Highway stars shine at M-way service stations this weekend

Tomorrow and Sunday (November 15 and 16), Highways Agency traffic officers will be on hand at motorway service stations across England to advise on winter driving, planning journeys over Christmas and checking your car before driving long distances in adverse weather.

Snap, crackle, pop

We might have had a wet and soggy winter so far, but it only takes one cold snap for roads to freeze over and conditions to become hazardous for drivers. It’s bad enough your car breaking down when it’s hot and sunny, but freezing your proverbials off at the roadside when it happens in winter makes things a whole lot more painful.

It’s showtime…

The Highways Agency initiative is part of scheme called ‘Operation Showtime’. There’s no need for jazz hands though – this operation is all about making sure we, and our cars, are prepared for winter weather. I’d have gone for ‘snowtime’, but never mind. And there’s no circumstance I can think of that isn’t enhanced with a bit of jazz-handing.

Kit cars

Brian Hensby, the Highways Agency operations manager in charge of ‘Operation Showtime’ said: “We’d suggest drivers put together a winter emergency kit for their car – with crucial items like warm clothing, a torch, de-icer, ice scrapers, shovel and boots. “We also recommend checking your vehicle – is the tread depth on your tyres safe? Do your brakes work properly? Is your heating okay? “If you are considering a winter service for your vehicle, be sure to get it done at least a week before any long journeys – sadly, there are countless examples of vehicles establishing problems during the very first journey after a check-up.”
Winter Road

Be prepared

As well as making sure your car has been serviced, there are lots of basic checks you can perform to make sure your car is set for winter. As Hensby points out, checking your tyres is crucial – if they are worn, you’re much more likely to skid. The tread legally needs to be at least 1.6mm, but if you’re driving in winter it should ideally be more than 2mm. The 20 pence piece test is a doddle. Insert the coin into the tread and, if you can see the rim above the tread depth, your next journey should be to a tyre provider. And you might want to think about investing in winter tyres if you live in a rural area where roads aren’t regularly gritted. http://moneysupermarket-3.wistia.com/medias/kqadl89yku?embedType=seo&videoFoam=true&videoWidth=600

Assault on your battery

You should also check your oil level, hazard lights and anti-freeze, and think about when you last changed your battery, which takes a hammering in the winter because of the extra load from lights and heating. If it is over five years old, you might want to think about replacing it. Think about the type of oil you’re using as well – the thicker it is, the less effectively it will lubricate, so you’ll need to change it regularly and make sure the level is between the maximum and minimum marks on the dipstick. Don’t be shy about getting a garage to give your car a pre-winter health-check. It’ll cost you, but peace of mind rarely comes without a price tag.

Afore ye go…

Make sure you’re prepared for any winter weather that might hit while you’re on the road. If you’ve got a long journey scheduled, look at the weather forecast before leaving home and check the latest traffic information for delays. Use common sense and don’t travel in conditions that are hazardous. If you have to, delay your plans – it’s better to be inconvenienced than to put yourself and other passengers in any sort of danger.

Timing is everything

Hensby said: “It may be a case of leaving earlier, or leaving a little later, or simply planning the best places for rest stops along the way. “You can’t have too much information before you set off: and the more you know, the more likely you are to enjoy a smoother journey this winter.” You can contact the Highways Agency Information Line on 0300 123 5000 or visit its website for information about road incidents and conditions.

Big up for breakdown cover…

It’s a good idea to have comprehensive breakdown cover in place so that you have someone to call on to get you to safety – and so you can avoid hefty garage call-out costs.

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