While there’s nothing lovelier than the warm and fuzzy feeling that you get from visiting your nearest and dearest during the festive season, there is perhaps the slight downside that in most cases at least, you’re probably going to do the winter driving.
That means you’re going to have to do battle with the weather, as well as the plethora of other road users that only venture out on longer journeys a few times a year. For many of us, there’s often a troop of restless kids in the back, too! With that in mind, here are a few of our winter driving tips for an easy drive home, to help make every journey safer and less stressful.
Fail to Prepare.. Prepare to Fail
Even the most rugged vehicles in the world need a little preparation to get them ready for the winter, so now is a great time to visit your local garage or dealer to have your vehicle checked over. Low temperatures will affect many components on your vehicle, so don’t find out the hard way that they’re not able to cope. Your coolant must be fully topped up to contain the correct proportion of antifreeze mixture to stop it from freezing and washer fluid will need to be run at a higher level of concentrate to ensure that it too doesn’t freeze – and also that it can cut through the thick salt solution on your windscreen.
The condition of your wiper blades also becomes paramount for winter driving. Remember to try and break the seal between the wiper and a frozen screen by hand before operating them. Failing to do so can damage the wiping edge of even a brand new blade. Your local garage or motorist centre can also ensure that your bulbs and lights are all working perfectly too – and where fitted, your fog lights. As the days get shorter and darker, give yourself every chance to see! Running heaters and lights, combined with extreme cold weather is often the death of many marginal batteries too. Your local garage will be able to perform a load test, or ‘drop’ test on your battery to ensure that it’s up to seeing the winter through. Much more fun finding out this way than being stranded on a cold morning!
And finally, check the condition and pressure of your tyres. As your only contact with the treacherous winter road surfaces, it’s imperative that they’re in optimum condition. While you’re at it, check the spare, too! Many cars built over the last 5 years won’t even have one. Don’t worry if yours doesn’t, that’s where we come in, with a complete kit that slips neatly in the boot in order to make changing the tyre a doddle, getting you out of the cold and back on the road in minutes!
Grip, Don’t Slip..
If you’ve followed the above advice, even when the roads surfaces are covered in snow and ice, your car is probably is more than up to the job of getting you wherever you need to go. Now, it’s all a question of driving style and preparation.
Always ensure that you have the following items when venturing out on a winter drive.
- Warm Clothes and Gloves
- Scrapers and De-Icer
- Warning Triangle and Flashing Light
- Spare Fuel
- A Flask of Hot Tea or Coffee
That way, even if you are stuck in a queue of traffic that can’t make it through the snow, you can sit there warm and toasty in your interior, whilst it all gets sorted out. Take a few biscuits too, and you’re practically having a picnic, right?!
It’s also wise to adjust your driving style in adverse weather conditions. Everything takes longer on a cold, icy surface, so all of your steering, braking and gear change inputs should be done smoothly and gently to keep your vehicle balanced and neutral. Gentle, progressive application of the brakes will be far more effective than simply standing on them, and when pulling away from rest, a smooth and gentle application of the throttle will prevent wheel spin and allow each tyre to find grip. Basically, the key is to be smooth at all times and allow yourself at least 4 or 5 times the usual braking distance on snowy or icy roads. Moderating your speed to suit conditions will also help greatly!
Like Your Mum Always Said…
You have to wear the right shoes in winter… or more to the point, your car does. You wouldn’t go out in the snow in your slippers, so don’t expect your car to! Most summer and ‘all round’ tyres don’t work that effectively under 7°C, due to the rubber being too hard to deform to the road surface at these temperatures. Click here to find the best winter tyre package to keep you mobile in all conditions.
Winter tyres contain extra grooves or ‘sipes’ which help to channel out snow, water and ice. These tyres are also constructed from a different grade of rubber which is designed to be compliant at much lower temperature than your summer tyres. Not only do they offer significantly more grip to improve your active safety, but also considerably reduce stopping distances in the process. A very wise investment!
One final tip? Give yourself plenty of time to get where you need to go. Traffic is bound to be worse in inclement weather, so give yourself a margin so you don’t need to rush.
From all of us here at Road Hero, enjoy the holidays – and drive safely!