TAME WINTER WITH THESE DRIVING TIPS

Let’s start with the prep

First things first. It’s worth taking the time to make the right checks on your car so it’s winter-ready. Underlying mechanical issues have a way of being exposed as temperatures plummet, but following the FORCES list of DIY checks can help catch them before they bite.

Fuel

It may sound obvious, but check you have plenty of fuel in your tank for your journey. Delays, detours and queues lead to plenty of people running out of fuel – not fun when it’s freezing. 

Oil

RAC patrols find one in three cars they check are dangerously low on oil, which can cause a breakdown or serious engine damage. Check your oil level is between the minimum and maximum mark on your car's dipstick and top up if necessary.

Rubber

First, check your tyres for tread depth, correct pressure and general wear and tear. During winter it’s advisable to have 3mm of tread on your tyres to help with traction and grip. Then check your wiper blades for splits, cracks and debris, so they’ll keep your screen nice and clear.

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 topping up, you should always double check, especially before a long journey.

Electrics

Check your lights – they’re essential for you to see and be seen. Walk around your car and make sure all lights are working and free from dirt, grime and snow. They get extra dirty during the winter months, so remember to give them a regular clean.

 

Check your battery – it has to work that much harder in the cold. Check the terminals under the bonnet are clean and tight. If your car struggles to start, it pays to get your battery checked by your local garage.

Screen wash

There’s more muck, dirt and salt on the roads during the winter, so your screenwash gets more of a workout. Check your levels regularly, and top up as needed with a quality additive or pre-mix that’s effective down to at least -15 degrees celsius.

 

Our top winter tips

Driving in snow

Snow and ice can create some of the most difficult and dangerous driving conditions in winter. So use these tips to help you, and your car, stay in control. 

 

  • Increase your distances. In snow and ice, stopping distances can be up to 10 times longer than in dry conditions.

  • Drive slowly and smoothly. Allow yourself the space to stop within the distance you can see in case of any obstacles in the road. Be smooth – braking, accelerating or turning harshly on icy roads can quickly lead to a loss of control. 

  • Keep the car clear of snow. Give all your windows a wipe down so you can see clearly. Get rid of any snow on the roof so it doesn’t fall and cause problems for you or other drivers.

Driving in fog

When a wintry fog descends, so does your visibility. One of its biggest dangers is that it accumulates in patches and can take drivers by surprise. So use these tips as a guide.  

 

  • Before entering fog, you should check your mirrors, then slow down.

  • Increase the gap between you and the car in front. As a rule of thumb, double it to four seconds from the recommended two.

  • Switch your wipers and windscreen demister on to give yourself the best visibility possible in the conditions. 

  • Use your fog lights only if visibility drops below 100 metres (roughly the length of a football pitch). When the fog clears, remember to switch them off.

  • Don’t use full beam, because fog reflects the light back, reducing your visibility even further.

  • If you’re really struggling to see ahead of you, wind down your windows at junctions and crossroads to listen out for approaching traffic. Consider stopping until the fog lifts.

Driving in heavy rain

Wet weather can be just as tricky as snow if you don’t drive to the conditions. Luckily, we know a trick or two about how to handle it.

 

  • Firstly, slow down and leave more space between you and the vehicle in front as stopping distances in rain are increased. A four-second gap is a good measure. 

  • Look out for large or fast-moving vehicles creating spray which reduces visibility.

  • Turn your air conditioning on to stop your windows from misting up.

  • If you break down in heavy rain, keep the bonnet closed while waiting for help to arrive. This helps avoid the electrical system getting soaked.

  • If your steering suddenly feels light, you could be aquaplaning. To regain grip, ease off the accelerator, do not brake and allow your speed to reduce until you gain full control of the steering again. 

Be prepared for a breakdown

Even if you have your car fully prepped for winter, there’s still a chance you could find yourself stranded. Here’s how to be prepared if your car does break down:

 

  • Keep warm clothes in your car. A spare sleeping bag is a good idea too, in case you need to spend time waiting for help. 

  • Keep a torch and a few basic tools handy.
     
  • Consider keeping bottles of water in the car as well as emergency food supplies, such as energy bars and chocolate.

  • If you’re setting off on a long journey with snow forecast, pack extra waterproofs, some sturdy footwear, a shovel, a warm drink in a flask and a fully charged mobile phone.