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Tips for Driving your Car in the Winter

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 7 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Tips For Driving Your Car In The Winter

As Winter approaches we all wrap up warm, ready for the cold weather. Motorists should also be turning their mind to keeping their cars safe and prepared for the Winter months ahead.

Keep an Eye on Your Battery

Keeping your battery and charging system in good working order is always something you should keep on top of, but it's never more important than in the dark depths of winter. If you have a dodgy battery you can end up stranded, so make sure it's up to scratch. As a rule of thumb, batteries last around 5 years, so if you’re coming up to the five-year mark, you’ll want to be on the lookout for any signs of energy loss.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that because your battery was fine through Summer, it will automatically be fine for the Winter. Sadly, it doesn’t work like that. Batteries lose power as the temperature goes down and on top of that, the cold weather means that the oil won’t be as fluid as it was in the warmer Summer months. Winter driving also puts more of a strain on your battery due to the extra demands placed on heaters, windscreen wipers and lights in the darker hours of Winter. All of this means that your battery has to work harder in the cold to get the same results.

Maintain your Cooling System

A bottle of antifreeze shouldn't cost you too much, but if you don't buy any and your engine gets too cold and cracks, you'll be looking at a minimum of several hundred pounds in repair costs. Don't just turn up at Halfords and choose the cheapest anti-freeze you can lay your hands on either - you need to make sure that the antifreeze you choose will protect your car in the kind of temperatures that you can expect to have in the area that you live in. If, for example, you live in Scotland, you're likely to experience more snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures than those living in the South of England, so you would need a more effective anti-freeze to get the same results.

Normal antifreeze using Glycol needs changing a minimum of every two years. The majority of new cars use a long life type of antifreeze, and it shouldn't be mixed with any other type as it can damage the engine. If you're not sure, your owner's manual or your local dealership will be able to tell you what kind of anti-freeze your car takes. When topping up your engine you need to mix the antifreeze 50/50 with water. This will give you protection to temperatures of -34 degrees centigrade.

If, after adding the antifreeze, you notice that your car starts to overheat a little distance away from home, you've probably got a radiator freeze. Stop the car and let it thaw - unfortunately there's nothing else you can do except sit and wait it out, or call for help.

Bulbs and Lights

During the winter months, headlamps and indicators get dirty, and this can reduce their effectiveness. You will need to use your headlights more during the winter as the days are shorter, and visibility is reduced during daylight hours. You should also check the bulb that lights your number plate, as if the plate is unreadable you can be fined.

Visibility

When the sun is low during the Winter, it can cause a dazzling effect which can be dangerous and can seriously impair your vision. To try and keep the effects to a minimum you should always make sure that your windows, especially the windscreen, are clean and smear free.

Small scratches and chips can make the sun's dazzle worse, and in the winter, the cold can cause small chips to become cracks, and worse still, a shattered windscreen. There's a good financial incentive to keep your screen clean too, because if you are stopped by the police and they think that your windscreen is too dirty or cluttered, they can charge you for driving with obscured vision - and that could work out to be pretty expensive.

When starting your car in the cold, make sure you clear any snow or ice away from windows and from the roof - you don't want piled up snow to come flying onto the windscreen while you're driving and blocking your view.

Tyres

Keep your tyres in tip-top condition, checking their condition, the depth of the tread and the pressure. You should get your tyres checked if your tread is less than 3mm - although the legal limit is 1.6mm, tyres of this state won't be much use in wintry conditions and puts you at risk of having an accident. You should check your tyre pressure once a week and keep your tyres inflated to the manufacturer's recommendations.

In case of a tyre emergency, you should learn how to change the tyres on your car and always make sure to carry a spare wheel, a wheel brace and a suitable car jack. Then you can fix any damaged or punctured tyres quickly, without having to wait for roadside assistance.

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