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Driving Safety Tips for Winter

Our definitive checklist of driving safety tips and car maintenance tips to prepare you for winter in the UK.

Jan 26, 2016

Safe winter driving

Slippery road surfaces are one of the biggest threats to driving safety in winter because they affect steering, stopping distance and the general handling of your car. The risks are especially great when there’s black ice around – the invisible type of ice caused by water freezing over. Fortunately, most main roads are covered with road salt to melt ice, but you should take precautions anyway – particularly on less-used roads. 
 
Before making a long journey…
- Watch the latest weather report and delay your journey if conditions are bad. If driving long distances is unavoidable, plan your route and let others know of your expected time of arrival. This will help with alerting help if you are involved in an accident.
- Ensure that your tyres are properly inflated. The recommended tread-depth in winter months is at least 3mm. Stopping time increases and handling becomes harder in icy conditions. Any less than 3mm, and you will find it harder to slow down and steer with accuracy due to reduced traction.
- Keep your fuel tank at least half full during winter, to avoid gas-line freezing. Freezing will block the flow of fuel and make the engine harder to start.
- If you are driving along rural roads, consider buying winter tyres. Winter tyres are manufacturer-made and must be fitted in sets of four. They are made for flexibility in low temperatures and have a tread pattern that improves traction on snow, ice and wet roads.
- Turn off all non-essential electrical loads before starting the engine. If the engine fails to start, leave a 30 second gap before trying again – to allow the battery to recover. 
 
winter tyre tread depth
 
On the road…
- Don’t use cruise control when the road surface is slippery or wet
- Avoid sharp steering and gradually slow down before taking a corner 
- Keep a large distance from the vehicle in front. Stopping distance on wet roads can double, whereas on icy roads it can increase by 10 times! 
 
driving stopping distance in winter
 
In snow…
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly to gain enough traction to avoid skidding. 
- Drive, manoeuver and brake slowly.
- Don’t accelerate hard uphill or stop uphill – if you can help it.  
- Use de-icer to defrost the outside of your car, but never boiling/hot water, as this can cause car windows to crack.
- Wear sunglasses to avoid ‘snow blindness’ caused by the sun reflecting off the snow. 
 

Winter car care tips

These winter car maintenance tips cover the most important aspects of your car to give 360⁰ protection from winter weather. To make sure your car is maintained to a professional standard, contact Sandicliffe Service department for manufacturer-approved winter servicing.
 
The engine…
- Check that the exhaust pipe of your car isn’t blocked by snow or ice. If it is, this could cause toxic fumes to circulate in the cabin. 
- Have the car’s oil changed regularly. Oil lubricates the engine and in winter, car oil can thicken, making engine components more likely to freeze.
- Ensure that you have enough engine coolant to keep engine oil at the right temperature. The radiator should have a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water to protect against freezing winter conditions. 
 
winter car engine coolant check
 
The exterior…
- Regularly clean the windscreen to avoid dazzling reflections and dirt build-up.
- Check your windscreen wipers and replace them if they aren’t working at best.
- Use a windscreen washing fluid that contains an anti-freezing component – but not engine antifreeze!
- Make sure all lights are working and aren’t obstructed by ice or dirt
 
The interior…
- Use your car’s air conditioning system to demist and reduce condensation inside the cabin.
- Have your car brake pads and rotors checked for wear/damage by an approved service technician.
- Check that your heater and defroster are working correctly. If not, have them replaced by a service technician. 
 

Winter care survival kit

Whether you’re making a daily drive to work or going on a long journey, it’s important to have the right kit in your car in case of breakdowns in the winter. This checklist of survival kit essentials should see you through any eventualities in cold or snowy conditions.

Short journeys…
- Always have a phone, blankets, gloves, hat, snacks, ice scraper and torch in your car in case of a breakdown.
 
Long journeys…
- Pack in addition: first aid kit, accident/breakdown kit, road atlas, mobile phone charger, jump-start cables, winter boots and a high-visibility vest. 
 
winter car survival kit
 
If you take all these checklists into consideration - from supplies in the car to driving techniques – you will be well-prepared for the rest of winter and any tricky weather conditions that come with it.

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