It’s that time of year again! The clocks have gone back and there is a chill in the air. Winter means dark nights and wet and icy weather. Driving in the winter may be more challenging than any other time of the year. The dark nights can bring many more dangers and hazards than usual. Here are some essential winter driving tips to keep you safe on the road this winter.
Regularly check your car
Make sure that you are carrying out regular maintenance & checks on your car. Ensure the headlights and brakes work efficiently. Check the tread depth of your tyres too. This is particularly important when the roads are icy. We recommend taking your vehicle to a garage for a service at the start of winter, this way you can be sure that your vehicle is prepared for the drop in temperature, to avoid any unfortunate breakdowns. All services booked through BookMyGarage follow our service schedules, which include checks for all of the above, plus all of the other components which are crucial to avoiding a breakdown in winter.
We have put together a list of 7 simple steps you can take to prepare your car for winter – to ensure that your car is ready for the cold and to reduce the risk of a breakdown.
Prepare your journey
Preparing ahead of journeys is crucial, especially in the winter months. Make sure that you check the weather before every journey, as this can often be unpredictable. It’s also a good idea to plan alternative routes. This is so that you can have a substitute if your main route becomes blocked or impassable. It is also good to have a winter car kit, so you know that you’re fully prepared if anything happens.
Always prepare for delays – never let your fuel tank fall below a quarter full, especially in winter months.
It may be a given, but make sure you drive carefully in flooded conditions. Look for an alternative route if the water looks too deep. If you decide to drive through a flood, drive slowly and cautiously. Avoid the deepest parts of the water, which is usually near the curb.
Fog is one of the most dangerous road conditions, so only drive in heavy fog if it’s completely necessary. Before you begin your journey, make sure that your fog lights are working. Allow plenty of time, take your time and be alert. If you can see the vehicles behind you, switch off your rear fog lights to avoid dazzling them. It is also a good idea to drive with the radio off and window down so that you can hear if there are any problems ahead.
Winter days are shorter and the sun is much lower. Although we may be happy to see a little bit of sun, when it is low it can be dangerous while driving. The best thing you can do is reduce your speed. It’s also a good idea to make sure that your windscreen is clean and grease free.
If the inside of your windscreen or windows keep misting up, use your air conditioning (on warm) to dry out the car. The misting is often caused by damp items of clothing or shows in the car.
Tips for driving in the rain:
Living in the UK, we’re certainly no strangers to heavy rain.
- Double your normal braking distance. Rain reduces your ability to see, so remember you need to leave about 4 seconds between your car and the one in front.
- Stay calm if your car aquaplanes. The worst thing you can do in this scenario is apply the brakes. Braking will cause your car to skid, which can be catastrophic. If your car is aquaplaning, it is essentially surfing the water. You need to stay calm, gently take your foot off the accelerator, while keeping your steering wheel pointing towards the direction of travel and allow the car to slow down by itself. You should soon find yourself regaining control of the car, as the tyres will regain contact with the road.
- Set your heater. Driving in rainy conditions can cause the car’s windscreen & windows to mist up quickly, blocking your visibility. You can use your heater to avoid this.
- Turn on your headlights. Not only does this make you more visible to other drivers, it will also help you to see what’s ahead more clearly.
- Try to avoid driving through puddles. They could be deeper than they look and your car could get stuck.
- Grip your steering wheel tightly, with both hands.
Tips for driving in the snow:
- Slow down. It goes without saying that the chances of skidding when driving on ice or snow are much greater. So, be sure to reduce your speed and take bends and corners even more slowly.
- Don’t tailgate. Leave plenty of room between you and the car in front. It is recommended that you leave at least 6 seconds between you and the car in front when driving in the snow (compared with 2 seconds in normal weather conditions).
- Clear your windows. If you are driving in heavy snow, try to stop frequently to clear the windows, lights and number plates.
- Stay at home. In extreme weather conditions, such as snow, it is best to stay home. Unless you absolutely have to go out, don’t! Enjoy watching the snow from the cosiness and warmth of your home.
- Don’t slam on your brakes. Be gentle on your brakes & avoid using them as much as possible. When approaching a crossing or traffic lights, slow down well in advance by taking your foot off the accelerator. There is a risk of skidding and losing control of your car when applying the brakes in icy or snowy conditions.
Above all, stay safe by always wearing a seat belt, keeping your eyes on the road at all times, avoiding driving when you’re tired and keeping your wits about you. We have put together a guide on how to pack a winter car emergency kit, which will come in very handy in the unfortunate event of a breakdown or accident in the winter.
Libby has been working for BookMyGarage writing articles, creating newsletters and handling the social media platforms. She works closely with ex-mechanics and subject matter experts to provide weekly blogs: essential advice on how to care for your car, need-to-know news and developments in the motoring world and helpful tips on how to cut the costs of running and maintaining your car.