Cliveden in snow, photo courtesy National Trust/John Waxman
Winter Driving Tips
The winter months (November to March) are the most common for road accidents and broken down vehicles in the UK. Cold and snowy weather puts additional stress on your vehicle and makes the road conditions more difficult, which can impact your driving ability. Our guide outlines the different ways to improve your vehicle’s condition and quality of driving to avoid breakdowns and accidents in the wintery weather.
Take time to prepare your vehicle
Whether it is leaving for work or taking the kids to school first thing in the morning, our cars are commonly in a worst state the earlier it is. Since we tend to run late, there is always that temptation to zoom off with only a small space in the windscreen that you can see out of.
Take an extra 10 minutes before you would usually leave to prepare your vehicle. It is illegal to drive with fogged up windows and can result in a fine, so take the time to heat the front and rear windows so they are clear of mist. If there is ice on your windows, do you not use boiling hot water as this can crack the windscreen. Instead, use warm water, a scraper or de-icer that you can purchase from a petrol garage.
Saving your battery and electricity
Cold and wintery conditions put strain on your car’s electricity as you have to use your lights, heaters and wipers far more than usual. Your car battery will die if it is overworked so try saving some energy on those long road trips. Consider turning down the heat every now and again and stop using the heated windows once you have de-misted the front and rear windows.
A good car battery lasts for around five years so if your vehicle is older than five years and has not had its battery checked or replaced in a long time, this would be a good opportunity to do so. A new car battery starts at £49 from Halfords.
Driving in snow and ice
This can be some of the trickiest driving you can do. Make sure that you have a pair of normal shoes in the car when you drive as driving in wellington boots will make driving in snow even harder.
Always test your brakes before you start driving. If you are going uphill, make sure that the road is cleared because you want to be driving at a constant speed and having to stop for other cars will make you lose momentum. When driving downhill, go at a lower speed and avoid using the brakes and where possible, create a good space between you and the vehicle in front.
You can purchase snow chains for your vehicle, however, this is better suited for those living in remote areas and may not be necessary for those driving on busier roads. It is recommended to have tyres with around 3mm of thread for winter driving and no less than 2mm.
You can also opt for specific winter tyres which cost between £50 and £100 per tyre. They are made of a specific silica content that hardens in lower temperatures and gives you better grip in the cold.
Driving in heavy rain
One of the most essential things for driving in heavy rain is making sure that your windscreen wipers are fully functioning, so it is always worth checking both your front and back wipers before you head out.
Use dipped head lights so that other cars can see you easily and avoid using your fog lights as this may dazzle other drivers.
Always keep your distance between other vehicles so you can anticipate any sudden braking from the vehicle in front of you. Be aware of fast moving or large vehicles as they are more likely to create spray which will reduce your visibility. Equally, you must be conscious not to drive too fast or create spray for other cars, cyclists and pedestrians.
If you drive too fast on standing water, your tyres could lose contact with the road causing you to do aquaplaning. To maintain control, ease off the accelerator to reduce your speed and this will give you a better handle of the steering.
It is a legal requirement to have at least third party cover if you are driving on UK roads. If you are doing long trips or domestic holidays with adverse weather conditions, it is worth speaking to your insurer for additional cover. If you are able to include some of the safety features mentioned above such as winter tyres, new wipers and a new car battery, they may be able to reduce the cost of your premium.
This guide has been provided by Call Wiser.