Defrosting cars is something we all have to do at some point in the year. Although it sounds simple and should be relatively straightforward there are still some dos and don’ts. Here are my top tips to ensure you defrost your car and get going, even in the toughest conditions.
Mud, mud, glorious mud, goes the song, but it’s not something many drivers will be singing about if they end up stuck in the stuff.
Unfortunately, a combination of British weather and occasional parking venues at weddings, outdoor events and even farm shops mean it’s not just intrepid explorers who find their cars come a cropper and end up bogged down in mud. Everyday drivers do too.
So without further delay – especially for those who are, literally, stuck in the mud as they read this – here are some tips that may help get things moving again. Continue reading
Icy roads probably aren’t something we think about much. Yet for many of us driving on ice is a regular occurrence during the coldest months of the year. If you have to scrape the ice off your car in the morning, or even perhaps when you leave work in the late afternoon, there may be ice on the road. We explain how to figure out whether the road is likely to be icy and how to drive if it is.
How to spot icy roads
The best thing to do if there’s heavy snow is to avoid going out altogether. However, driving in snow can’t always be helped. If you do have to take to the road in snowy conditions there are some simple steps to ensure you arrive at your destination safely. And if for whatever reason you do get stuck, taking the precautions we recommend will at least help you to stay safe and comfortable.
How should you prepare for driving in snow?
You need to know which the driven wheels on your car are. Front-wheel drive is usually better than rear-wheel drive in snow; four-wheel drive offers the best solution. However, in snow, a heavy four-wheel drive SUV is still likely to struggle if it doesn’t have winter tyres on. When you head out in snow, the best advice is to prepare for the worst but hope for the best. Plan your route around main roads. These are the most likely to have been gritted and weight of traffic stands a good chance of melting all but the heaviest snow falls on carriageways.
How do you prepare your car for snow?
You need to have a car that is in the best possible shape to face up to the tough conditions. See how to conduct your own winter checks here. You don’t know if you’re going to get stuck and if you do, how long you’re going to be immobile for. Make sure you’ve got plenty of fuel: if you need to spend the night in the car, it’s good to have the option to run the engine every now and again to warm yourself up (ensure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow first). And make sure you’ve got a full reservoir of screen wash, diluted so that it won’t freeze in sub-zero temperatures.
What kit should you carry in the car?
Most importantly make sure you’ve got a mobile phone with plenty of battery life in it. You should also have a blanket or warm clothes, a bottle of water and some snacks in case you get stuck in the car. Depending on where and how far you’re driving, you should be carrying a warm coat and some sturdy walking boots.
As far as kit for the car goes, a reflective jacket will ensure you’re visible and hopefully make it safer if you have to dig your car out or work on it at the roadside. A shovel is a handy thing to have for digging a car out of the snow. If it’s really freezing, a de-icer spray will help clear hard ice that may have formed beneath the layer of snow on your windows. A tow rope is simple to carry and could be indispensable in an emergency. And jump leads could be useful if your battery dies or you have to help another driver with a flat battery.
Kit check list
- Mobile phone plus charger
- Blanket and warm clothes
- Water and snacks
- Sturdy boots and a warm coat
- Reflective jacket
- Tow rope
- Jump leads
- De-icer spray and scraper
What must you do before driving in snow?
Visibility is key. Clear snow off all the windows and lights. You should also clear snow off the bonnet as it’ll blow back at the windscreen when you drive. And brush snow off the roof. This could either fall over the windscreen and temporarily blind you when you brake, or fly off into the windscreen of the car behind if you accelerate hard. Ensure the windows inside are free from condensation before driving.
How do you set off on snow?
Whatever manoeuvre you’re trying in the snow, less is more. If you’re trying to pull away, ramping up the revs will simply cause the wheels to spin and the car to dig in deeper. Put the car in first, or if it’s got a big engine second, use a normal amount of revs and feed in the clutch gently, slipping it so that the driving wheels take their power slowly and progressively.
How do you slow down on snow?
