Before any journey make sure that you prepare yourself and your car for winter driving over the coming weeks.
- Check with the AA, RAC or Highways Agency Traffic Information about any problems on your route such as accidents or roadworks.
- Also check weather conditions with the MetOffice.
- Before setting out make sure you inform friends and family of your intended arrival time and route.
- Listen to the radio or sat nav for any updates on travel and weather.
Prepare an emergency kit for yourself and passengers:
- Warm clothes and blankets (in case you get snowed in)
- Boots and waterproof clothing
- Fluids, especially hot drinks in a thermos
- Water and food for any pets that are in the car with you
- First aid kit
- Fully charged up mobile phone and a charger
- Sunglasses - to avoid the glare from winter sun
- Road atlas
- Reflective jacket
Prepare an emergency kit for your car:
- Ice scraper and de-icer
- Torch and spare batteries
- Jump start cable
- Reflective warning sign or hazard warning triangle
- Shovel or spade and sand or cat litter to put under the tyres if you get stuck in snow
- Spare wheel
- Snow chains
- Tow rope
Check the car carefully before setting out.
- tyres don’t have any cuts or bulges, are adequately inflated and have a deep tread of at least 3 mm so they don’t fail on wet roads – consider buying winter tyres.
- windscreen wipers particularly the blades are working
- oil, coolant, screen wash, brake fluid and anti freeze levels are sufficient – inspect the temperature that the screen wash protects to at least -35 mm. So it doesn't freeze and stop your windscreen wipers from working properly.
- you have enough petrol
- you don’t have snow blocking the exhaust as it will send carbon dioxide fumes into the vehicle, don’t use your engine more than 15 minutes per hour if you are snowed in.
- that you charge your battery before setting off especially if it hasn't been used for a few days to ensure it is fully charged as batteries run down quicker in colder weather.
- the brakes by testing them
- all lights are clean and free from frost, ice and snow which can affect the lights from working effectively
- on the engine by depressing the clutch as you start so you can reduce drag when starting
- windows are cleared of snow and ice, but don’t use water which can freeze again on the screen and hot water will obviously crack the glass – stick to de-icer or lukewarm water.
- de-ice all the windows, mirrors and lights not just the front and back windscreens
- locks work well and don’t freeze up, just add a little bit of WD-40
- all loads such as lights, heater and wipers are switched off before turning off the engine to avoid any unnecessary drain on the battery
- you use heaters, heated screens and seats only for as long as you need as these can also put pressure on the battery
- the auto wiper control is turned off prior to turning the ignition key otherwise the wiper control fuse could blow if the wipers are frozen to the screen
A motorist preparing his car for the wintry conditions by de-icing the car. Follow this example and prepare yourself and your car for winter driving.
Prepare yourself and your car for winter driving:
Make sure you continually check on the roads and weather as you travel and be ready to change your route if necessary. In fact, it’s a good idea to plan this before even setting off. Try to leave in plenty of time especially at key busy times such as Christmas and New Year Eve and sale days. Using busier main roads is often a good idea as these are likely to have been gritted and slow down as you approach bends.
Think about how you’re going to drive and be prepared to change your driving practices to cope with the wintry conditions. Keep plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front to allow yourself more sudden braking space. If the car starts skidding take your foot off the pedals, press the clutch and steer into the skid. As the car begins to straighten steer back along the road. You should only use the brake if you can’t steer yourself out of difficulty. That’s why allowing yourself more space is useful so you aren’t just relying on your brakes to stop.
Check your speed is appropriate for the driving conditions you find yourself in. For instance, when driving in snow keep your speed up to maintain traction but not so fast that you could lose control of your car. As your car moves off start slowly and if conditions are slippery and you are in a manual car then use a higher gear instead of first. On downhill slopes reduce your speed before you begin to descend and keep it low to make it easier to slow down on slippery surfaces.
Wintry driving conditions frequently impact on stopping distances and it can take up to 10 times longer to stop. Keep space between you and other vehicles in front, reduce your speed and remain alert at all times. Remember ice is more likely to form on hilly or exposed roads, roads with shade from trees and buildings and roads that pass under or over a bridge. If emergency services recommend that the weather is really bad and advise against travelling then don’t travel. They usually have a good reason for saying this! Remember if you do prepare yourself and you car then you can make life much easier for yourself on the road, especially if something does go wrong.