It's easy to become a little seasonally “down” as the winter draws in – colder, damper weather and getting darker earlier. That's before we get to what a strange year 2020 has and continues to be.
On the bright side, however, the onset of winter doesn't need to mean putting the car away until spring and spending the next few months staring disconsolately at the garage and, whilst we all need to remain socially aware and follow the rules relating to COVID, we can still get out and enjoy our cars in the winter sunshine.
It might be optimistic to mention sunshine but there are fewer greater motoring pleasures than an early morning drive when it's cold. Engines generally prefer colder air and watching the sun rise across frosty fields as you drive down your favourite stretch of road is one of life's great pleasures.
If you're planning a trip, then we've put together a brief guide to help you stay safe this winter with a few helpful tips and suggestions.
Firstly, your tyres. They're your only point of contact with the road and whilst you should always ensure that they are in good condition, a little more attention should be paid during the winter as surface adhesion levels reduce.
Checking tyre condition is a relatively simple task – look for any nicks or cuts or embedded debris such as screws or nails. Invest in a tread depth gauge to make sure that your tyres have sufficient tread to meet the legal requirement.
It's National Tyre Safety month and if you follow this link https://www.tyresafe.org/campaigns/tyre-safety-month/ you can find out more about how to monitor your tyres and stay safe.
Next your lights. It's not only being able to see but to be seen and checking that your lights all work is another simple job. Replace any that are faulty and it's also worth keeping a spare bulb kit in the car in case of failure.
Checking fluids should be a part of your regular maintenance but as the weather gets colder, we'd suggest replacing your windscreen washer fluid with a winter specific type, designed to work at lower temperatures.
On the subject of your windscreen, check your wiper blades and replace if they are showing any sign of splits or if they are not sweeping cleanly.
And staying with your windows, clean them thoroughly inside using a proper automotive glass cleaner – they're more likely to fog up during colder, wetter weather.
If you're in any doubt as to your own capabilities, many garages provide a free or low-cost winter check service which will include all of the above points and more and it's certainly worth the peace of mind.
Once your car is checked over, think about what to keep in the car. We aren't suggesting equipping it ready for a polar trek or an assault on the Himalayas but even the most mundane trip could turn into something of an adventure, particularly if we see a few flakes of snow – and we make little apology here for excluding our friends in Scotland from this statement as they simply cope with icy conditions better.
We'd recommend the following items be kept in the car.
- Warm, waterproof coat
- Thick socks
- Wellington boots or similar sturdy and waterproof footwear
- Torch and spare batteries
- Bottled water and non-perishable food such as crisps and energy bars
- Phone charger
All items which you'll have so you shouldn't need to raid the local outdoor pursuits shop. You could add a small snow shovel to this list and possibly even a small canister of snow and ice melting crystals as both may help if you become stuck.
Lastly, we'll look at actually driving during colder weather.
Plan your journey, allow extra time if the weather is bad and consider how vital the journey is – we've all become used to the last point massively more this year.
Allow more space – in cold, wet or icy conditions, it takes longer to slow your vehicle and the risk of skidding is increased. It's wise to consider purchasing winter tyres as whilst not legally required in the UK, they are proved to perform significantly better than conventional tyres.
James Tomlinson of Pirelli commented “When temperatures fall below 7°C, winter tyres reduce braking distance by 10% on wet surfaces and by 20% on snow compared with summer tyres.”
You can find out more here https://www.pirelli.com/tyres/en-gb/car/driving-and-tyre-tips/winter-driving
Be aware of other road users, particularly pedestrians and cyclists as slippery surfaces can cause either to slip or skid into your path.
Ensure that your vehicle glass is clear before you set off. Many motorists say that a pet peeve is fogged or iced over windows on cars being driven. Don't under any circumstances leave your vehicle unattended and running whilst the warm air clears glass – opportunistic thieves are watching for this during the winter.
Likewise, clear any snow from your entire vehicle as this and obscured glass are illegal and can result in a fine and potentially penalty points on your driving licence. It's also dangerous to other road users.
We hope that these hints and tips will help you enjoy your winter motoring; we hope to get to as many motoring events and meets as the weather and COVID allow (and we can't wait to write an article without reference to this) and hopefully we'll see some of you there too!