by ANTONY CLAY
NOW that we have entered the bleak midwinter proper, snow and ice are on the cards so it is worth getting your car ship-shape for the season.
But drivers also need to know how to react in challenging conditions in order to keep themselves — and other road users and pedestrians safe.
Here are an array of winter driving tips to help you survive winter on the roads:
- Visibility — don’t drive off without cleaning your windows or side mirrors.
Ensure you use a good quality scraper and newly bought de-icer and switch on your internal heater settings to clear away mist and condensation.
Always switch on the car’s air conditioning and set up the heater to recirculate the air around the car rather than pulling cold air in from outside. This will help the car warm-up more quickly and the windscreen to clear more quickly.
Whatever you do, do not pour hot water on to your windscreen as this is likely to freeze up straight away or cause the glass to crack.
- Tyres are key in winter — most UK drivers travel on summer rubber all-year-round but winter tyres and all-weather tyres are a far better option in conditions below 4 deg C.
Many tyre dealers and car manufacturers, including Jaguar and BMW, now offer a service which will see them store your summer rubber during the winter months so that the car can ride on winter tyres when needed.
The added control winter tyres offer in snowy or icy conditions has to be experienced to be believed.
For owners of rear-wheel-drive cars, which suffer from loss of traction in ice and snow, winter or all-weather rubber could be the difference between getting to their destination or abandoning their vehicle.
Top winter tyre brands: Continental ContiWinterContact, Pirelli Sottozero, Dunlop SP Winter Sport.
- Tread carefully — even with your tyres sorted, it is essential that you drive to the conditions.
Always exercise caution if the temperature drops below 4 deg C.
On snow, setting off in second gear will help to keep your revs low and result in greater traction when setting off from a standstill.
Once up and running, drive carefully to avoid the need to brake abruptly — it’s likely that you won’t stop quickly anyway. Slow down early for junctions and keep moving whenever possible to avoid getting stuck on inclines.
In icy conditions remain alert and be aware of areas where ice may have developed, in particular exposed locations and areas prone to standing water.
Also, make sure you increase the distance between your car and the vehicle in front. Stopping distance on ice increases by up to ten times.
- It may sound like overkill to many, but in the worst weather conditions it is worth carrying a winter survival kit that extends beyond de-icer and an ice scraper.
A shovel, torch, blanket, jump-leads and tow rope should all find a home in your car at winter.
Ensuring that your mobile phone is fully charged and that some warm weather clothing is kept in the car might also be a wise precaution.
Many of the problems associated with travel during snow could be avoided if people planned in advance.