With the cold weather here and snow already falling, it’s important to make sure that you are prepared for the worst, and that your car is ready for winter driving.
Here are some top tips for safer winter driving:
Check your boot and make sure you have the essentials packed, regardless of the length of your journey. This should include, but not be limited to:
- A coat (some people don’t bother!), hat and gloves. Also a scarf.
- A Phone charger, or at least a fully-charged phone.
- Some snacks/water – just in case! Think about a bar of chocolate, and maybe a hot drink for longer journeys.
- Some old carpet – this can be put under the wheels in snow and provide traction
- A shovel – seems extreme, but if you can carry one, all the better
- A tow rope – much easier if you get snowed in to be pulled out
- A blanket – if you end up stuck and have to spend your night in the car, it’s better to be warm. Particularly if you have children in the car
- De-icer and a window scraper. Don’t use boiling water as this can cause windows to crack.
- First Aid kit – you should always have one in your car anyway
- Warning Triangle – if you get stranded give people a chance to avoid you!
Tyres are your only contact with the road, if in doubt, go and see a specialist and ask their advice!
The legal minimum of 1.6mm of tread is less than twice the thickness of a CD but during the winter a minimum of 3mm (around 3 CDs) is essential because the deeper tread will be more effective at clearing water and snow.
Engine & Battery
In the old days people used to put blankets over their bonnets to keep the engine warmer, a cold engine is harder to turn over and takes more out of the battery. This isn’t so important with modern engines.
If your battery is old or hasn’t been well looked after this can lead to non-starting. Check your battery is properly charged. If you do lots of short journeys, such as the school run, give your car a good long run once a week to charge it or use a mains battery charger to top up.
Depress the clutch when starting a cold engine – this disconnects the engine from the gearbox so there's less drag.
Keep it topped up and make sure it is at the correct concentration for the lower temperatures. Many garages sell sachets or small bottles of screenwash for pennies. Keep one of these in your boot as a spare/emergency. There’s nothing worse than a drive home with an empty screenwash bottle. It’s dangerous too!
Top tip from Paul Leather of the AA: to keep the windscreen from misting up, soak a cloth in pure washing up liquid then let it dry. Now wipe this cloth on the inside of the windows and it will stop them misting up – go on, try it in the bathroom, it works!
If your windows have misted up, use the air–con as well as the heater – it's not just for summer and helps to dry the air.
Don't use water to defrost the windows – hot water can crack the screen and will just re–freeze as it cools, either on the screen or on the ground where you're standing, which could have painful consequences! Thinking about frosty mornings, a squirt of WD40 in the locks will stop them freezing.
Keeping your car clean will not only make it look nicer, but it removes salt and grit deposits which are harmful to the bodywork and can increase the chances of rust.
When it snows a 10 minute journey can take hours. Don’t assume a petrol station will always be within easy reach, and always keep your tank full. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in an overnight jam and not being able to keep warm.
On the road
If you’re unconfident perhaps ask a driving instructor for winter driving lessons, or book time on a skid pan. Extreme maybe, but it could make the difference.
When driving down tree-lined or shady roads consider that the thaw may have taken longer here.
If it is snowy or icy, drive slowly, leave bigger gaps to the car in front (stopping times are 10 times longer!), and do everything smoothly/gently. A car is a big heavy bit of metal, and momentum is a stubborn thing! If you have snow-covered shoes they can slip off the pedals.
Most importantly, allow extra time. Don’t rush, and don’t stress. Arriving late is always better than not arriving at all.
Use your Mio!
Your Mio can be a great way of avoiding unexpectedly blocked roads or traffic jams. As with any winter driving, you need to be prepared. Change the routing settings to favour major roads. Use it as a guide not as gospel, if it looks like it’s directing you down a road that is too treacherous for your vehicle, don’t take the turn! Your Mio will always get you to your destination, if you choose to miss a turn, it will recalculate. Remember, you are in charge!
If you break down, your Mio can pinpoint your position, so it is easier for you to inform the breakdown services of your location, even if all the landmarks are covered in snow!