With Christmas just around the corner Britain is already starting to take on a decidedly wintery hue, with frost and ice exerting their grip across great swathes of the country. That means it is again becoming routine for us to suffer the chilly chore of de-icing our cars each morning.
The advice coming from motor industry bodies is largely common sense, but is worth revisiting to keep us accident free, as well as to stay on the right side of the law.
To avoid having to scrape ice from your windscreen with a credit card or a CD case, don’t forget to keep a good de-icer spray and ice scraper in your car. The better prepared you are, the less time you will spend outside in the freezing cold. Also make sure you clear your mirrors and lights as well as your side windows – failing to do so is an offence punishable by law!
Given the increased likelihood of getting stuck or breaking down, it’s also advisable to keep a high-vis jacket and shovel in the car.
Of course, avoiding a breakdown in the first place is the best way forward. Many dealerships offer winter health checks, where fully trained technician will check all of the essential items including tyres and brakes, the electrical system, fluid levels, and the air-conditioning to ensure it will quickly demist the windows.
Even with a winter-ready vehicle, icy conditions can still be extremely hazardous, increasing the risk of road accidents. Once your car has been de-iced and is ready for the road, you can follow these tips to adapt the way you drive:
- Plan your journey – try to avoid hills and small country lanes that may have not been gritted. Also check traffic updates for any closed roads.
- Reduce your speed and increase the space between you and the vehicle in front to allow for increased braking distances.
- Avoid harsh braking and acceleration.
When driving in the snow:
- To avoid wheel spin use second gear when pulling away and gently ease your foot off of the clutch.
- Up hill - Keep a constant speed and avoid having to change down, it’s all about momentum. Avoid having to stop part way up by waiting until it is clear of other cars or by leaving plenty of room to the car in front.
- Down hill - Avoid using the brakes as this will increase your risk of skidding. Use a low gear and reduce your speed before as you approach the hill not on it. Leave as much room as possible between you and the car in front.
- Don’t reduce tyre pressures to get more grip – it doesn’t work, and reduces stability.
- Don’t use ordinary engine antifreeze in your washer fluid as it will damage the paintwork. A suitable additive to reduce the chance of freezing will suffice.
- Use air conditioning for faster demisting and to reduce condensation on cold windows.
For more detailed information on winter driving tips visit the AA