Your stopping distance may be up to 10 times higher when driving on ice, so leave a large gap between you and the car in front. Slow the car down by using the gears and not braking heavily, as you could easily spin out. To set off, putting the car in second gear and gradually coming off the clutch will help prevent wheelspin. If you drive an automatic, it may have a winter mode or your manual may advise you to put it in the ‘2’ setting.
Before setting out, clear all the ice and snow from your windows, lights, number plates and roof. If a load of snow falls off your roof while driving, you could be fined!
Fog is awful to drive in, because your visibility is massively impeded. Slow down, stay back from the vehicle in front, and drive with your fog lights and dipped headlights on when visibility is less than 100 metres. Turn the fog lights off when it clears or when you’re in traffic, to prevent dazzling other motorists.
As weird as it sounds, carry a pair of sunglasses and use your dipped headlights in low sunlight too. You and other drivers may be blinded by the sun, so having your lights on will ensure you’re visible. Make sure your windscreen is clear and free of chips so you can see, and keep your screen wash reservoir topped up – you might be using a lot more for winter driving!
If the weather is making a turn for the worst, make sure to plan your route accordingly. Where possible, try to keep to main roads, as these are most likely to have been gritted or cleared. Allow for extra time when travelling in adverse conditions, and keep at least a quarter of a tank of fuel in the tank in case of emergencies or if you get stuck.
When preparing for winter, it’s good to look at what you carry in the car with you. A spare coat may come in handy, and it’s also best to throw in a towrope, torch, first-aid kit, a can of de-icer and some non-perishable food so you’re ready for every eventuality. If you have space, a shovel or an old blanket/ rug are useful additions in case you’re stuck.
Winter tyres can provide extra security in conditions below 11 degrees, because they’re specifically designed for poor driving conditions. They tend to cost a similar amount of money to normal tyres, and could give you extra confidence in rain or snow. Winter tyres aren’t a legal requirement in the UK but, if you decide that winter tyres are a good investment, contact your local Hartwell dealership to see how we can help.