Preparing Your Vehicle For Winter Driving

Preparing Your Vehicle For Winter Driving

Winter Driving Checks And Advice

Cars need to be serviced regularly to keep them running well and this becomes even more important during the colder months.

Check your car’s handbook or contact your dealer to find out the recommended service intervals.

If it hasn't been serviced recently, consider booking it in for a service. Not only could a service prevent problems, we will be able to spot issues on the horizon and give you advice to prevent a breakdown.

Follow the RAC guide to help avoid breaking down this winter.

Quick winter driving checks before a journey - remember FORCES

We suggest you remember and use the acronym FORCES for the regular ‘DIY checks’ you should carry out through the winter and especially as we head into another icy blast.

That's Fuel, Oil, Rubber, Coolant, Electrics, Screen wash

1. Fuel

Check you have plenty of fuel in your tank for your journey.

It may sound obvious but you would be surprised how many people run out of fuel and you really don’t want get stranded.

2. Oil

On avarage one in three broken down vehicles are dangerously low on oil. This can cause a breakdown or lead to catastrophic engine damage at worst.

You should check your oil level is between the minimum and maximum mark on your car's dipstick and top up if necessary.

For the type of oil you need to use, you should refer to your owner’s handbook or speak to your local dealer.

3. Rubber

You'll need to check your tyres and your wiper blades before you set off.

Check your tyres for general wear and tear racks, splits of bulges, and more importantly, tread depth.

Although the minimum tread level is 1.6mm, during winter it’s advisable to have 3mm of tread on your tyres to help with traction and grip.

Also ensure that you have the correct pressure in your tyres. (Check your owner’s handbook for the correct inflation).

Your tyres are your car’s only connection to the road and it is vital that they are in good condition and correctly inflated for good traction and grip.

Next check your wiper blades. They are not everlasting and will need replacing from time to time so check them for splits and cracks.

Check whether they are effective at clearing your screen and replace as necessary.

Wiper blades can get frozen to the windscreen – if is freezing or you have plenty of snow – clear your windscreen and ensure that they will lift off the screen before switching them on.  Use de-icer or a little warm water to free them if necessary.

Cover your windscreen with a blanket or an old sheet to keep it ice and snow free and wrap the wipers up in the sheet to avoid them sticking to the screen.

4. Coolant

Check your car’s coolant level. The last thing you need is a frozen engine or for your car to overheat.

Although it’s a sealed system and shouldn’t need to be topped up, you should always double check, especially before a long journey.

Check your coolant levels when the engine is cold and look in your handbook for the correct coolant and mix to use should you need to top it up.

5. Electrics

Check your lights – they are essential for you to see and be seen.

It’s vitally important to make sure not only that you can see where you’re going but also that other drivers can see you, Walk round your car and make sure all lights are working and that they are free from dirt and grime.

Lights get extremely dirty during the winter months so clean them on a regular basis.

Check the battery terminals are clean and tight, (clean corrosion off with hot water and apply petroleum jelly).

If your car struggles to start and the engine ‘labours’ when you turn the key you should get it check out by a garage. If your battery is over four years old it may be getting to the end of its life and it could let you down.

If you are having your battery test ask them to check the charging system and the drain on your battery – this will give a better picture of your car’s overall electrical health.

RAC patrols deal with over 400,000 battery related faults every winter as the cold weather takes its toll on older tired batteries and the wet and ice conditions play havoc with the electrics. Batteries have to work that much harder in cold conditions and they have endure greater demand from extra electrical equipment like the lights and the heater.

6. Screen wash

Check your screen wash level and top up with a quality screen wash additive or pre-mix which is effective down to at least -15 degrees Celsius.

There’s more muck and dirt on the roads during the winter, as well as salt, so it’s important to make sure you can keep your windscreen clean. And remember to keep checking and topping up the level over the coming days.

Winter driving tips

  • Your car is likely to use more fuel over winter. Don’t risk running the fuel tank low, as you could be vulnerable if you run out of fuel on a dark road or in bad weather.
  • It’s especially important to plan your journey in advance if the weather is likely to be bad.
  • Look at weather forecasts for a various locations on your route and consider taking an alternative route if particularly bad weather is forecast.
  • Stick to main roads, as they’re more likely to be kept clear, and keep away from rural or hilly areas if possible.
  • If you’re concerned that the weather is going to be bad enough to prevent you completing your journey, such as if weather warnings are in place, consider whether you’re journey is really necessary.
  • Plan alternative routes in case you encounter an issue on your journey and keep friends and family informed of your location. You can share your location using apps such as Waze so people can kept track of your journey in case there’s an issue. Make sure your phone is charged in advance, and consider buying an in-car phone charger.

Driving in snow

  • In snow and ice, stopping distances can increase by as much as 10 times compared to dry conditions.
  • Drive slowly, allowing you to stop within the distance you can see in case of any obstacles in the road. Be smooth – braking, accelerating or turning harshly can unsettle the car, leading you to lose control.
  • Keep the car clear of snow. All windows need to be clear for maximum visibility, while snow on the roof can fall and cause problems for you or other drivers. The number plates need to be visible, too.

Driving in rain

  • Wet weather can be just as problematic as snow if you don’t drive to the conditions.
  • Slow down, as stopping distances in the wet can be twice what they are in the dry.
  • Watch out for flooding: dips in the road can hide areas of water, especially in the dark. If you’re not sure how deep a puddle is, don’t risk driving through it.
  • Doing so could cause serious damage to your car and leave you stranded if it’s deep.

Driving in strong wind

  • If there are weather warnings for strong wind, seriously consider whether your journey is absolutely necessary. Not only does it make driving difficult, trees are likely to come down causing congestion and, in a worst case scenario, hitting cars.
  • If you do drive in strong winds, avoid high bridges, especially if you’re in a high-sided vehicle.
  • If you feel the steering go light or you’re having to make a lot of corrections as the wind blows your car around, slow down and make sure you keep both hands on the wheel.

Driving in fog

  • Fog can also be especially dangerous. It usually accumulates in patches, so can take drivers by surprise.
  • Switch your car’s fog lights on to aid your visibility to others, and increase the gap between you and the car in front. Above all, be prepared to stop in the distance you can see.
  • If you’re driving through an urban area in thick fog, consider turning off the radio and opening the windows to help you listen for other vehicles.

Driving in low sunshine

  • Surprisingly, this can be one of the biggest hazards for winter driving.
  • Keep a pair of sunglasses in the car at all times, and use the sun visors if you’re driving when the sun is low. Keep your windscreen clean and slow down if visibility is reduced.

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