How to be prepared for driving in wintry conditions

So far, we have had a pretty mild autumn, and hopefully it will stay that way.

But if we have a repeat of the three-week “Beast from the East” – or worse –  we have some tips for you for handling a dose of the white stuff.

Check your car is in condition

Check the coolant level and, if needed top-up with a mixture of the correct type of antifreeze or get your garage to check the correct concentration for adequate cold temperature protection.

A battery more than five years old may struggle in the cold – get it checked and replaced if necessary to avoid the inconvenience of an unplanned failure, which is the most common cause of cold-weather breakdowns.

Keep at least a quarter of a tank in case of unexpected delay.

Tyres – should have at least 3mm of tread for winter motoring. Consider winter tyres for improved safety. Check pressures at least every fortnight.

Now is a good time to renew worn wiper blades and keep the windscreen clean inside and out to reduce dazzle from low sun.  Windscreens get very dirty when driving in slush so chances are you’ll be using the screen wash more than usual.  Make sure you have a a 50% mix of a good quality screen wash to reduce the chance of freezing in frosty weather.

You can stop doors freezing shut with a thin coat of polish or Vaseline on rubber door seals.  A squirt of water dispersant (WD-40) in locks will help stop them freezing.

Emergency cold weather kit

If you’re going to be driving in snow it’s as well to be prepared for delays caused by accidents or heavy snowfalls.

It’s a good idea to have a cold-weather kit in the boot not only to help if the car gets stuck but also to keep warm if you find you can’t go anywhere.

Old carpet, sand or salt and a shovel will help if you find yourself unable to get the car moving because the wheels have no traction and you can’t get out of a deep snow-filled rut.

In addition if you have to make a long journey you can’t postpone carry a blanket or sleeping bag, reflective jacket, sturdy boots and gloves, ice scraper and de-icer, torch and batteries, tow rope, battery jump leads, bottled water (or a flask of tea/coffee), snacks and extra screen wash.  If you live in a remote area you might want to include snow chains.

Driving in snow

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) recommends that you get your speed right when driving in snow – not so fast that you risk losing control, but not so slow that you risk losing momentum when you need it. Brake, steer and accelerate as smoothly as possible.

Start gently in second gear, avoiding high revs. Stay in a higher gear for better control.

Only use the brake if you cannot steer out of trouble. Drive so that you do not rely on your brakes to be able to stop!

Stopping distances increase considerably in snow and ice, so you need to adjust the distance at which you follow other vehicles accordingly.

Plan your journey around busier roads as they are more likely to have been gritted. Avoid using shortcuts on minor roads – they are less likely to be cleared or treated with salt, especially country lanes.

On the other hand, if you have appointments to keep and you really don’t like driving in snow, you could always leave it in the capable hands of STS.