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As the mercury starts dipping and the snowfall becomes a reality, it’s time to get your car winter-ready.
You might think that since you’ve been driving your car in winter all your life, you don’t need any tips. But trust us, a little refreshment never hurts. Plus, with new car models and technology, some of these tips might be new to you. So without further ado, let’s get started.
Get your car winter-ready
Getting your car ready for the winter weather is essential if you live in an area with cold, snowy winters. Preparing your car for winter will help ensure it runs smoothly all season long. Here are ten tips for driving your car in winter:
1. Get a winter car check
This is one of the most important things you can do to prepare your car for winter. Be sure to take it to a reputable mechanic and have them check the battery, brakes, antifreeze levels, lights, and tires.
- Invest in winter tires. Winter tires are designed to grip the road better in cold, snowy conditions. If you live in an area with harsh winters, it’s worth investing in winter tires.
- Always keep your gas tank at least half full. This will help prevent your gas lines from freezing up.
- Keep an emergency kit in your car. This should include items like a blanket, flares, a first-aid kit, and non-perishable food.
- Do not use cruise control when driving on icy roads.
- Take extra care when braking and accelerating on slippery roads. Use a light touch when applying the brakes and accelerator to avoid skidding or losing control of your car.
2. Check your tires
In winter, the roads can be icy and wet, so your tires must have enough tread to grip the road and keep you safe. As temperatures drop, it’s vital to ensure your tires are in good condition.
You can check your tire tread using a 20p coin – if you can see the coin’s outer band, your tread is shallow, and you should replace them. The legal minimum tread depth in the UK is 1.6mm, but we recommend changing your tires when they get to 3mm.
Under-inflated tires can affect your grip on the road and increase fuel consumption. If you’re unsure whether your tires need changing, most garages will be happy to check them. While you’re there, it’s also worth checking your tire pressure, as this can drop in cold weather.
3. Check your screen wash
You should check your screen wash regularly to ensure it’s topped up and will last the journey. In winter, you’ll need to use a screen wash with a lower freezing point than water so it doesn’t turn into ice when you spray it. You can buy this from supermarkets and most petrol stations.
4. Drive slowly and carefully
Driving in the winter can be challenging and even dangerous. The most important thing to do when driving in winter weather is to take your time and move slowly. You should also be extra careful on bridges and overpasses as they tend to ice over before the road does. It’s also a good idea to keep an emergency kit in your car if you get stranded.
5. Take your time
Slow down and give yourself extra time to get to your destination. It may take longer than usual due to winter weather conditions.
Leave earlier than usual so you can take your time. There’s no need to rush and risk an accident. Rushing also increases your chance of making mistakes, such as misjudging a turn or not allowing enough time to brake.
6. Be aware of black ice
During winter weather, it’s essential to be aware of black ice, which can form on roadways and make driving conditions very dangerous. Drive slowly and carefully when conditions are icy, and give yourself plenty of time to brake and stop.
7. Use your lights
Turn on your headlights and taillights so that other drivers can see you, especially if it’s raining or snowing. Many newer cars have daytime running lights that stay on all the time when the engine is running. If your vehicle doesn’t have daytime running lights, turn your headlights on as soon as it gets dark outside.
8. Use the correct gear
You must use the proper gear when driving your car in winter weather. The best way to do this is using a lower gear than you usually use when driving in dry conditions. This will help your tires maintain better traction on the road and prevent your car from slipping and sliding.
9. Use a lower gear when driving up a hill
In winter, using lower gear when driving up a hill will help to stop your car from slipping on the ice. It will also help to keep your car’s engine warm.
10. Use a higher gear when driving down a hill
You’ll want to use a lower gear when going downhill to help control your speed using engine braking instead of just pressing the brake pedal all the time. Going down a long, steep hill? It’s a good idea to shift down to second gear, so you don’t overwork your brakes.
11. Don’t brake suddenly
It is crucial to avoid sudden braking while driving on a winter road as it might result in skidding. Instead, slow your car gradually as you approach a turn or a stop sign. This will help you maintain control of your vehicle and avoid any accidents.
