We’ve officially experienced the first frost of 2020, probably causing you to wonder about the preparation needed to ensure your vehicle's safety this winter.
2020 has already been a challenging year so read our winter driving tips below on how to avoid breaking down and how to stay safe over the next few months as the weather and temperature changes.
How to de-ice your windscreen
Before starting any journey after a cold night, you should allow extra time for de-icing your car. As part of Rule 229 of the highway code it states you MUST be able to see, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows and you MUST ensure that lights are clean and number plates are clearly visible and legible.
Breaking this rule could mean you face a £60 fine and three points on your licence. Ice-scrapers can be as little as £1, or you can use a bank / loyalty card, you can also get aerosol sprays for de-icing the windscreen, simply spray and it will instantly melt any ice. Do NOT pour warm or boiling water over the windscreen, doing this could cause your windscreen to crack due to the sudden temperature change.
You’ll probably also find moisture on the inside of the windscreen, which can be quickly removed. To demist the windscreen, simply start the heater on cool, slowly increasing the temperature, turn on the air conditioning to keep the atmosphere dry - if you don't have air con, you can just open the windows and if you are lucky enough to have a heated windscreen, use it! Only once the window is completely clear you can start your journey.
How to avoid breaking down
Unfortunately you can't avoid breaking down completely, however there are plenty of steps you can take to reduce the risk - regular servicing and general maintenance covers most of this.
You should service your vehicle within the manufacturers guidelines, it's more in-depth and checks more than your yearly MOT (if your vehicle is 3 years or older). Depending on the service required (a major or minor) liquids like your oil and brake fluid will be changed. A service ensures the car is running smoothly and aims to help that continue.
If your car won't start during winter, it's likely it's the battery, you’ll often hear a whining noise as the start motor tries to turn over or if the battery has completely gone, you won't hear anything. Other signs of the battery failing is the car refusing the unlock via the remote central locking.
The majority of car batteries hold their charge using a liquid electrolyte solution and the cold conditions can reduce the solution’s ability to transfer full power. You should avoid doing lots of short journeys which put strain on the battery with heating, wipers, radio, interior lighting etc, reducing its ability to recharge completely before its next use.
Putting the vehicle in a garage or carport can help to avoid this as it will be slightly protected from the cold or if you don't have access to these, a trickle charger can be used to keep the battery in top condition, it slowly puts power into the battery and automatically stops when the battery is full. Enquire with our parts departments today to find the right trickle charger for your car.
It's important to make sure you have antifreeze between the minimum and maximum levels in the reservoir located in the engine bay. Antifreeze is a liquid that is added to the water in the engine's cooling system stopping it from freezing under normal weather conditions. Water expands when it is frozen so without antifreeze you could cause cracks to appear in the engine, which could prove costly to fix.
By maintaining the above, you massively decrease the risk of breaking down however it does not eliminate it completely therefore you should always carry a warning triangle in your vehicle. This is a small reflective triangle which should be placed at least 45 metres (147 feet) behind a broken-down vehicle on the same side of the road, they should not be placed on motorways however. The reflective triangle gives warning to oncoming traffic that there may be a problem ahead so the driver can remain vigilant and reduce their speed.
Tips for driving in the snow
When driving in snow, you should be more cautious, leave more room between you and the car ahead and drive slower than you would normally as stopping distances can be ten times greater than on dry roads. If it's your first time driving in the slow, then the below should help you feel at ease.
You should take into account weather predictions before making a long journey as delays are likely. Also take into account what type of roads you may be driving on, motorways may have been gritted but country lanes / less used roads may not have and will remain covered in snow and ice therefore may be unsafe to use.
If you are considering doing a long journey during snowy conditions make sure you have food, water and warm waterproof clothing with you. You should not travel if you do not think it's safe to do so.
Some people like to put winter tyres on their car, they look similar to standard ‘summer’ tyres but are designed to provide additional driving performance in adverse conditions. They are not just designed for driving in the snow, but are designed to work in conditions below +7ºc so you’ll benefit from their grip and handling in wet and icy conditions too. In some European countries it is law to fit winter tyres during the winter months.
Some of our dealerships offer tyre storage throughout the winter / summer seasons so customers don’t have to store their tyres at home. When you are ready to switch, you just need to let our service team know to book you in.
If you choose not to fit winter tyres, you should ensure your tread depth remains above the legal limit of 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre, that said, in winter the more tread depth, the safer the tyre to travel on.
Black ice is another threat when driving during the winter months. It's a thin layer of ice that is usually transparent and therefore hard to spot and is caused by rain falling on frozen surfaces. If you think you think you might be on black ice, you should keep calm and avoid sudden manoeuvres, don’t slam on the brakes but lift off the accelerator fully and try to keep the steering straight allowing you to pass over.
You should always travel with a first aid kit in your car for any unexpected incidents you may be a part of or come across that require some form of medical attention where professionals such as paramedics may not be in attendance just yet.
It's important to remember to call 999 if required before treating any injury and only perform procedures when instructed by the call handlers who are medically trained to give advice via phone.
Whilst its good practice to have a first aid kit during winter for adverse driving conditions, you might find it reassuring to keep it in your car for summer too.
We hope you now feel a bit safer heading into the winter months and driving in snowy conditions. If you feel a journey is too unsafe to make, then don’t do it. Our service and parts teams are always on hand to help you with any preparations you need to undertake.
From all of us here, wish you a safe and healthy winter.