11 Top Winter Driving Tips
If you’re planning to drive in bad weather, preparing the car before you set off is vital, says Hatfield Audi’s service manager Nick Jacques.
- Tyres: This should be a monthly check all year round – tread depth, tyre pressure and sidewall damage should all be carefully monitored. Have a proper look at the spare tyre as well, it’s a legal requirement to keep it in good condition.
- Battery: Battery capacity tends to drop with the temperature – worth remembering if you have trouble starting up on a cold morning.
- Screenwash: Two things to bear in mind here – keep it topped up (you use a lot more in winter) and make sure it has a proper additive at the right concentration. You don’t want it to freeze.
- Windscreen wipers: Are they leaving stripes across the screen? If so it’s time to replace your wipers. It goes without saying you’ll need them more in the winter, so make sure they’re up to the task.
- Fuel: Try not to let your fuel levels drop too much as this can lead to ice forming in the tank and fuel lines. It’s also not much fun running out of fuel in the snow!
- First Aid kit: Always have a First Aid kit in your car for immediate assistance.
- Mobile phone: Ensure you have a fully-charged mobile phone in case you become stranded.
- Gear selection: In icy conditions, pull away in second gear and ease off the clutch gently to avoid wheelspin. Maintain a constant speed and avoid changing down gears when going up a hill. When driving downhill, choose third or fourth gear to prevent skidding and always apply your brakes gently.
- Bodywork: Obviously your car needs to be cleaned more frequently in winter, because it gets dirtier. Salt and dirt builds up and can impact on visibility. Check for chips too as rust sets in more aggressively in cold, damp conditions.
- Headlights: Another thing you use a lot more in the winter, so ensure they are clean and free from dirt.
- Desperate measures: It happened a lot last year – people getting stranded for hours at a time. If you do have to spend the night in your car, you’ll be glad you packed a hat, scarf, coat, blanket or duvet. Food too – keep something in the glovebox, a bar of chocolate and a sandwich, you may need it.
Finally, if the weather is looking really bad, ask yourself – is your journey really necessary? If you absolutely have to head out, take a shovel with you. Keep your distance from other vehicles – especially gritters and snow ploughs – and don’t change lanes unnecessarily. Remember also that when it’s raining, even if the air temperature rises the road surface will remain very cold – and the rain can turn to ice.