12. Slow down gradually
As you approach a stop sign or red light, begin to brake slowly to avoid skidding on icy roads. You should also leave extra space between you and the car in front of you so that you have enough time to brake if necessary.
13. Use your brakes gently
When you need to brake, use your brakes gently. Pressing too hard can cause your wheels to skid, and you could lose control of your car. Instead, press firmly and steadily on the brake pedal to slow down gradually.
14. Keep your distance
One of the best winter driving tips is to keep your distance from other vehicles. This will give you more time to brake if necessary and help you avoid potential accidents. Before driving, you should also clear all the snow and ice off your car.
Use the two-second rule.
The two-second rule is a good gauge for following distances in ideal conditions. Here’s how it works: when the car ahead of you passes a fixed object, count “one-one thousand, two-one thousand.” If you reach the thing before you finish saying those five words, you’re following too closely.
In other words, you should be at least two seconds behind the car in front of you to allow enough time to brake if needed. This rule gives you extra time to react if the driver ahead makes a sudden stop. Remember that the two-second rule is based on good road and weather conditions. You should give yourself more space on slippery roads or when visibility is reduced.
Increase your following distance in bad weather
When the weather’s bad, increasing the distance between you and the car in front is essential.
There are three main reasons for this:
- It takes longer to stop in wet or icy weather
- You need a bigger gap to allow you to maneuver if the car in front skids
- You can’t see as well in bad weather, so you need more time to react
As a rule of thumb, you should increase your following distance to at least double what it would typically be. So, if you usually follow another car at a distance of two seconds, in bad weather, you should aim for four seconds. Remember, it can take up to 10 times longer to stop on an icy road than on a dry one.
In wintery conditions, it’s also essential not to tailgate – following too closely behind another vehicle increases your chances of hitting them if they brake suddenly.
15. Don’t tailgate
following too closely behind another vehicle is always dangerous, but it can be deadly in winter weather. When roads are icy or snow-covered, it takes longer to stop, so give yourself (and the driver in front of you) some extra space. The general rule of thumb is to allow one car length for every 10 mph you’re traveling. So if you’re going 40 mph, you should leave four car lengths between you and the driver in front of you.
The best way to avoid an accident is to anticipate what other drivers might do. This becomes even more important in the winter when road conditions are more dangerous.
Precautions for Driving Your Car in Winter
Before you even think about driving in winter weather, you must ensure your car is up for the challenge. Cold temperatures can cause problems, from dead batteries to frozen fuel lines. So it’s vital to get your vehicle serviced and checked out before the first winter storm hits.
And even if your car is in tip-top shape, there are still a few things you should do before heading out on the roads. Here are ten winter driving tips to help you stay safe this season.
1. Get your car serviced: Before winter starts, take your vehicle in for a tune-up and oil change. This will help ensure that your engine is running correctly and that there’s enough antifreeze to protect against the cold. You should also have your battery checked and replaced if necessary.
2. Keep an emergency kit in your car: If you get stranded, it’s always a good idea to have an emergency kit in your trunk. This should include a flashlight, jumper cables, a blanket, food, water, and a first-aid kit.
3. Clear the snow and ice from your car: Before hitting the road, make sure all the snow and ice are cleared off your car—including the roof! Not only will this improve your visibility, but it will also help prevent ice from flying off your car and hitting another vehicle.
4. Drive slow: Winter weather can make even the most straightforward task challenging—including driving! So take your time, and don’t be afraid to adjust your speed based on the conditions. It’s always better to arrive late than not at all.
5. Use caution when braking: It takes longer to stop on slippery roads, so give yourself plenty of time to brake gradually. And if you do start to skid, don’t panic! Just steer in the direction of the skid until you regain control of the vehicle.
6. Don’t use cruise control: Cruise control may be convenient, but it’s not a good idea to use it in winter weather. If you hit a patch of ice or snow, cruise control can make it harder for you to regain control of the vehicle. So it’s best to stick with manual mode when driving in winter weather.
7 . Leave extra space between cars: You need more time and space to stop on slippery roads, so leave plenty of room between yourself and other vehicles—especially if they’re larger than yours (like trucks). If someone slams on their brakes unexpectedly, you’ll have enough time to react without rear-ending them!
