The forecast for the next couple of days is snow, snow and more snow. And the Met Office have issued a statement advising that if your journey is not absolutely necessary, then it is best to stay at home. All very well and good, but if you have to travel in the up and coming days, there are plenty of ways to ensure that you can be as fully prepared as possible, should the weather worsen, and you find yourself driving in inclement conditions.
Before you set off
A few simple checks will make all the difference to driving in the snow and ice, but you’d be amazed at the amount of people who simply get in their car and go.
Things to check are:
Battery and electrics
If you are doing a lot of rush hour driving, the kind where you are stopping and starting in dim twilight conditions, this will put extra strain on your battery. And remember, they don’t last forever. The standard life of a car battery is around 5 years so do yourself a favour and buy a new one for the winter months.
To save the life of a battery, turn off electrical systems once they have worked for you, so turn the heater fan down and switch the heated rear window off once windows are clear, and if you don’t tend to use the car at the weekend, a regular overnight trickle charge is a good idea to give the battery a chance to revive.
If your engine makes a squealing noise as soon as you start the car, this is a sign the water pump is frozen, as that noise is the fan belt slipping on the pulley. The cylinder block could be frozen too. Stop the engine immediately and allow it to thaw out. This may take several days unless the car can be moved to a heated garage.
If the car begins to overheat a few miles from home it’s likely that the radiator has frozen preventing coolant from circulating. Stop straight away to avoid serious damage and allow the radiator to thaw.
To prevent problems with your water pump and radiator, make sure your antifreeze is topped up, levels are typically half and half. This gives maximum protection down to -34° centigrade, and without it, severe engine damage costing hundreds of pounds can occur.
Most people will clear the snow from their windscreens but how many of you remember to wipe it away from your headlights or the roof of your car? Light can be seriously dampened with snow covering it, and snow on the roof of your car can fall off onto the windscreen whilst you are driving, or into the field of vision of other cars.
The AA recommends at least 3mm of tread for winter motoring, and certainly no less than 2mm and they say that you should not ever deflate your tyres to get more road grip, it doesn’t work, and reduces stability. Consider changing to winter or all season tyres – these have a higher silica content in the tread which prevents it hardening at lower temperatures, and therefore gives better grip in cold wet conditions. When there is predicted snow and ice, get into the habit of getting up about 10 minutes early so you can perform these simple checks and not be pressured into missing any because you are running late. Plan routes to favour major roads which are more likely to have been cleared and gritted.
Driving in snow and ice
Slowly and steadily are the keys to driving in the snow and ice. No sharp manoeuvres or quick actions and remember that stopping distances (and in ice you may not be able to stop) are 10 times longer in ice and snow. Don’t wear wellington boots for driving, they are cumbersome and can get stuck under the pedals. Pull away in second gear, easing your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel-spin. Up hill – 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. Keep a constant speed, choosing the most suitable gear well in advance to avoid having to change down on the hill. Down hill – reduce your speed before the hill, use a low gear and try to avoid using the brakes. Leave as much room as possible between you and the car in front. If you have to use brakes then apply them gently. Release the brakes and de-clutch if the car skids. Automatic transmission – under normal driving conditions (motorways, etc) it’s best to select ‘Drive’ and let the gearbox do the work throughout the full gear range. In slippery, snowy conditions it’s best to select ‘2’, which limits the gear changes and also makes you less reliant on the brakes. Some autos have a ‘Winter’ mode which locks out first gear to reduce the risk of wheel spin. Check the handbook.
If you do get stuck, straighten the steering and clear the snow from the wheels. Put a sack or old rug in front of the driving wheels to give the tyres some grip. Once on the move again, try not to stop until you reach firmer ground.
To help you with your winter driving, The AA is offering 50% off its Winter Car Kit. See details below:
Ultimate Winter Car Kit £34.99 (£69.99 RRP) 50% OFF
In stock, delivery within two working days available
Includes free standard P&P*
Provide yourself with ultimate peace of mind this winter with the AA’s Ultimate Winter Car Kit! Compact and easy-to-store yet bursting with winter weather essentials, the kit comes in a canvas zipped carry bag with a handle for easy transportation and includes:
- Emergency snow shovel
- Winter warmer kit, comprising one set of Thinsulate gloves, hat and neck warmer and a foil blanket
- Travel blanket
- Snow and ice grips
- Tow rope
- High visibility vest
- De-icing salt 3.5kg
The snow shovel, snow and ice grips and de-icing salt enable you to cope in snowy conditions, and the tow rope and high visibility vest keep you prepared for emergency and breakdown situations; while the winter warmer kit and travel blanket help you keep the heat in even the coldest British weather conditions.