With temperatures anticipated to plummet to as low as –10°C, leading breakdown provider Green Flag has released top tips on driving safely in the difficult conditions.
Make sure you’ve got an ice scraper and a good de-icer spray
At this time of year, cars can ice over in the evening as well as the morning. Having a proper ice scraper and de-icer spray has multiple benefits. For a start clearing ice won’t ruin your bank card/CD case/partner’s birthday card. It will also make the job more comfortable. That in turn makes it more likely you’ll clear your windows thoroughly which will make driving safer.
Ensure your tyres are up to the job
During the colder months we would ideally all fit winter tyres to our cars. However, most of us don’t want the extra expense of tyres that are designed purely for very cold weather. Therefore, it’s vital that the tyres we do use are in tip-top shape. Check the pressures are what’s recommended by your car’s user manual. Also inspect the tread depth. The legal minimum is 1.6mm. However, tyre companies and safety experts recommend tyres are changed at 3mm. This is because tests prove that stopping distances are significantly reduced as tread wears down.
Check your fluids
Everyone knows that water freezes when temperatures dip. That’s why cars have anti freeze mixed in with their coolant. It’s also why windscreen washer fluid has an anti-freeze component. Top up your windscreen washer bottle so there’s enough to keep your screen clean. And make sure you’ve mixed in sufficient screen wash to ensure the water doesn’t freeze. If you haven’t had your car serviced recently, now’s the time to book it in. Alternatively, pop into your garage and ask them to check the concentration of antifreeze in your car’s system.
Give yourself plenty of time to stop
A cold, damp road surface means your car will need longer to stop. Regular tyres don’t have as much grip at very low temperatures. Take this into account and allow more space between you and the car in front.
It’s a good idea to have a cold weather kit in your car. This should contain a reflective jacket, a folding shovel if snow is forecast, a tow rope, a torch, and even a blanket and some water if it’s very cold and you’re concerned your journey may be disrupted. And be ready not to travel at all if the weather forecast is really bad.
Leave your car idling to defrost it
For a start, getting your car’s engine running while you defrost it is against the law and could land you with a £40 fine. In 2002, the government changed the law making it an offence to leave your car stationary and idling. In addition, there have been cases where cars have been stolen while they’ve been left with their engine on but no one inside. If that’s the case, your insurer is unlikely to pay up.
Wait for your battery to fail
Extremes of temperature aren’t good for batteries. Hot weather can deplete the liquid inside them causing a weakness; cold weather then exposes this. That’s because engine oil thickens up in low temperatures and it takes more effort from the battery for the starter motor to turn the engine. A battery that is running low on charge may not have sufficient oomph for the job. If your battery is more than three years old or making starting the engine sound harder than it should, ask a garage to check it. Most will do so for free.
Use the windscreen wipers to defrost a screen
Windscreen wiper rubber is designed to be very effective at clearing liquid from glass. But ice is abrasive, something windscreen wiper rubbers definitely aren’t designed for. Putting your wipers on to de-ice your car won’t work and will simply cause unnecessary wear to your wiper blades.
Pour boiling water on the screen
Everyone knows that cold things contract, warm things expand. If you pour boiling water on your freezing windscreen the glass will suddenly expand. It may be fine. But if you’ve got a nick or any kind of damage to the screen, it will crack at the weakest point.
Forget your coat
You might only be stepping from your nice warm house into your nice warm work place via your car. But what happens if your journey is disrupted? You’ll be pretty uncomfortable if you have to wait to be rescued and you’ve only got thin work clothes to wear.