8 . Be extra cautious on bridges and overpasses: These areas tend to freeze over before roads since they’re exposed to more direct sunlight during the day (and colder temperatures at night). So use extra caution when driving over them—and don’t be afraid to slow down or even pull over if necessary!
Remember that 4-wheel drive does NOT mean 4-wheel stop: Just because your car has 4-wheel drive doesn’t mean it will stop any better on icy roads it may make stopping more difficult since 4-wheel drive increases traction (and therefore speed). So use caution when braking regardless of what type of drivetrain your car has.
And finally…10 . Don’t drink and drive!: This one should go without saying but unfortunately, far too many people still do it yearly. If you must drink alcohol while celebrating this holiday season, please make sure someone else is doing the driving! Driving drunk is dangerous enough as it is—but add in some slippery conditions, and it becomes even more deadly.
Don’t rely on technology
You might think that you can handle any winter driving situation because your car has all-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes, and traction control. However, that’s not always the case. Here are ten tips for driving your car in winter to help you stay safe on the roads.
Use your mirrors
Technology is excellent, but you should never rely on it entirely – even in perfect conditions, things can go wrong. Use your mirrors to check what’s happening around you rather than just relying on what your various sensors tell you.
Use your indicators
It might seem common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to use their indicators when changing lanes or turning corners. Not only is it incredibly dangerous not to indicate, but it’s also against the law.
So, next time you’re getting behind the wheel, make sure you take the time to signal properly before making any maneuvers.
In case of skidding
One of the best tips for driving your car in winter is to avoid skidding. If you start to skid, take your foot off the accelerator and steer into the skid. You should also avoid braking suddenly, as this can cause your wheels to lock up and make it difficult to control your car.
1. Steer into the skid
If you find yourself skidding, the best thing you can do is steer into the skid. If your car skins to the right, you should turn your wheel to the right. This will help to correct the skid and get your car back under control.
2. Take your foot off the accelerator
This is the most important thing to do when you feel your car starting to skid. Ease your foot off the gas and let the car slow down gradually. Do not slam on the brakes, as this will only worsen the skid.
3. Steer in the direction you want to go
Once you have taken your foot off the accelerator, gently turn the steering wheel in the direction you wish the front of the car to go. Be careful not to oversteer, as this can cause you to lose control entirely.
4. Do not brake while turning
If you need to brake, do so before you start spinning. Applying the brakes while turning will only worsen the skid and could cause you to lose control of the car.
5. Drive slowly
This cannot be stressed enough. Driving too fast for the conditions is one of the leading causes of winter accidents, so always taking it easy when driving in winter weather is vital.
If you break down
Winter is a tough time to be on the road. The cold weather and shorter days can challenge even the simplest drive. But with a bit of preparation and some extra caution, you can make winter driving a breeze. Here are our top 10 tips for driving your car in winter.
Stay with your car
Staying with your car. If you become stranded, staying with your vehicle is essential. It will provide shelter from the elements and make it easier for rescuers to find you. Well-meaning strangers may try to convince you to leave your car in search of help, but this is rarely a good idea.
If you have a phone charger, plug it in so you can call for help if needed. Put on extra layers of clothing to stay warm, and if you have a blanket in the car, use it to cover yourself. Once you’ve taken these precautions, turn on your hazard lights and wait for assistance.
Put your hazard lights on
Hazard lights are an essential safety feature in any car. When you turn them on, they warn other drivers that you are stopped or slowing down. This is especially important in winter when visibility is often poor and treacherous road conditions.
In many states, it is illegal to drive without your hazard lights on in certain conditions, such as when you are driving in a funeral procession or broken down by the side of the road. So if you’re ever unsure whether or not you should be using your hazard lights, err on the side of caution and turn them on.
Call for help
If you’re in an accident or your car breaks down, call for help. If you have a cell phone, call 911 or the police. If you don’t have a cell phone, try to flag down a passing car. Once you’re in touch with someone who can help, stay in your car until help arrives.
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