With those long balmy British summer days we had in 2016 now fading into a distant memory, we find that the winter months are now starting to make their presence felt. With the shorter, sharper, and cooler days that can only get colder and frostier in the months to come. The UK car owner needs to be prepared for our seasonal winter conditions, to protect themselves whilst on the road and during the harsher winter months.
Drivers and car owners who adopt a laissez-faire attitude to winter driving and winter car care increase their risk not only for potential car accidents but also to atmospheric or environmental damage to their vehicles, such as rust and paint damage. We've identified a number of steps which car owners and drivers can take to protect themselves and their vehicles.
Depending on tyre size, this may be a slightly pricier option, but it is a very worthwhile investment, especially with winter on its way. With specially designed tread patterns and slightly different rubber composition, Winter tires are designed to optimise traction in slippery conditions such as in snow and heavy rain. The following YouTube clip perfectly outlines the benefits:
Anyone who has been caught out in a snowstorm or on an ungritted road knows the threat that skidding out or being unable to stop at a busy junction presents to their vehicles, their lives and that of both pedestrians and other road users.
While brand new winter tires can be expensive, it’ll be worth looking into good quality second-hand winter tires, as they would offer a similar level of grip for a more affordable price.
Driving on winter roads in the UK is a fairly dirty affair, with a mixture of sand, salt, water, snow and other contaminants coating the road being flung up by fellow road users, which steadily build up on bodywork and windscreens to impede a driver's vision. Having a topped up screenwash is a very simple and straight forward solution to address this problem and make sure that every driver has a clear line of sight. It is recommended to use a high-quality screen wash with as low a freezing temperature as can be purchased, for example, use a product such as Angelwax Clarity which can survive temperatures of up to minus 25 degrees Celsius, according the company website when used in 1:1 ratio.
It is not recommended to fill a vehicle's screen wash reservoir tank with plain or everyday household soapy water as they are likely to freeze when the temperature drops to freezing, rendering the screenwash function unusable.
When the temperatures start to drop during the night and early mornings, many people experience a layer of frost on their windscreens, depending on the temperature this can vary in thickness. This can sometimes cause unnecessary delays especially in the mornings when many people need to get to work, this can still be a problem even if a car is equipped with a heated windscreen, sometimes this results in people making poor decisions such as driving with a frozen windscreen like the guy in the video below.
There is actually a very straightforward and affordable solution to this problem, this is to put a cover over your windscreen, these can be brought from RAC for less than a fiver. If spending money is an issue then a DIY solution is to use a large piece of cardboard such as a piece of a Crisp box (ask your friendly neighbourhood newsagent) or TV box to cover the windscreen.
If that is not possible then the alternative chemical solution is to purchase a good quality de-icer spray from a supermarket or automotive parts retailer such as Motosave or Halfords.
Many cars nowadays come with air conditioning as standard and include a defogging button which directs air conditioned air upwards towards the windscreen to clear fogged up windscreens through vents in the dashboard. This saves drivers from having to keep a small cloth handy to regularly wipe the windscreen to clear all the developing condensation and removes both and added distraction as well as preventing a visual obstruction.
So it is all the more important for the drivers and car owners to make sure that their car air conditioners are working properly, for example, does the refrigerant gas need refilling or topping up.
Winter is harsh season for cars bodywork, with so much exposure to moisture and salt in the form of gritted roads present a perfect storm for rust to set in and start to eat away at exposed metalwork. With this in mind it is vitally important for drivers and car owners to be taking regular weekly or more trips to the local car wash, we'd recommend using an automatic machine car wash as it'll be easier on your wallet and also according to the test done by 5th gear shown in the youtube clip below, it's also easier on your car.
By regularly washing a car in winter, the salt and any other corrosive debris that the body work has picked up from the road is removed. Whilst washing a regularly may protect the bodywork from salt corrosion, it is still exposed to a large amount of moisture whether that be in the form of rain, snow or general moisture in the air. Therefore, it is advisable for car owners to invest in a very high-quality wax to become a barrier to prevent water from reaching the bodywork.
With so many wax products out on the market it can be difficult to choose which specific brand of wax to pick and which one would be best, so making our lives easier the well know UK motoring publication Auto Express conducted a group text to find the best car wax of 2016, they awarded their number one position to the Japanese wax product called soft99 Fusso Coat.
