Motoring and Property Editor
12:00 AM 25th November 2023
Winter Motoring – Is Your Car Ready?
With colder weather now upon us, it is undoubtedly time to give your car the once over. Many of my tips require no expertise, just a little time and if you are not sure, then most garages will help.
The law says that for cars and goods vehicles up to 3,500kg, tyres must have a tread of at least 1.6mm throughout a continuous band in the central three quarters of the tread and around the circumference of the tyre.
This is the minimum requirement and would suggest changing tyres much earlier than this. Four small contact patches of rubber are all that stands between you and disaster so best be prepared. All garages will be able to check the depth for you.
It is also a good time to inspect the tyres for any cracks or debris lodged in the tread.
If you are going to change your tyres, you may want to consider some all-season tyres such as Michelin CrossClimates or Continental AllSeasonContact. These offer increased grip on snowy and wet winter roads yet will still perform well in the summer.
I’ve been running a set of Bridgestone Weather Control A005s on our family car and these too work very well in all conditions.
Winter Emergency Kit
I always carry an assortment of things in my car just in case I get stuck or run into difficulty.
1. Windscreen de-icer and a scraper
2. Microfibre clothes for the windscreen
3. Warm coat, hat and gloves
4. Wellington boots
5. A blanket
6. Bottled water
7. Snack bars, chocolate and sweets
8. A small snow shovel
For those who live remotely and need to travel regularly on untreated roads, a set of winter tyres might be the answer. They are designed to do their best work when temperatures drop below 7 degrees centigrade. The higher silica content makes them more pliable at lower temperatures, thus giving greater grip. The downside is having to swap tyres in warmer weather, so some buy a cheap set of second-hand wheels to ease the process.
There is nothing worse than a smeary windscreen. If the rubber blade feels very soft and pliable, it is probably time to change them. Relatively inexpensive, new wiper blades will make a great difference. Do not forget the rear wiper, if fitted.
In order to stop the windscreen washer from freezing, you should increase the amount of additive in the mix. Available at all petrol stations, follow the instructions and top up regularly.
Checking your oil level should be part of your weekly routine. Many cars use no oil between services but run low on oil at your peril. When topping up be careful not to overfill as this can cause damage to the engine.
Driving Tips For Adverse Weather
The following tips should help you complete your journey safely in adverse weather conditions.
1. Always use dipped headlights when visibility is reduced. See and be seen!
2. Drive in a lower gear than normal in snow and ice. You will need to brake less, and this will help to avoid locking your wheels.
3. Avoid harsh acceleration and braking.
4. Increase the gap between you and the car in front. Snowy and icy conditions can increase braking distances by up to ten times.
5. Check travel news before you begin your journey.
6. Plan your route to avoid ungritted roads.
7. Look for areas of road where the low winter sun never reaches. These are the areas where black ice may form.
The coolant level in a modern car can usually be checked by looking in the opaque reservoir. Any sudden drop in level should be investigated. If you need to top up, make sure you use the correct antifreeze mix. If in doubt, ask your garage for help.
Car batteries have a hard life in the winter. A cold engine requires more power to start and in general running, more equipment is likely to be used such as lights, heater etc. Most winter breakdowns are the result of a flat battery, so if your car is struggling to start when the temperature drops, a new battery may be the answer.
A set of jump leads in the boot is also a good idea but do be careful how you use them. If in doubt, call a professional.
Taking out breakdown cover is highly recommended. Basic cover is designed to help if you are stranded away from home. You can extend this to include ‘home start’ and ‘recovery’ if your car cannot be fixed at the roadside.
You can arrange cover for a specific car, ideal if it is driven by different family members or you can have personal cover, which will come to your aid in any car you are driving or are indeed a passenger in.