Top tips to ensure your car’s ready for winter

The cold weather makes for challenging driving conditions for even the most experienced motorists. As the snow starts to fall, we ask: is your car ready?

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Winter is here and many of us have woken up to a snowy world, just in time for Christmas.

But have you given any thought to your car? Winter is a hazardous season for even the most experienced drivers. Low visibility, icy roads and extreme conditions make this a challenging time for both motorists and their cars.

We’ve compiled a list of top tips for keeping safe on the road this winter. Of course, what’s most important is that drivers keep the weather conditions in mind at all times and only go at a speed that’s safe for the road and visibility.

Break out the cover

No matter how well you look after your car and how carefully you drive, you can’t guarantee you’ll never break down.

Breakdown cover is essential if you want to avoid being left stranded on the hard shoulder. Despite its importance, research by Lloyds TSB shows more than one in ten people don’t have car breakdown cover.

Don’t take the risk. You can get comprehensive breakdown cover for as little as £30 a year – a price well worth paying for the peace of mind that you will be rescued if your car does grind to a halt. 

With moneysupermarket.com, you can compare more than 50 car breakdown policies and find the right cover at the best price for you.

Stay safe on the hard shoulder

Only ever stop on the hard shoulder in a real emergency – toilet breaks or phone calls aren’t a good enough reason.

However, if you do have to stop then follow these rules to keep you and your family safe.

  • Pull over as far as possible
  • Put on your sidelights and your hazard flashers
  • Only exit the vehicle by the left-hand doors
  • Move all the passengers as far away from the road as possible
  • Keep children under careful control
  • Never try to cross the road even to reach an emergency phone

The cold weather can make it hard to leave the warmth of a car, especially if you have children with you, but it’s much safer to move away from the road.

When you do rejoin the traffic, use the hard shoulder to get up to speed – but be aware that there could be other stationary vehicles parked ahead.

Give your car a winter health check

It’s worth taking some time now to prepare your car for the winter weather. You want to be confident that it’s running as efficiently and safely as possible before the cold snap hits.

Some people want a winter service and your local garage probably offers one. However, there are still things you should check regularly whatever the weather – but especially during winter.

  • Monitor your oil, brake fluid and water levels
  • Check your tyres – the legal minimum tread is 1.6mm and good tyres are essential on icy roads
  • Check tyre pressure
  • Top up the anti-freeze in your radiator
  • Add anti-freeze to your windscreen washer fluid

Check your battery

Make sure your car battery is charged and up to the task. The winter puts a much greater strain on your battery than the summer, because you’ll be using your heater and lights much more.

Batteries last around five years, so if yours is older then you may want to consider buying a new one and avoiding the risk of breaking down.

Always be prepared

Boy Scouts may not drive themselves, but their motto stands. Drivers can take steps to make themselves safer on journeys and also to ensure they’re more comfortable if they do break down.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) suggests people place de-icing equipment, a first aid kit, a working torch, a blanket and a fire extinguisher in their car, in case of emergencies.

Much of that could be tucked away in the boot until the day it’s needed.

Drivers should also check the weather conditions before they leave the house so they understand the hazards they might face.

Know what to do whatever the weather

It’s worth planning how you’ll adapt your driving to harsher winter weather.

When there’s ice on the road, driving can be much more demanding. You’ll want to drive more slowly, especially when going round corners. When you do need to brake, reduce your speed smoothly and allow plenty of time.

Consider moving into a lower gear earlier than normal and allow your speed to fall, rather than slamming on the brakes and risking a skid.

Leave plenty of distance between yourself and the vehicle in front – RoSPA warns you might need to allow up to ten times the usual braking distance.

If there’s fog as well as then drop your speed even further.

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