No one wants to be "up the creek without a paddle" as the politer version of the classic saying goes, in the same way, no one wants to be stuck in a snowed-in car park without a shovel, it’s a simple tool that has proven very useful for many drivers and car owners in a tight spot. Cheap and easy to store in a car boot a folding snow shovel should be seen and a crucial piece of safety kit to have in a car.
During the winter months as the days become shorter and weather conditions more challenging, it is very important for car drivers and owners to make sure that all external lights are working correctly, this includes, front, brake, indicator, reversing, fog and number plate lights. Other than potentially attracting the attention of local traffic police, broken or inoperable lights also put the vehicle itself and other road users at risk, especially in foggy or low visibility road situations. See the video below on how to check your lights:
Sometimes due to age-related wear and tear headlight covers can become foggy or cloudy, this may reduce or dampen the strength of the light emitted by the car, there is a relatively inexpensive method of clearing up these cloudy headlight covers without the need to buy new covers, this is highlighted
Although there are many more 4x4's on the road nowadays, the majority of cars on UK roads are still two wheel drive, which means that when the white stuff starts to build up on the roads many of these cars are going to struggle because they simply won't have enough traction. Whilst many main roads are likely to be gritted by local councils, the side roads and residential estate streets may not see much of that gritting. This is especially true in the case of residential estates with narrow roads or regular double parking as gritter trucks find these areas difficult to reach.
What this often means is that many cars struggle to leave their driveways or residential estates, a solution which car owners should keep in their cars along with the snow shovels mentioned earlier are traction tracks/mats, these tracks sit on top of the snow or ice and present a surface that car tires can grip onto and drive forward. Although the vehicle may travel in baby steps, it is enough to go forward and escape from a sticky situation, which makes this tool worth keeping in the car boot.
Snow and ice can easily accumulate on cars which have been stationary for long periods of time, whilst many people would automatically clear their front windscreens before they set off driving, it is also important to clear large deposits of snow from other areas of the car as well, especially the roof.
As the car drives large chunks of snow can fall off the roof of a vehicle and potentially present a hazard to other drivers, coupled with that large deposits of snow from the roof can also slide onto the windscreen and potentially cause a hazard for the driver and disruption for other road users especially at junctions where breaking is often required.
Drivers and car owners should also endeavour to keep their car number plates clear of snow or ice build up, as obscured number plates may result in fines which could otherwise be easily avoided.
The general rule when driving in wintery conditions in is to drive carefully and cautiously, especially in the case of snowfall, or freezing temperatures that could present a black ice risk. Whilst most 2 wheel drive car drivers are likely to adhere to this rule, 4x4 drivers can sometimes let the confidence they get from better traction get the better of them. Although a 4x4 on summer road tires may perform better in very wintery road conditions than a normal 2 wheel drive car when it comes to getting the vehicle moving and avoiding getting stuck, it won't perform any better once it is moving on a low traction surface like black ice unless it is equipped with winter tires or snow chains. 4x4abc.com provides a much more detailed explanation as to exactly why that is the case on their site.
Yet the confidence or misperception about the abilities of 4x4 vehicles on snow by some drivers and owners can get occasionally them into trouble. The picture below is a perfect example, essentially the golden rule to keep yourself and your vehicle safe is to drive with care and at a suitably cautious speed.
During the winter months car batteries are likely to come under more stress than in other seasons, with the dropping temperatures, many drivers are likely to be switching on many of the heating features which would normally be dormant during the summer, like heated seats, heated windscreens and wing mirrors as well as the standard fan heaters and windscreen wipers. This increased battery load can cause car start up and recharge problems in cold temperatures.
According to the AA it may be worth replacing a car battery if it is more than 5 years old and starts causing start up or recharge problems, so if that is the case it may be worth taking trip to the local car garage before winter sets in or on the first sign of battery problems.
All in all winter is a tough month for motorists and their cars, adequate winter car care required for getting through the winter months in a safe and cost-effective way means that drivers need to prepare for the challenges posed by more volatile and dangerous road conditions, whilst also providing their motor vehicles with the extra TLC that cars need at this time in the year to avoid breakdowns or damage.
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