Roads covered with snow are slippery and dangerous if you’re not careful. 😧 Such harsh conditions may damage your vehicle. It may also cause you anxiety as you’re driving to your destination. So how do you drive safely in winter? Here are some tips you can apply to make you feel more confident!
Prepare Before Driving
Before heading out on the road, it’s best to check the latest weather forecasts first. Watch out for extreme snow and ice. If the weather forecast mentions them, you may want to avoid going out, especially for non-essential travel.
But what if you need to go somewhere important? Then for this, you need to allow enough preparation time. Firstly de-ice all windows using a scraper or de-icer, and make sure all windows are clear. And don't forget your headlamps too, visibility is very important in bad weather. Also, it's worth remembering that moisture, sand, and de-icing salt can cause your car to corrode and rust and this will reduce its performance and even its value. So it's best to wash your car often during the winter season so that you can maintain its good condition.
Apart from de-icing your car, you also need to check if your fuel or battery is sufficient. Start early on your journey and give yourself enough time allowance for possible road problems and delays. If you can, drive on major roads because those should be gritted and cleared.
It's also recommended that you carry an emergency kit with you just in case you encounter some issues whilst heading to your destination. Include a blanket, phone charger, emergency food and hot drink, shovel, jump leads, torch, first aid kit, hi-vis jacket, warning triangle, ice scraper, and de-icer in your kit. Don’t forget to save the number of a reliable breakdown service in case your car gets stuck or stops running. If you have a breakdown cover, bring your customer reference and contact number.
Check Your Winter Tyres
Make a thorough visual inspection of your car, especially the tyres before you head out. Check for any splits or cracks. You’d also want to check the tyres’ tread depth by using a tread depth gauge. Remember that the legal minimum limit for the tread depth is 1.6mm. However, if you’re going to drive on snowy and icy roads, it’s best to have a 3mm minimum tread depth. This will help a great deal in giving your tyres traction and grip.
Apart from the tread depth, ensure that your tyres have the right pressure. The recommended PSI figure can be found in your car’s manual. If you don’t have it, you can simply check online. Some cars have the figure on a place located in the driver door frame. It may also be found under the fuel flap or the front passenger door frame. If the tyres don’t have the correct pressure, go to a petrol station first to top up. Have some pound coins with you as most charge a small fee these days.
Inspect the Engine
Your car’s engine is more at risk of getting damaged during cold weather. To prevent this from happening, you may want to change your oil. If you have a diesel car, dirty oil can really cause you problems. The oil may have a hard time flowing properly through the car engine. Also, add anti-freeze so you can avoid having a cracked or frozen engine. Prepare a 50-50 mix of water and anti-freeze for this and add it to the engine’s cooling system. If you have a regular service the garage should have checked all this, but they are usually happy to offer winter checks, which are a great idea.
Also, don't forget to inspect the screenwash to see if it needs topping up. This is something to do regularly whatever the weather! Remember not to use only water in winter because it’s going to freeze. You’re going to need to buy a proper screenwash for this. Follow the instructions on the label for the correct dilution ratio. Be careful not to accidentally place anti-freeze in the washer bottle or vice versa. Finally, clear any leaves that are stuck at the edge of the bonnet. They might block the drains for rainwater and cause water to leak into your vehicle. And make sure your screen washer jets are working and not blocked.
Check Your Car Battery
Extreme cold can alter the car battery’s performance and you might find it difficult to start your engine. Also, during winter, you’ll be running wipers, heaters, and lights more frequently so that means there’s more demand on the battery. Before the winter season sets in, check the battery health. If it’s more than five years old already, it’s best to get a replacement to be sure that it won’t go flat when you need to drive it in winter. A handy tip for diesel cars is to turn on the ignition and wait a few seconds before pressing start or firing up.
If ever you find any damage to the car battery as you’re inspecting it, don’t attempt to repair it yourself. Instead, call a professional or take your car to a garage so a specialist can take care of the problem. Improper handling of a car battery can cause shock and you could get injured. So, better leave it to an expert who can fix it or replace it properly.
Clear Your Windscreen
The Highway Code states that drivers should always be able to see through their windscreen clearly. Therefore, make sure that there’s no snow or ice on your car windows. It’s not enough to clean just the outside of the windscreen, do include the inside as well. Any snow or dirt can affect how well you can see as you are driving. You might be fined for this so it’s important to clear your windscreen and also remove snow from the car roof because it may fall onto the windscreen when you brake or it defrosts, obstructing your view of the road and other road users.
These are the important steps you need to remember before you drive during winter when there’s heavy snow and icy roads. Of course, don’t forget to keep yourself warm and also include a pair of good sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare of the winter skies and the snowy road. 😎 Give yourself enough time to prepare properly so that you won’t risk damaging your car, getting fined, or having other car issues while on your way to your destination.