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How To Prepare Your Car For Winter

With Winter Fast Approaching and Temperatures Dropping, Road Conditions May Soon Deteriorate. Here, We Help You Prepare Your Car For Winter!

Dec 09, 2014

As winter approaches, it is important to prepare your car for the colder months. With some experts suggesting that this could be a particularly cold winter, making sure your car is in good condition and that you’re well prepared for the next few months is vital.

That’s why we have put together a comprehensive guide to winter driving. Keep reading to find out more about how to prepare your car for winter, tips for driving in ice and snow and how winter tyres and four-wheel drive cars can help.

Britain set for ‘worst winter in 100 years’

Forecasters are predicting that a weak jet stream could result in Britain’s coldest winter for 100 years.

The Daily Express has reported that calculations by Italian scientists Riccardo Valente and Professor Judah Cohen suggest that we are set for an Arctic freeze. The scientists measured the October Pattern Index (OPI) and the readings were similar from the UK’s last cold winter in 2009-10.

The readings suggest that a weak jet stream which usually holds the cold at bay over the North Pole will allow a blast of Arctic air to hit the UK, causing icy gales, blizzards and snowstorms.

The Daily Mirror has reported that the weak jet stream could even leave Britain vulnerable to a freezing blast of Arctic air similar to that of 1947, when average temperatures fell to -2.7C.

Above: Nottingham in the snow.

What you should keep in your car during winter

The winter weather can change quickly and so it is important that you are fully prepared when you set off on a car journey in icy and cold conditions.

It is advisable to pack an emergency winter kit in your car before setting off. Your kit should include:

A blanket, rug or sleeping bag

Keep several blankets in your car for winter especially if you are travelling with small children.

A shovel 

Having a shovel in the car allows you to dig a clear path which means you will be able get to the side of the road or look for help nearby.

Carpet or thick cardboard

You can place these under your wheels to help regain traction on ice or snow.

Salt, sand or cat litter

To help clear snow and ice.

Reflective jacket

To ensure that you can be seen in snowy or foggy conditions.

Ice scraper and de-icer

Even if your windscreen is completely clear when you set off on your journey, it can easily ice over after a number of hours out in the cold weather.

Torch and batteries 

Keep a torch in your glove box so that you can carry out simple tasks like changing a wheel. A torch is also useful for attracting the attention of other motorists.

Snow chains (if you live in a remote or rural area)

Battery jump leads

Your car’s battery can be put under pressure in the winter when you are running your heater and demister and you have your lights on. Jump leads will help you to jump start your car if your battery goes flat.

Bottled water

If you are stuck in your car then it’s important not to become dehydrated.

Snacks

It is advisable to have some chocolate, cereal or energy bars handy if you’re venturing out on a long drive

Extra screen wash

You may have to clean your windscreen more often in winter weather and so you should have extra screen wash to top up your reservoir.

Winter clothes

Make sure you have a winter coat, scarf, hat, gloves, waterproofs and sturdy boots.

Tips for driving in icy and snowy conditions

Driving in ice and snow can be more difficult and dangerous than driving at other times of year. So, it’s important that you drive more carefully and adjust your driving style to the conditions.

Make sure you’re always driving at the right speed. Driving too fast means that you can easily lose control but if you drive too slowly you can lose momentum when you need it. Brake and accelerate as smoothly as possible and start gently in second gear.

Your stopping distance increases significantly in snow and ice and so you need to leave more distance between you and vehicles in front. Make sure also that you don’t have to rely on sharp braking to stop as, on ice, this may not be possible – even if you have ABS.

Another good piece of advice from the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) is to plan your journey around busier roads as they are more likely to have been gritted. Using minor roads or country lanes could result in you using roads that haven’t been cleared or treated with salt or grit.

When driving in falling snow, use dipped headlights or fog lights to make yourself visible to others. However, as conditions improve, make sure your fog lights are only on if absolutely necessary otherwise they may dazzle other drivers

How winter tyres can help you

If you live in a rural area or you drive a lot in icy and snowy conditions then it can pay to have winter tyres fitted on your vehicle.

Winter tyres come with ‘sipes’ which provide hundreds of small extra ‘edges’ to grip the road as the tyre rotates. Not only do these edges help you in winter conditions but these sipes also enable localised movement of the rubber as the soft compound clings to the road.

Winter tyres are also designed to gather snow in the tread grooves and in the sipe slits. Snow clings to snow and so a covering of snow on the tyre actually aids grip. In addition, the extra deep tread of the tyres helps them to disperse surface water.

If you are considering winter tyres in the UK you should fit them before the bad weather sets in. Have them removed in spring when you are confident the last of the cold conditions have passed.

Which cars are better in winter conditions?

While there are lots of steps you can take to be safer on the road in winter there are certain makes and models of car that are better suited to ice and snow driving.

Four wheel drive cars are particularly handy in winter conditions as all the wheels of the car can be used for grip. Director of the Bridgestone Driving School Mark Cox says: "You are splitting the amount of grip between four wheels, giving the driver more margin for error."

The alternative to a four wheel drive car is to buy a four-wheel-drive SUV. These models have a raised suspension that means that they deal not only with slippery roads, but also tougher off-road conditions.

In a recent article, CarBuyer suggested ten excellent cars to buy for winter driving. Their top choice was the Nissan Qashqai and they said that ‘choosing four-wheel drive doesn’t convert the Qashqai into a rugged off-roader, but it does make it more capable in slippery winter conditions.’

CarBuyer also recommended the Mazda CX-5, Skoda Yeti and Skoda Octavia Estate. The Yeti ‘has a strong engine range and – when specified with four-wheel drive – is a surprisingly good off-roader’ while the four-wheel drive Octavia is ‘a spacious and practical family car that’s well built, competitively priced and enjoyable to drive’.

Above: A Mazda CX-5 In The Snow.

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