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Winter driving; advice and tips

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January 6, 2010
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The world is at boiling point. In the grip of global warming, so it only seems right that the UK is plunged into another week of heavy snow, plummeting temperatures and ice. Many areas of the country haven’t seen sustained weather like this in years… and the Met Office warns of more to come!

So as long Scandinavia keeps blowing it’s wintery weather down, we will have to get use to it and that means getting use to the roads.

We should however understand that the country would grind to a halt with the onslaught of cold weather. My favourite excuse for our complete lack of competence was from a couple of years ago; “the wrong type of snow” fell which inferably led to “the wrong type of salt” being spread on our feeble road infrastructure. I had no idea there was more than one type of snow, or grit for that matter!

It’s not all doom and gloom; there are things we can do to look after ourselves on the treacherous roads. Below is a short list of some winter driving tips…

Get your car serviced
Having your vehicle checked over during winter is a good idea. If the cold weather affects you it will affect your vehicle and it is important any problems are pin pointed before major damage is caused… the last thing you want is to be stranded in the freezing cold weather waiting for the breakdown service.

Check your tyres
Check all your tyres for both tread depth and pressure. It is not only the snow that causes dangerous driving conditions; the roads can be icy and especially greasy in the winter from mud, water and the salt. Be wary.
Your tyres should be in good condition and the tread depth should be at least 3mm. The legal limit for minimum tread depth on your tyres is 1.6 millimetres, across the central 3/4 of the tread and around the complete circumference of the tyre. You should also check that all your tyres are the correct pressure in accordance to your vehicle’s requirements.

Check and if necessary, replace the anti-freeze in the radiator. It will take a few minutes and could save you hundreds of pounds should it freeze, crack or burst.

The mucky roads cause all kinds of chaos during winter. Windows become smeared and lights become caped in dirt. It is vital you keep your lights clean; it takes literally seconds to run a cloth over them before you set off on a journey.
Ensure your window washer fluid is topped up (washer fluid will usually have de-icer mixed in the solution).

Do not pour hot water over an iced windscreen as it may crack when the two temperatures meet. Pour lukewarm water and use de-icer or a scraper. The key is to be patient. If your windows are misted up on the inside blast the air con (if you have it!) on them for a couple of minutes, this should clear rapidly.

Always be prepared to travel during a cold snap. The things you use to un-freeze your car in the morning should come with you… leaving the de-icer in the drive way will not help you at 5pm when you discover your car is frozen solid again.
It sounds like a cliché, but if heavy snow if forecast keep supplies in your car. It may seem stupid at first but a snack, a big coat and a map may well come in handy should you get stuck in traffic or diverted.

If you DO break down, ensure you and your passengers are in a safe place. Do not leave your bonnet open as you wait for the recovery vehicle, an engine bay full of snow and rain is not ideal.

Driving technique
In extreme weather your driving style HAS to change, contrary to popular belief. Stopping distances should be ten times greater in snow or ice, apply the brakes gently with no sudden movements.

Pulling away from snowy or icy junctions may be easier in 2nd gear, lower revs will help prevent wheel spinning.

If your car does begin to slide, do not panic; ease off the clutch and steer into the direction the car is skidding. Keep your foot off the brake as this could lock them further.

A great deal of patience and common sense is vital during bad weather. You would be amazed how many people end up with hefty insurance claims because they assumed the road surface was fine.

Take care and drive safe; I’m off for a McFlurry… just need to remember where I left the car…

On second thoughts, maybe I should take this suitably modified Scooby…

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