According to a study by AXA Insurance, each year drivers in the UK remain unprepared for winter weather, despite regular warnings of approaching cold conditions.
“Winter weather consistently causes serious problems in the UK, but our research shows that drivers are still being complacent. Winter has a massive impact on road safety, and it’s not just snow that causes problems — ice and fog also make the roads more dangerous.”
– Maxine Tighe, Head of Motor Claims at AXA Insurance
So consider this your official warning; winter is coming.
With winter fast approaching, it’s essential to ensure that you take the necessary precautions to look after your car. These winter car care tips below will help you prepare for the colder months ahead…
5 Essential Winter Checks for Your Car:
The average braking distance for a car driving at 30 mph is 14 metres. This is doubled in wet conditions, and can be up to 10 times further when driving in snow.
Get your brakes checked and make sure they’re in good working condition.
During the colder months you tend to put more pressure on your battery through extended use of heaters, wipers and lights. Check your battery’s terminals are secure and free from corrosion.
“Cold temperatures affect the chemical process inside the battery that produces and stores electricity, effectively slowing it down and reducing the battery’s ability to hold the charge. Older, weaker batteries will typically already have reduced performance and cold temperatures will often drastically reduce this further, to the point where the battery will discharge or go flat very quickly.” – RAC
Top Tip: If your battery is more than five years old, or has shown signs of struggling to start the car, get it replaced.
Radiator fluid acts as a coolant during summer, and as anti-freeze in the winter. You car’s radiator should contain a 50/50 mix of water and anti-freeze. Check your levels and ensure you have the right mix.
4. Lights & Visibility
Check all of your lights and replace any that are not working. Make sure they are clean. Tarnished lights can be brightened up with toothpaste.
Now is also the time to check your wiper blades. If they do not clear the windscreen effectively in the rain (leaving large smears that obstruct your view), they won’t be effective at tackling snow.
5. Tyres (including your spare!)
The legal minimum tyre tread in the UK is 1.6 mm, but the AA recommend having a thicker tread of 2 – 3 mm in Winter, as this allows for better control in wet and icy conditions.
Changes in temperature can lead to decompression in your tyres, so be sure to check them regularly.
Tips for Defrosting Your Car
Image courtesy of Erik via Flickr
6. Remove all loose snow and/or ice
Did you know it’s an actually an offence to drive with loose ice and snow still on your car? That pile of snow on your roof could easily slip and block your view, causing an accident.
It is also an offence to drive with an obscured registration plate, so be sure to remove all snow from your plates too.
7. Check your exhaust pipe
Check your exhaust pipe isn’t blocked with snow or ice. This makes it harder for the car to start and could cause toxic fumes to leak into the interior of the car.
8. Unfreeze car locks and doors
If your lock is frozen, use a lighter for 15 seconds to heat up your key before you insert it into the lock.
Open frozen doors by using lukewarm (not hot) water to melt the ice.
9. Defrosting windows
Turn on the defrost option and set it to the highest heat on a low speed. (Higher speeds actually fan our colder air.) Once the ice begins to melt, use an ice scraper to remove the ice. You can use a de-icer to speed up the process.
NEVER use hot water to melt ice on your windows. This can cause the glass to shatter.
10. Defogging windows
To defog your car’s windows you need to do two things:
- Increase the temperature of the glass
- Reduce the water content of the air
The easiest and quickest way to do this is to open a window, select the defog/demist function and place on high heat, and turn on the AC (the AC also serves as a dehumidifier).
Speed up defrosting the night before…
- Stop doors freezing shut by applying a thin layer of Vaseline to the rubber door seals.
- A squirt of WD-40 in locks will help stop them for freezing.
- Raise your wipers off the windscreen to prevent them from freezing and sticking to your window.
- Fill a stocking or sock with cat litter to prevent foggy windows. This works by absorbing excess moisture in the air.
- Use a car cover.
- Keep an eye on where the sun rises in the morning. Park your car to face the sun for natural defrosting!
Winter Car Essentials
With experience in getting stuck in winter traffic with no water, blanket or supplies, Gary Hodder from BestCarFinder can’t emphasise enough the importance of being prepared.
Buy a Winter Emergency Kit (or create your own) which contains these essentials:
- Ice scraper
- Thermal blankets (sleeping bags also work well)
- Snow shovel
- Torch (and extra batteries)
- Jump leads and tow rope
- Bottled water and non-perishable snacks
- Thermos flask with hot water
- High visibility jacket
- Phone (and in-car phone charger)
- Reflective safety triangle
- Extra set of clothes
- First aid kit
It may seem like a lot, but if you happen to break down or have to pull over in a snow storm, you’ll be thankful for these items!
Featured photo credit: First snow of winter via flickr.com