We’re fully immersed into the colder, Winter months and are starting to see flurries of snow across the UK. To help you stay safe behind the wheel, we have pulled together these top tips on keeping road-safe when driving in wintery weather conditions.
Winter conditions can really take a toll on your vehicle. Adding a few additional steps to your routine before you set off on a journey is important in ensuring you’re kept safe on the road whilst also helping to prevent a breakdown.
Your daily walk around check is an essential start to the professional driver’s day at every time of the year, but never more so than during the winter months. As well as checking your usual seating position, tyres, electrics, fluid levels, driving controls and mirrors in your pre-journey walk around, you should also be on the lookout for corrosion around any battery terminals and suzie couplings which can be affected by the colder weather. If it has been snowing also be sure to check your exhaust is clear of snow, and if you have a tail lift, it’s also a good idea to check for any snow build up.
Always remember, the walk round check is designed to answer these questions:
Before setting off on a journey, you should take extra care in ensuring your car is fit for purpose. In bad weather, it is recommended that you have at least 3mm of grip on your tyres to give you the traction you need on icy and wet surfaces. You should also check your antifreeze levels in preparation for the colder months weather. Frozen and cracked engines can cost up to £2,600* to fix (for a new engine to be fitted). To protect your engine you need a 50-50 mix of antifreeze and water in winter, this will then protect your engine at temperatures as low as -34C.
Furthermore, roads can become extremely dirty during winter so it’s imperative to ensure your visibility is not going to be affected by this, firstly you should check your wiper blades are still intact and doing the job they should be, ensuring the blades are not split. Alongside this you should also check your screen wash levels and make sure you have a product that is effective down to at least -15C as this will help rid the windscreen of both ice and dirt.
Driving in extreme weather conditions should be avoided, however, this isn’t always possible. Remember these points for driving in torrential rain, fog, and snow:
One of the biggest risks when driving in rain is aquaplaning, where a layer of water builds up between your tyres and the surface of the road. If your vehicle starts to aquaplane, do not brake, instead just remove your foot from the accelerator and allow your car to slow down gradually.
Make sure you are using your fog lights only if visibility is less than 100 metres, if you can see further then use your dipped headlights instead. Fog can also be patchy, so if it starts to clear up, do not see this as a sign to speed up – you could easily run back into the fog a few miles down the road.
If you can’t hear any noises coming from the road, the chances are you could be driving on ice, if you are, do not brake as this will make you skid further. Always ensure that if it has been snowing and roads could possibly be icy, accelerate gently and change up to higher gears as quickly and safely as you can.
Always leave more than enough room between you and the vehicle in front of you, this is your safety buffer. When roads are wet it takes twice as long to stop, and ten times longer if the roads are icy – so be mindful of your distance!
Although some vehicles do have automatic lights, it’s always important to check they’re on and that you’re visible. It may not be overly dark, but bad weather can make you less visible to traffic.
If it has been snowing and you’ve removed the snow from your windows, make sure you’re also cleaning snow from your front and back lights so other vehicles can still see them. According to the Highway Code lights, indicators, reflectors as well as number plates must be kept clean and clear, if not fines can be given out.
Dirty roads are more common in winter, and this dirt can very quickly build up dirt on your vehicle. It’s important to make sure that you’re still cleaning it, especially around your licence plates as drivers can be fined up £1,000**for driving with number plates that cannot be clearly read.
If you do get stuck on some ice or in snow, putting some old carpet (or anything of this nature) under the driving wheels will help in giving them something to grip on to and to get you moving again.
Make sure you’re prepared for any eventuality and direction the weather could take. You should consider carrying items such as: an ice scraper, de-icer, torch, spare batteries, first aid kid, extra thermal layers, dry spare shoes, shovel, jump leads, warning triangles, sunglasses, and a charger for your phone.
Richard Owen-Hughes, Group Marketing Manager, said “The Winter months can throw many hurdles when it comes to driving in extreme weather conditions that we’re not as used to in the UK. It’s important to always make sure that your vehicle is in a fit state to be driven by giving it a full check down, looking at the likes of coolant and tyre treads, as well as just making sure you take extra care whilst behind the wheel.”