Driving in the winter can throw up many additional hazards over normal driving – from icy roads to thick fog. By being prepared for these, however, you can make sure that you don’t get stuck in tricky conditions.
We’ve compiled some of the most important winter driving tips to make sure that both you and your car are prepared to take on everything that you might encounter on the roads, from heavy snow to rainstorms and high winds.
Make sure your car is ready for winter
It doesn’t matter how experienced a driver you are, if your car’s not in good condition, you could come a cropper in difficult winter conditions. Making sure that your tyres have a good level of tread left is a worthwhile precaution, as tyres with little tread will struggle to clear water or snow, reducing grip when you need it most.
Check the condition of your tyres
Most tyres have wear indicators – small rubber bars in the grooves of the tyre – which show the minimum legal level of tread needed. If your tyres have little tread left, you may want to replace them sooner rather than later to ensure maximum grip. If you live in an area which often experiences snow, it may be worthwhile considering investing in winter tyres – tyres which feature materials which provide more grip in cold conditions and on snow.
It’s also a good idea to check your tyre pressures at least every few weeks as tyres with too low or too high pressure won’t grip the road as well as they should. Most petrol stations should have an air machine where you can check how much air is in the tyres. Try to check the pressures when the tyres are cold. This means you might want to find a garage near to your home to use, as tyres warm up the longer and faster you drive.
Ensure your windscreen wipers are in good nick
It’s easy to forget about windscreen wipers, but worn wipers may fail to clear the windscreen effectively, dramatically reducing your visibility of the road ahead. Wipers are normally inexpensive and quite easy to change. If you’re not confident changing them yourself, many retailers such as Halfords will fit them for you, for a small fee.
Similarly, it’s worth checking that all your lights and indicators are working properly to avoid stressful journeys at night with only on headlight working. Like wipers, lights are relatively cheap to buy and a number of motoring shops should be able to fit them for you.
As for foglights, only use these dazzling lights when driving through thick fog. Make sure to switch them off when the fog clears to avoid blinding oncoming traffic. If the battery in your car is proving troublesome and requiring several attempts to start the car every morning it’s worth getting a replacement fitted to avoid being marooned in the cold.
Adapt your driving style to the conditions
We may all drive slower when encountering snow on the road, but even wet roads offer much less grip than dry tarmac. Therefore, being cautious when driving throughout winter is wise.
Leaves on the road, mud, black ice and simply cold tyres may not provide as much grip as you’re used to, so cutting your speed a little is a sensible move, especially when the temperature plummets. Being gentler on the accelerator, brakes and steering should help you avoid any incidents on slippery winter roads.
Defrost windows and windscreens fully before driving off
Your car may take several minutes to demist in the morning, but taking the time to properly clear all the windows should keep you out of trouble on the road, as you’ll have a good view of the road ahead. Spending a few minutes properly clearing these will also prevent you from having to crawl along peering through a small clear patch of the windscreen as the car demists.
Also make sure to avoid leaving the engine running while you get out to clear the windows, as there have been many tales of thieves taking the opportunity to steal cars when the owners step out to scrape ice off the windows. Scraping the ice off first and then jumping in the car may add a minute or two to your journey, but it could mean the difference between having a car or not.