Cold weather isn’t just tough on drivers, it can play havoc with cars too. The heavy hail and snow showers that are hitting parts of the UK in mid-January 2018 are already causing chaos. Green Flag is warning that an astonishing 12 breakdowns every minute will take place this week.
Head of news for Green Flag Simon Henrick said: “After a variable but relatively mild winter period over Christmas, the changing weather conditions may take some drivers by surprise this week.
“By thoroughly checking their cars before leaving home, approaching the roads with caution and keeping plenty of distance between themselves and the vehicle in front, drivers will decrease the risk of encountering a problem while on the roads.” Read on to see how you can stay safe in the snow.
Health and safety
Green Flag is predicting more than 121,000 breakdowns in the snowy weather. These will fall into two basic categories: people whose cars conk out and drivers who get stuck. Before venturing out in the snow here are some basic checks you can make to your car.
Check pressures and inflate them to the levels recommended by the car maker. You will find this in the user manual or on a sticker, either inside the fuel flap or on one of the front door pillars.
Tyre tread depth is important too. Assuming you don’t have winter tyres (rubber that’s designed to perform at temperatures below 7 degrees C), the more tread your tyres have, the better. The legal minimum is 1.6mm; safety experts recommend changing tyres when tread has worn down to 3mm.
Oil is the lifeblood of your engine. Make sure your motor has enough of it so it doesn’t grind – literally – to a halt. Read how to check your oil here.
You might not think it in freezing weather, but coolant is vital too. Check under the bonnet that the level is between the minimum and maximum markers. And make sure your car has sufficient anti-freeze.
It’s vital to be able to see where you’re going. Check your windscreen washer bottle and top up with the correct concentration of washer fluid.
Kit to carry
It’s important to have something to clear your car’s windows with. Green Flag saw the number of call outs for cars with windscreen wiper motor faults increase by 227 per cent in December. This was almost exclusively caused by drivers trying to use their wipers to clear ice and snow from screens.
Also make sure you have a coat and some sturdy boots in case you get stuck. A mobile phone charger is important too – your phone may be the only way you can summon help. A reflective vest will help you stay safe at the side of the road. And a shovel could be handy for digging snow from around your car.
In December, Green Flag had rescues of cars that were ditched but still driveable increase by 119 per cent. This is a recurrent problem when the roads are snowy. Here are five ways to avoid it.
- Keep a three-second gap to the car in front. When that car passes a landmark, count slowly to three. If you pass the same landmark before you get to three, you’re too close. Slowing on icy roads can take three or four times longer than you might expect; you don’t want to hit another car or be involved in someone else’s accident
- Keeping your distance from the car in front will help you to keep your momentum up when driving through heavy snow
- If you feel your car starting to slide, don’t touch the brake. Try to steer in the direction you’re sliding to prevent the car spinning
- The trick to keeping control on a slippery surface is to use gentle driver inputs, whether that’s accelerating, steering or braking. The more sudden the action, the more likely your car is to break traction
- The vast majority of cars on the road have ABS anti-lock braking. This rapidly and automatically releases and reapplies the brakes to wheels when they start to slide. But frequently drivers don’t apply the brakes firmly enough. If you feel the brake pedal pulsing beneath your foot and hear chattering during heavy braking, that’s normal. You can keep applying the brake and if the surface isn’t too slippery, you should retain sufficient control to steer around obstacles