Although it has been a glorious summer in most parts of the country, the dark months of winter is undeniably fast approaching. For many motorists, this means driving in cold, wet and gloomy weather conditions which increases the chance of accidents as well as car breakdowns.
In fact, the AA has extra patrols on call in winter as the number of breakdowns nearly doubles during cold spells. However, there are precautions you can take to make your winter driving experience safer and must more pleasant. Here are some tips:
Avoid running out of power
One of the most common reasons for a motor vehicle breakdown is the loss of battery power. Car batteries don’t normally last longer than 5 years, so if you’ve had yours for a while, the chances are that it’s near the end of its useful life. It isn’t safe to travel on public roads with a battery that is running out of power, so make a pre-emptive strike by replacing it with a new one, and you will save yourself from an accident or a desperate call to your motor insurance company for a new battery.
Conserving power is also sensible. Wipers, heating and lights should not be turned on unnecessarily. If you have the heating on, make sure you turn it down once the inside of the car feels warm.
Looking after your engine
Engines can suffer damage in extreme weather conditions and it can be quite expensive to repair. However, you can prevent damage in the first place by using antifreeze.
If you already use antifreeze, make sure you check how often it needs to be replaced, as some need changing as regularly as every two years.
Give yourself a clear view
Visibility is vital to safe driving, so keep windscreen and other windows clear, and use air conditioning for faster demisting. Make sure all the lights around your car are working, and that their lenses are clean.
Keep in mind that windscreen wipers do wear out, so check them regularly and replace if necessary. You can also top up windscreen washer fluids with a suitable additive to avoid it freezing.
Change to seasonal tyres
Regular tyres harden when temperature drops below 7C. However, winter or seasonal tyres have higher silica content in the tread which keeps the tyres soft, and they offer better grip in cold and wet driving conditions as a result.
Some people continue with summer tyres but reduce tyre pressures to get more grip. However, this is dangerous as it reduces the stability of the vehicle.
According to a test performed by Tirerack, the difference in stopping distance between summer and winter tyres vary dramatically. From just 10mph, the winter tyre stopped in 6.4m, while the summer tyre needed more than 14m to come to a halt. The moral of the story is that seasonal tyres are much better for car safety in winter.
Other travel tips
Always give yourself an extra 10 minutes to prepare the car for the journey when road condition is wet and/or icy. In bad weather, it is best to travel on major roads which are more likely to be cleared and gritted.