With winter setting in, it’s time to prepare your car for the colder months. The Christmas period is the most dangerous time for driving. There are more accidents and more breakdowns than any other time of year. Adverse weather conditions alter the way we drive and throw up more hazards. Our cars are pushed to the limits due to lower temperature and difficult driving conditions.
Our vision is impaired due to the low sun in the sky. It causes glare and causes more accidents than you might think. Icy roads leads to skidding and cautious driving. It’s very easy to lose control of the car at critical moments. You need to know how to avoid accidents and how to deal with them if the worst happens. There is sensible way to avoid accidents in the winter, it just takes a little preparation.
Thanks to Greg Sampson for the image.
The amount of breakdowns in winter increases dramatically. The cold weather affects the engine and puts additional strain on your car. The vehicle is at risk of freezing fluids which can cause all sorts of damage to the engine and internal parts. More often, it is the electrics that are pushed to the limit. Driving in the dark and staying warm puts a strain on the battery. Batteries are most likely to give out in the winter months. The following tips will help you avoid all of these problems.
Before the winter hits, get a thorough health check on your car. Take it to a garage and ask them to check the battery charge, the brakes and the tyres. These are the three most important things on your car during the winter. Make sure they are in good condition to last the next few months. if they’re not, change them. Ask the mechanic to check the antifreeze level and all the electrical components, like your heater. Fluid levels and electronics are something you should monitor closely throughout the winter. This can be done yourself but its worth having a professional take a look first.
Keep your battery healthy
Your battery is pushed to its limit over the Christmas period. Rush hour driving is now covered in darkness. Cars are also moving slower due to weather conditions. Your morning and evening commute will be dark and it will take longer. This means you are powering your headlights much more than you would normally. You are also pushing the heating systems harder, particularly the rear window heater.
Try not to overuse electronics. Keep the heat at a sensible temperature and turn off rear window heaters when you’ve cleared the vision. Try to run a little trickle charge into the battery overnight. It will help it start on those freezing cold mornings. If it is struggling to start, use five second blasts of ignition with thirty second breaks. You’ll want to take extra care of your vehicle if it is leased. The car leasing company will charge you for any unnecessary wear and tear. This can happen easily in the cold.
Treat your tyres with care
You should have them checked before winter sets in. However, once the colder months are here, check your tyres regularly for tread depth and pressure. Your tyres will keep you on the road this winter so make sure they are treated with care. You should have at least 3mm tread throughout the winter. Tyres are at their grippiest when they are at the correct pressure. Don’t be tempted to release pressure to increase surface area. This is a myth and does not work. You’ll only lose handling and control over your car.
If you are particularly worried about your tyres, consider switching to all winter tyres. They will add grip.
During the winter, your vision is severely impaired. Mornings are foggy and windows are steamed up which reduced visibility. During the day, the glare from the low lying sun can be fatal. In the evenings you have to face dark and busy roads. Make sure you keep your windscreen clean on a daily basis. Dirt magnifies all of these problems and can be very dangerous. Ensure that you use air conditioning to fully demist the windows of your car. Don’t leave your driveway until all windows are clear. Don’t be tempted to drive off with just a small gap. You need complete vision.
Make sure that your headlights are fully functional and at their most powerful. Replace the bulbs before winter sets in and keep them clean and clear. Keep sunglasses handy during the day to ward off the sun’s glare.
During the winter, all areas of your car are at risk from freezing. If you hear a squealing noise when you start your engine, then your water pump is frozen. Thaw it out immediately or you risk doing major damage to your engine block. Frozen water can cause very expensive damage to your car. Contrary to all logic, your car is severely at risk of overheating during the winter. When the radiator freezes, it stops the coolant from circulating and overheats the engine. Avoid this by regularly checking the antifreeze. You should use a 50-50 mixture of water and antifreeze.
Switch to comfy shoes when driving. Don’t drive in your clunky snow boots. You have less control over the car and it can be very dangerous. Always use brakes gently and steer slowly. Any sudden and quick movements will lead to skidding. If you do get caught in a skid, release the brakes and declutch. Let the skid take place but try to steer out of harm’s way. Try to start in second gear when possible and take care going up and down hills. Take extra care when driving in snow.
Finally, always be prepared in winter. Everything takes longer and you still need adequate clothing. Add at least 10 minutes to any local journey and check routes for accidents and tailbacks. Keep your gas tank half full at all times. That will keep the engine healthier and help if you get stuck somewhere. Always keep a survival kit with extra clothes, water, food, shovels and a phone charger.
If you follow this advice, you’re all set to brave the winter months. Now you know how to prepare your car for the cold. You know how to look after its mechanics and drive carefully over the Christmas period. Most importantly, you know what to do if anything goes wrong. Drive carefully and stay safe!