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Winter driving – dealing with snow, ice and cold

Winter’s certainly here; temperatures have dropped and we’ve experienced the first signs of frost and snow. Driving during this period can be difficult and often dangerous.

Make sure don’t put yourself and other motorists at risk this winter, and follow these steps to ensure both you and your vehicle are prepared this winter.

Before you leave
• It’s worth getting up 10-minutes early to give yourself time to prepare your vehicle in bad or cold weather.
• Make sure the wind screen is completely clear. Driving off, wincing through a tiny peephole may work whilst pulling off the drive, but is extremely dangerous on the roads.
• Using a window scraper and de-icer will ensure your windows are clear from ice. If your lock is iced over, don’t be afraid to use a cigarette lighter to warm your key and melt the ice – don’t breathe on the lock, the moisture will condense causing further frost.
• Don't leave a lot of snow on the roof. It can slide forward when you brake and cover the windscreen.
• Ensure you have plenty of fuel in your vehicle in case you get stuck in traffic and face long delays.

Image: RAC website 

Anti-freeze
• Be aware of a constant squealing noise when you start the engine, this can be a sign of a frozen water pump – and that the fan belt is slipping on the pulley. Turn off the ignition immediately and allow it to thaw out. This can take several days if the temperature remains low.
• Anti-freeze can cost less than £5, but a frozen and cracked engine block can cost hundreds of pounds to repair. Don’t mix different types together, they all have varying chemical structures, which can affect their performance. Vision
• Make sure that all the bulbs on your vehicle are working and that lenses are clean. Grit and dirt on the roads can cause your lights to become particularly dirty, so keep an eye out those – you may need to clean them after every journey.
• Be aware of using your fog lights at the right time – using them when not necessary may dazzle your brake lights, hindering yours and other road users safety.

Driving in snow and ice
• Being extra cautious and vigilant are essential when driving in difficult conditions – stopping distances are 10 times longer in snow and ice, so keep plenty of distance away from the car in front.
• Pull away in second gear, it will help to avoid wheel-spin.
• When driving uphill avoid having to stop midway, wait until it’s clear of other cars as building momentum can be difficult, possibly causing your cars to roll back, due to lack of grip.
• Driving downhill – reduce your speed as you approach the hill and try to avoid using the brakes. Leave as much space as possible between you and the car in front.
• Automatic transmission – selecting ‘Drive’ during normal driving conditions such as motorways is the safest option, as the engine will do the work. However, in slippery conditions it’s best to select ‘2’, this limits gear changes making you less reliant on the brakes.

For more information and advice on driving in winter conditions, take a look at the following websites.

http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/seasonal/winter_motoring.html
http://www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/winter-driving/

Many garages also offer Winter car checks which can help in avoiding some of the most common winter car troubles.