Winter motoring - advice and tips

Caroline Cassidy

It always seems to take us Brits by surprise, the winter weather. But let last year's snow and ice be a warning to you - this time, it may well pay to prepare properly for driving during the cold winter months.

Car in the snow
Car in the snow

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So before the cold really sets in, your car will need to be in tip-top condition and making just a few changes can mean the difference between getting home from work and sitting by the roadside waiting for the recovery vehicle.

The average car battery rarely lasts longer than five years and in the winter, when many are making rush-hour drips in the darkness, the heating, lights and windscreen wipers can put extra pressure on the battery.

To avoid the dreaded dead battery it's important to avoid running electrics that aren't strictly necessary. Turn off the heated rear window once it has done its job and consider whether you really need the heater on full blast for the entire journey.

Antifreeze is an essential - it costs a few pounds and it could save you hundreds in repairs.

If you don't drive on a daily basis, it's also worth starting the engine up and allowing it to run for a few minutes each day - this gives the battery time to recharge but ensure that you don't have non-essentials like lights or wipers on.

Also, if it looks like snow and ice, check your tyre condition. The AA recommend at least 3mm of tread for winter motoring and any less than 2mm could put you in danger.

Obviously driving in winter involves danger too. When we're in a hurry, it is often tempting to get started before the windows, side as well as front and rear, are clear of condensation or ice - but the winter weather usually brings its own visibility problems without you adding to them with impatience.

Leave enough time before your journey to properly clear the view with a scraper or de-icer.

Additives to the windscreen washer fluid can help to reduce the chance of freezing on those frosty mornings and if there has been snow overnight, be sure to clear it from the roof as well as the windscreen as it can fall and obscure your view.

It stands to reason, but if you are on the roads in bad weather, leave plenty of room between you and the car in front. In snowy or icy conditions, the brakes should be applied gently and a constant speed and gentle manoeuvres are the key to staying safe.

And if you are concerned about driving on the winter roads, there is always the option of an advanced driving course. These are available at all good driving schools and an instructor can talk you through the dos and don'ts of driving in the snow and ice.

Above all, take care and stay safe.