How to Prepare for Driving in the Winter


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Regardless of where you live, when the temperatures start to drop, and the weather changes for the worse, your vehicle and your driving conditions are going to change. During the cooler winter months, the safety of you, your passengers, and your vehicle will depend on your ability to drive safely and look after your vehicle in the cold weather.

Tips for Looking After Your Vehicle in the Winter

In this post, we outline some tips to help you stay safe while driving in the winter, along with giving you some essential maintenance tips for your vehicle to help it perform optimally during the coolest part of the year.

Avoid a Breakdown with Winter Vehicle Maintenance

It’s no great secret that vehicle breakdown insurance is used more during the winter than at any other time of year. Whether you drive on the highways, in the city or more rurally; when ice, snow, and sleet start to set-in, the road conditions can become a real challenge.

#1: Antifreeze

Antifreeze is relatively inexpensive to buy, and it can save you from getting a frozen or cracked engine which will cost a small fortune to repair. Ideally, you will need a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water in your vehicle for the winter months. It will help to protect your engine, and for most vehicles, you won’t need to replace it for up to two years.

How can you tell if your engine has frozen?

If there is a contact squealing noise when you start your vehicle up, this could mean that the water pump has frozen. This noise is when the fan belt slips on the pulley. If this occurs, you need to stop the engine and turn off the vehicle immediately. If you don’t have a heated garage, it could take anything up to a few days for the engine to properly thaw out.

If your vehicle has only traveled a few miles after you leave home and starts to overheat, then you might have a frozen radiator. In this case, you need to stop the vehicle immediately and let it thaw out. Trying to drive the vehicle could cause more serious and costly damage.

Both the above scenarios are time-consuming and majorly inconvenient. Buying antifreeze can negate problems such as this from occurring.

#2: Electrics and Batteries

A vehicle battery will very rarely last for anything more than five years. Brand new vehicles are perhaps the only exception to this rule. During the winter months, there are extra demands placed on them due to the increased use of heaters, wipers, and lights.

Tips for Winter – Batteries

  • If you don’t use your vehicle every day, make sure you give it an overnight trickle charge.
  • Make sure you switch off electric load lights, such as wipers and rear heated window operations before trying to start your vehicle up.
  • If your engine doesn’t appear to start-up quickly, make sure you wait at least 30 seconds between attempts.

#3: Tires

There’s a lot to be said about the importance of your tires in winter. Making sure they are in good condition and inflated correctly is just the start.

Tips for Winter – Tires

  • A minimum tread of at 3mm is ideal for winter driving conditions.
  • Consider buying winter tires or even all-season tires as these are constructed with specialist rubber that can give you more grip in wet and cooler driving conditions.
  • Don’t let the air out of your tires to get an increased grip – it is not safe, and it won’t work.

Staying Safe When Driving in Winter

If there are snow and ice on the roads in Winter, making those essential daily journeys can often be cause for concern. In this section, we offer some tips for driving during bad weather in Winter.

Journey Planning in Winter

The first question you need to ask yourself if the weather is particularly bad; is, do you need to leave the house? If you can avoid taking a journey in unpredictable conditions, and your journey is non-essential, then this is always going to be the safest option. Planning around any forecasted weather warnings can help you avoid unnecessary risks.

Practical Tips for Winter Driving

Realistically, it isn’t always possible to avoid driving in poor winter weather, and there will be times you need to drive during snowfall and dropping temperatures.

Here are a couple of tips for things you can do to help you remain as safe as possible.

  • Maneuver your vehicle slowly at all times – stopping distances can be up to 10 times longer.
  • Make sure your shoes are dry when you drive your vehicle.
  • If you need to apply your brakes, do so gently.
  • If you are driving uphill, make sure you leave lots of room or wait until it is clear so you will not have to stop partway up.
  • If you are driving downhill, then slow down as much as you can before you get to the hill. Always leaves as much room as possible between yourself and the vehicle in front of you.

In Summary

While driving in the winter is sometimes necessary, there are many preventative measures you can take to help protect your car from the elements. If you need to drive in either very cold or very wet conditions, then giving yourself extra time and taking additional care when braking, accelerating, and driving up or downhill can make a real difference to your safety and the safety of those around you.

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