Get a grip this winter

19 October, 2010

We may go on about our famous British weather but the one thing it doesn’t give us is treacherous driving conditions, just a lot of puddles.  That was until late last year when the snow fell and kept falling and the country quickly ground to a halt.

So, strictly speaking, as winter is well and truly here, all UK drivers  are probably more than prepared to handle whatever the weather throws at us over the next few months.

Just in case the disappointment at England’s performance in the World Cup, or the excitement of winning against Australia at Twickenham in November has affected your short term memory, here are some tips to help you prepare for unexpected and dangerous driving conditions:

Cover the bases

  • If the weather forecast is looking bad or just uncertain and you need to drive, then you must make sure you take some basic action before setting off.   First, fill up with petrol; if you get stuck you can keep the engine running and stay warm until help arrives or conditions become less severe.
  • Having the right tyre pressure is vital whatever the weather, but in wintry conditions check the tread: the legal minimum is 1.6mm, but it’s better to have a deeper tread of at least 3mm, as it will be more effective at clearing water.
  • If you haven’t put antifreeze in your car since the summer, now’s the time to start.

See and be seen

  • The combination of icy conditions and grit on the roads can mean you’ll use more screen wash than normal, so keep it topped up and put a spare bottle in the boot.
  • It would be sensible to have a can of de-icer and a plastic scraper in there too.  A second can of de-icer at home will help you deal with frozen locks quickly first thing in the morning.
  • Windscreen wipers should also be checked now because worn ones won’t be effective against sleet and snow and you can’t drive blind.
  • If it gets misty outside, keep dipped headlights on, if it gets foggy, then turn your fog lights on; you’ll be more visible and you’ll see more too.

Put the right equipment in the boot

  • Take an old sleeping bag (which makes a great duvet), a hoodie and a pair of gloves; shove them in a dustbin liner, put the lot in the boot and forget about it. You may never need to use them over the winter period, but you’ve got the kit just in case.
  • You probably already have a torch in the glove compartment, right?  If you haven’t, put one in now.
  • Should the weather forecast indicate that snow is a possibility, it makes sense to keep a shovel and a couple of pieces of cardboard or old carpet in the boot too; it could help you or another motorist out of a tricky situation.

If you do set off on a journey, run out of petrol, a snow storm starts and you’ve forgotten to put warm clothing in the boot, at least you’ll be able to call for help, because you’ve kept your mobile phone fully charged.  Yes?

Winter driving conditions are never pleasant, but we can make ourselves safer by getting a grip.  And there’s no time like the present.

Here are some useful links: