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Winter driving – Coping with snow, ice and cold

With winter just around the corner, you’ve probably noticed the sudden drop in temperature and even the occasional frost. Unfortunately, it’s only going to get a lot worse and like every winter we’re faced with in Britain, driving during this period can be difficult and often dangerous. So don’t put yourself and other motorists at risk this winter, follow these steps to ensure both you and your vehicle are prepared this winter.

Antifreeze

Be aware of a constant squealing noise when you start the engine, this may be a sign of a frozen water pump – 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.

• Antifreeze costs just a few pounds, but a frozen and cracked engine block will cost hundreds of pounds to repair.

• Don’t mix different types together, they all have varying chemical structures, which will affect their performance.

• If you’re using a Glycol-based antifreeze this should be changed at least every two years.

Vision

Make sure that all bulbs are working and lenses are clean. Grit and dirt on the roads can cause your lights to become particularly dirty, so keep an eye out on those – you may need to clean them after every journey. Be sure to use your fog lights at right time – using them when not necessary may dazzle your brake lights, hindering yours and other road users safety.

Before you leave

It’s worth getting up at least 10-minutes early to give yourself time to prepare your car, but if leaving unattended be aware of opportunists, there’s often an influx of car thefts during the winter months, when owners leave their cars running.

Make sure the window screen is completely clear, driving off wincing through a tiny peephole may work whilst pulling off the drive, but it can be dangerous when approaching junctions and corners. 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.

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 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.