Winter Motoring Essentials - Planning and Preparation

One in five motorists perform no checks at all on their car in preparation for winter driving - whilst half of those that do check wait until the temperatures plunge - which could be too late.

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SAS survival expert, John 'Lofty' Wiseman

One in five motorists perform no checks at all on their car in preparation for winter driving - whilst half of those that do check wait until the temperatures plunge - which could be too late.

Because winter driving is particularly demanding on cars, it is vital that a thorough vehicle check is performed before the cold weather strikes in order to minimise drivers' chances of being stranded in particularly unpleasant conditions.

  • Tyres
    • Make sure your tyres are inflated correctly and that you have sufficient tread on your tyres to cope with wet and slippery conditions.
    • A new car tyre begins life with approximately 8mm of tread and the minimum legal limit is 1.6mm across the central of the tyre.
    • However, independent research shows that tyres with 3mm of tread have an average 25% better performance than those at 1.6mm (equivalent to an extra 8 metres stopping distance in wet conditions).
  • Battery - In winter the increased use of lights, blowers, wipers, heated seats and other electrical devices place additional demands on your car's battery and charging system. Charge your battery (particularly if you make frequent short journeys) and consider a battery check if it appears to be struggling to cope.
  • Fuel
    • Always keep your tank topped-up to make sure that you have more than sufficient fuel for your journey.
    • Allow for traffic delays, potential detours and the need to keep warm (see section on how to sleep in your car).
  • On the level
    • Make sure your car's oil and water are at the optimum levels and recheck them regularly.
    • Make sure that you also have sufficient antifreeze in your cooling system to protect the engine when temperatures drop. Anti-freeze is vehicle specific, so if topping-up make sure you are using the correct type for your car.
  • Light up - Ensure all front and rear lights are working - an estimated 2.6 million cars are being driven illegally on the roads with defective lights significantly increasing the risk of an accident. Also ensure that they are free from dirt and snow or you are risking a 100 fine and 3 points on your driving licence according to Article 229 of the Highway Code.
  • Visibility - Check that your screen wash reservoir is full of a good quality product rated to a low enough temperature (-5 may be fine for most of the year but consider replacing with -10 or -20 during the winter months). Also ensure that your wiper blades are in good condition and clear your screen properly.

Because almost half of motorists don't know how to perform these vital checks, Halfords Autocentres offer a FREE Winter Check at over 300 garages across the UK.

Survival Tip

In the military we call checking over the vehicle you are about to drive away 'first parade'. (Lofty)

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