As we approach the holiday season chances are we’ll all be doing a bit of driving. With Decembers weather being so changeable and unpredictable from the extreme snow and cold of 2010 to the record rebreaking amounts of rain and flooding in 2015. Below we’ve put together some useful driving tips to keep you moving, or safe whilst not moving.

These winter driving tips aren't just for the holiday season they’ll serve you well until spring,

1. First off check your car over and make sure it's ready for the trip.

The leading breakdown organisations use two acronyms, both very similar, choose and remember the one which is most rememberable for you.

 

FLOWER

FORCES

Fuel

Fuel

Lights

Oil

Oil

Rubber

Water

Coolant

Electrics

Electrics

Rubber

Screen Wash

 

 

 

 

Fuel

Always make sure you have plenty of fuel in your tank for the journey, not just the amount to get to your destination but a little reserve in case you need to run the heaters in stationary traffic to keep warm due to adverse weather.

Lights

During winter months your lights get dirtier with the increased amount of salt and grime on the roads, its advisable to give them all a clean weekly whilst you’re completing your weekly checks, when your cleaning you can check they’re working too.

It's also advisable to take 5 mins and make sure you know where all the controls are for the lights we don't tend to use that much like fog lights and main beam. Your handbook with have a section on instruments and controls.

Oil

Cars consume a little bit of oil in general use with the acceptable rule of thumb being up to  1 ltr for 1000 miles, check your oil regularly making sure it's somewhere in between the min and max marks on your dipstick. Top up if required and don't wait for the oil light to flash the damage of having low oil could already be done when that flashes.

Water / Coolant

Another important fluid in your engine, whether it's known as water / coolant / antifreeze this is used to keep the engine cool in the summer months and stopping the engine freezing in the colder months.  This also aids heat transfer to keep the engine cool and heaters warm.

Coolant is a mixture of Water and Antifreeze, coming in two forms concentrate and ready mixed. If you’re using concentrate make sure you read the instructions and mix to the appropriate level. Ready-mixed is generally produced to protect down to -34c but always read the instructions on the bottle.

Screenwash needs to be stronger in the winter months to remove the road salt and adequately clean the windows, this stronger mixture will also prevent it freezing.

Electrics

As we mentioned in the lights section, check all your lights are working it's good to both see and been seen. Cold weather puts extra strain on your battery if your battery is over 4 years old its worth getting it replaced, most batteries last 4 years. But it's worth having it checked regardless of age to make sure it's in good condition.

Whilst your battery is being checked ask your local garage to check the charging system to make sure the alternator is topping the battery up as required.  In the winter months, we use more electrics in the car, lights, heaters and rear demisters sap power, an underperforming alternator could leave you with a flat battery in the morning. 

Rubber

Tyres. Make sure your tyres are correctly inflated, your handbook will tell you the correct pressure. The legal minimum tread level is 1.6mm, but it's advisable in winter to have at least 3 mm of tread. Whilst you’re checking the pressure and tread depth give the tyre a general check over to for tears, bulges or splits.  Don't forget to check the spare if fitted or the condition of the emergency inflation kit, these do carry used by dates.

Check the rubber on your wiper blades for splits or fraying, and replace as necessary. Give them a clean when you clean your lights to remove any dirt or salt.

 

2. Long Distance Winter Driving  - Pack for the worst case scenario

  • A shovel

  • Working torch

  • Mobile telephone  (with in-car charger/power bank)

  • Blankets or Sleeping bag

  • Gloves

  • Hat

  • Warm waterproof jacket.

  • Food / Drink / Water

  • Medication if needed

  • Sturdy boots or Wellington boots

  • First Aid Kit

  • Extra pre-mixed screen wash

  • Warning triangle

  • Jump leads

If the forecast is for more extreme weather and you have to travel, pack a flask with a hot drink and some extra non-perishable food.

3. Consider fitting winter tyres

Between the months of October and April, the temperature drops to an average of +7c, and the perfect time to fit and make use of winter tyres. Winter tyres are made with a compound which is stay soft in lower temperature ranges compared to summer and all season tyres compound which stiffens up.

A softer more compliant compound allows the tyre to retain its grip, this grip comes from its sculptured tread pattern with more grooves this helps the snow stick to them, which in turn improves grip whilst cornering and braking..

The initial outlay for winter tyres and swapping them with summer tyres every 6 months can seem a little expensive, the other option is to explore a second set of wheels with winter tyres fitted, in Northern European countries owners have a set of summer alloys with summer tyres and winter tyres fitted to steel wheels. Just remember if you swap your summer tyres for winter tyres your summer tyres will last twice as long. So in reality it’s not much extra cost.

Steel wheels are cheaper than the equivalent alloys to produce making the purchase price lower and withstand the harsh winter conditions better. This leaves the alloys sparkling for summer, as mentioned running 2 sets of tyres means both sets will last longer after the initial costs are accounted for.

4. Snow Socks

Snow socks are a quick and easy alternative to snow chains, where snow chains work extremely well in deep fresh dry alpine snow, they have limited use in slushy wet snow the UK receives. Snow Socks have the added benefit of working in the icy slush the following day after a decent dumping of our UK Snow.

The fabric wheel covers slip over the wheel, and give instant traction by collecting the snow on to fabric and creating a stickier - gripper surface to aid in traction, snow socks are designed to be used up to 30mph and only on snow and icy covered roads, more of a get you out of trouble than a permanent solution..

The advantages over snow chains is snow socks can be driven on clear roads for very short periods, where as snow chains need to be removed as soon as the road is clear, fitment is considerably easier and less bulky in the boot.

Remember FLOWER or FORCES and keep safe this winter.