Winter driving in the UK comes with a whole host of challenges, from snow and ice, to strong winds and heavy rain. These elements can be difficult even for experienced drivers and often, there is a sharp increase in the volume of breakdowns throughout the winter months.
So, if this is your first winter on the roads, or if you’re looking to calm your winter driving anxiety, follow our guide for some great advice on driving safely in winter weather.
Your tyres are your vehicle’s only connection to the road and as grip can be seriously reduced in the winter, it’s crucial that your tyres are in good condition.
Although the law requires that you have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm, it is advisable during the colder months to have 3mm of tread to help with traction and grip. Alternatively, you can opt for winter tyres, which, if you’re driving regularly in colder conditions, may be worth looking into.
You should also check your tyres for wear and tear, cracks, or bulges before you set off and be sure that your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure as per your vehicle’s handbook.
Check out our dedicated blog post for more information on the safety of your tyres.
2) Allow Extra Time Before Your Journey
When driving in winter, it’s important to set aside extra time to properly de-ice and de-mist your vehicle’s windows.
The highway code specifically states that you must be able to see clearly out of all windows before departing. Despite this, many people throughout the winter months neglect to prepare their car and instead proceed to drive with limited vision, increasing the risk of accidents.
To avoid this, simply allow for extra time before setting off. Use lukewarm water (not boiling) and an ice scraper to de-ice your windows, and run the engine to quicken the process. Just be sure that all windows are clear before making your journey.
4) Carry Out Regular Checks on Your Car
You should carry out regular checks on your car all year round, but in winter, this is especially important as cold weather can cause issues with your vehicle. Here are some things to consider:
Fuel – This may sound obvious, but ensure you have plenty of fuel in your tank for your journey. Becoming stranded in low temperatures can be dangerous and can often lead to much larger issues.
Oil – Maintaining the correct level of oil is essential for protecting the moving parts of your engine. When your car doesn’t have enough oil, your engine could seize, resulting in a breakdown and expensive repair costs.
Check your oil level is between the minimum and maximum mark on your vehicle’s dipstick and fill up as necessary. You can check which oil your vehicle needs using online tools, or alternatively, refer to your vehicle’s handbook.
Coolant – In extremely low temperatures, it’s possible for the fluid in your radiator to freeze. This means that the radiator is not able to regulate your engine’s temperature which could cause overheating and lead to extensive damage.
To check your coolant levels, make sure your engine is cold. Then, lift the bonnet and observe the overflow compartment of the radiator – there should be a full line and an add line. The level of coolant should be between these two lines.
Screen wash – There tends to be more dirt and grit on the roads during winter, so it’s vital that your windscreen remains clean. Throughout the colder months, it’s advisable to top up with a screen wash additive or pre-mix which is effective for temperatures down to at least -15 degrees Celsius.
Throughout winter, the days become much shorter and darker, meaning you’ll use your lights more. It is therefore crucial that not only you can see where you’re going, but that other drivers on the road can see you.
Check all your lights are working correctly by performing a visual inspection, and make sure you know how to operate your fog lights.
Lights are also prone to getting dirty during the winter months so be sure to clean them on a regular basis.
Condensation can become a real problem in winter as there is a greater difference in temperature and moisture levels between the inside and outside of your vehicle.
Condensation can build up during your journey and can become dangerous if your visibility is affected. Opening the window slightly can help to regulate the temperature and reduce condensation build up.
Motorhomes and Caravans
If you’re towing a caravan or driving a motorhome, it is also worth double checking your battery before you set off on a winter journey. This is because you will inevitably use more heating and lighting during this time which is likely to drain your battery more quickly that in the summer months.
You should also double check your tyres as they can deteriorate much more quickly than those on vehicles which are used regularly.
Driving in the Snow
- Wear comfortable and dry footwear.
- Accelerate gently and change up to a higher gear as soon as possible.
- Be smooth when breaking and note that breaking distances can increase by 10x compared to dry conditions.
- When driving in heavy snow, be sure to use your dipped headlights.
- Sunglasses can help to reduce the glare of the sun on snow.
- Keep your windows clear of snow for maximum visibility.
Driving in Heavy Rain
- Check your windscreen wiper blades are fully functional and get them replaced if necessary.
- Check your tyres are above the legal requirements for tread depth to improve grip.
- Watch out for flooding – if you’re not sure how deep a puddle is, don’t risk driving through it.
Driving in Strong Winds
- Keep both hands firmly on the wheel.
- Avoid high bridges, especially if you’re in a high-sided vehicle.
- Reduce your speed so that strong gusts of wind won’t blow you off course.
- Watch out for debris such as fallen trees in the road.
Winter Driving Tips
- Plan your travel in advance – if possible, choose major roads which are more likely to have been cleared or gritted.
- Leave yourself extra time to de-ice and de-mist your car before departing.
- Wear comfortable, dry clothing, and make sure you have blankets and suitable provisions in the car should you find yourself stranded. Take a look at some of our other must-have accessories for winter driving.
- Stay a safe distance behind other vehicles in case of emergency braking.
MOT’s, Servicing and Repairs from Autocare
Should you find any faults with your vehicle this winter, we can help ensure that it is road safe and ready for the colder months ahead.
If you’d like to book in your vehicle for an MOT or service, or need something repaired – get in touch with a member of our team, or call us on 01291 627 137.