We’ve been lucky that winter this year has been fairly mild, but the recent heavy snowfall reminds us that it’s important to be prepared for particularly cold spells. During this time, breakdowns almost double in volume, and snow and black ice can turn the most familiar roads into a challenging obstacle course.
To help keep you – and your vehicle – safe, the Yes Lease team has put together information and advice in this two-part post. The first part of our guide is about safety precautions to take before you embark on a journey.
Things to Do Before Driving
Make sure your car is kept in road-worthy condition with our checklist of, well, things to check before you hit the road!
The most common cause of breakdowns in winter is battery failure. If your car battery is more than five years old, we recommend that you get it checked and, if necessary, replace it to avoid your car breaking down.
When did you last check your coolant level? Top up if required, and with the right type of antifreeze. The engine cooling system should be filled with a 50/50 mixture of distilled water and coolant to prevent both freezing and boiling.
A good quality screenwash will reduce the chances of your screen freezing over. Prepare the correct concentration of screenwash in advance. This varies depending on the weather and driving conditions. In extreme cold, screenwash concentrate can be used without diluting with water, which helps to keep it from freezing in the nozzles and on the windscreen.
Never ever use antifreeze, which will damage your paintwork, or washing up liquid, which creates too much foam.
The low winter sun can often dazzle drivers. Reduce the glare by ensuring that your windscreen is clean, both inside and out. Don’t forget to check your wiper blades and replace them if they are worn out.
Visibility can be reduced during poor weather. Check your car lights regularly, and ensure that you can see and be seen by other drivers. It’s a good idea to keep spare bulbs, just in case.
It’s easy to take your tyres for granted, but it’s crucial that they are kept in good condition for winter driving. Check that your tyres have at least 3mm of tread, and run pressure checks every fortnight.
We would also recommend winter tyres for improved safety – they’re not just for extreme weather (e.g. snow and ice) because they actually perform better than all-season and summer tyres when the temperature dips below 7 degrees Celsius.
Locks & door seals
No one likes trying to pry open a car door that’s frozen shut when it’s numbingly cold outside. Prevent vehicle doors from freezing shut by applying a thin coat of polish or Vaseline on rubber door seals. As for the locks, try adding a bit of water dispersant to stop them freezing.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to overlook. Before you set off, check that you have enough fuel in your tank, just in case you get stuck in bad traffic.
Winter emergency kit
Put together an emergency kit and keep it in your car. With the unpredictable British weather, you never know when it might come in handy. Below are some items to put in the kit:
- Ice scraper and de-icer
- Torch (with batteries)
- Sleeping bag
- Warm clothing
- First aid kit
Stay tuned for the second part of our series on safe winter driving.