Preparing for the winter months
Driving during the winter months can be a challenge for even the most competent drivers, thanks to unpredictable British weather and more hours spent in the dark.
That's why it's essential to make sure you and your vehicle are ready for torrential downpours, heavy snowfall, strong winds, and icy conditions when planning a journey. We've highlighted a few steps you can follow to prepare your vehicle and stay safe on the road during winter.
- Plan your route
- Fill up on fuel
- Check Your Tyres
- Check your battery
- Ensure your view is clear
- Keep your vehicle clean
- Take your time
- Prepare your winter essentials
Plan Your Route
Ensuring your journey is well planned out is important when taking on adverse weather conditions. It may seem like a good idea to take a detour around backstreets or country lanes to avoid traffic, but these routes are often in poor condition during rain or snow, as reduced traffic prevents the lanes from being cleared.
In recent years, social media has been an excellent source of information regarding road conditions. Local news, and police reports are regularly updated about road closures, blocked roads, and flooded routes, so make sure to double-check these sources before setting off.
You should also allow extra time to reach your destination when visibility is poor or road conditions are unpleasant, as you may find you have to drive at a slower speed or face unexpected complications along the way.
Fill up on fuel
Various winter weather conditions can cause accidents, closures, and congestion on the road, which is why it's so important to ensure your car is topped up on fuel, especially when setting off on a long journey.
Running on very little or no fuel can not only cause your vehicle to break down, it can also have extremely damaging effects on your fuel pump and engine.
This goes for hybrid and electric cars too - ensuring your battery is fully replenished before making trips during the winter can save you a lot of hassle in the long run and prevent damage to your battery.
Check Your Tyres
Under-inflation and tyres below 1.6mm tread depth can lead to serious accidents on the road, so ensuring you're checking and maintaining them regularly is essential.
Check Your Battery
Cold weather can take a serious toll on your vehicle's battery, as it often has to work harder due to the increased use of heating and lights. If you find your engine struggling to start on cold mornings, it might be time to book your vehicle in for a service, where you may need to replace your battery completely.
If your car won't start because of a flat battery, it's worth investing in a portable jump-start pack to reduce the risk of your car breaking down completely. Keep in mind that most batteries last around five years, so if your battery is nearing the end of its time, you should get it checked out as soon as possible.
Ensure your view is clear
Rain, snow, ice, and even general dirt on the windscreen can all seriously reduce your view of the road during the winter months, so you'll want to make sure you're giving your windows a thorough clean regularly.
Not only is this important for your own safety, it's a legal requirement as stated in the highway code: 'windscreens and windows MUST be kept clean and free from obstructions to vision.'
There are plenty of quick and easy methods you can use to keep your windscreen clear:
- Use your heater: If your windows are icy or fogging up due to the cold temperatures, using your heating will clear them up in no time.
- Use warm water: Using boiling water can lead to serious damage to your windows. To be safe, use warm soapy water to clear up any ice on your exterior windscreen.
- Carry sunglasses: This will combat glare from the sun in snowy conditions.
- Top up your windscreen washer fluid: During the winter, windscreen washer fluid is essential to keep a clear view of the road.
Keep your vehicle clean
With weather conditions like rain, snow, and ice being a common sight in the winter months, it's easy for us all to forget to keep our vehicle's clean. However, if you want to avoid fines and stay safe on the road, it's a step you'll want to make sure to follow.
The highway code states 'lights, indicators and number plates must be kept clean and clear', so you may end up being stopped and fined if dirt causes your numberplate to be obscured. So, even if you don't bother to deep clean your car from the inside out, you should keep your lights and number plates clear from obstruction.
Take Your Time
It doesn't matter which vehicle you own, driving in the snow and ice can be very dangerous. It's commonly known that certain types of cars such as 4x4s are better at handling these conditions than others, however, that doesn't mean you shouldn't be cautious.
The most important tip for driving in the snow or ice is to leave plenty of time for your journey, as rushing is a recipe for disaster. To avoid skidding when moving off, you should use the accelerator pedal very gently to limit wheel spinning – some modern vehicles will have a winter mode you can select to assist you.
When it comes to going downhill, keep your vehicle in a low gear to prevent the need to regularly use your brakes. Remember to take your time and leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front.
Prepare your winter essentials
You should always carry a winter essentials pack with you at all times during the cold months, as you may find yourself stuck in deep snow or stranded with a flat battery - this can include:
- Hi-vis jacket
- Extra layers of clothing
- Sturdy footwear
Make sure your car is ready for facing winter conditions
Before contemplating driving in winter conditions, it's essential to prepare your car and plan your route. By following our winter driving checklist, you'll be prepared for any type of weather you're faced with.