Remember that even a small car like a Ford Fiesta weighs around a tonne. And the heavier something is, the more distance it takes to stop. If you’re driving on snow or an icy road, anticipation is the name of the game; the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) says it takes 30m to stop from 30mph in snow, compared to 12m in normal conditions. Look as far ahead as possible and if you think you’ll have to slow down, for another car or a corner, start applying the brakes very gently as you shift down through the gears.
What happens if you get into a skid?
If you go into a corner too quickly, your car might start to skid. If the car refuses to turn with the wheels (understeer), don’t brake or accelerate. Change down and wait for the front wheels to grip. If the rear swings round (oversteer), again don’t brake or accelerate but turn the steering wheel in the direction of the skid. This should prevent the car from spinning round. But ideally, you won’t be piling into a corner quickly enough for either of these things to happen. As I said before, when you’re driving in snow, less really is more, especially when it comes to safety.
There’s one good thing about the clocks going back: that extra hour in bed. But payback for most of us is that it also signals months of spending more time at the wheel when it’s either dusk or dark. Allied to colder, damper weather making conditions difficult it’s one of the most difficult times of year to be driving.
A study of seasonal patterns over eight years concluded that there were 10 per cent more collisions killing or injuring a pedestrian in the four weeks after the clocks go back compared to the four weeks before they change.
To help keep drivers safe, we’ve asked driver training experts IAM Roadsmart for added tips on driving in poor light conditions. The Institute of Advanced Motorists’ head of driving standards, Richard Gladman, said: “Per mile driven the risk of a crash is actually higher at night despite the quieter roads. Getting used to driving at night can take time so take it easy until the old skills come back and you can start to enjoy the new challenges.”
The current freezing but largely dry weather conditions pose a unique threat to motorists: black ice, a hazard that is all the more dangerous because it’s impossible to see. The first you know about black ice is usually when you lose control of the car. However, there are some steps you can take to be prepared. Peter Rodger from the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) said: “We all need to respect that the weather changes and make adjustments to deal with it. Being mentally prepared as well as having the right equipment is vital, so think about last year, any problems it caused you, and what you need to do to overcome them if they recur.” Here are our expert tips for coping with the threat of black ice.
No one wants to be stranded in winter, especially when we rely on our cars for visiting family and friends. Equally, we all want to spend time enjoying ourselves, rather than getting grimy carrying out car maintenance. That’s why drivers will like these simple DIY jobs that will keep cars in tip top condition in cold weather without taking hours to do. Continue reading
When we’re on the road, the firefly twinkle of Christmas lights and warm glow of a roaring fire is just something to look forward to when we get home. The rest of the time it’s mostly cold, damp and dark – in other words, the most difficult driving conditions of the year.
Sprinkle a fresh and fluffy layer of snow on the roads, add a touch of black ice for good measure, and it gets downright treacherous. While it’s a good idea to invest in tuition at an advanced driving course, not everyone has the time or money to spare. So these invaluable tips from Peter Rodger, a former chief examiner at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, should benefit all drivers this winter.
Once upon a time, air-conditioning in cars was the ultimate luxury, available only on the most expensive motors. Now it’s a standard feature in the most affordable cars on our roads: the small Dacia Sandero, Skoda Citigo and Vauxhall Viva city cars offer it. But drivers often think that it will be more economical and save on fuel if they don’t use it over winter, when the air rarely needs cooling. So the question is this: to chill or not to chill in winter?
Should you switch a car’s air-conditioning off in winter?
Air-conditioning expert Sam Sihra from Alpinair, in West London, has been servicing cars’ air-conditioning systems since 1972. In his view, switching off a car’s air-conditioning system for weeks on end when the weather is cold, and perhaps only running it occasionally, is a mistake.
Why should drivers use air-con in winter weather?
Air-conditioning is the best way to dehumidify, or dry, damp air. With it running, the inside of a car’s windows won’t mist up; switch it off and it could seem as though you’re driving in dense fog. Equally, using the air-conditioning is a great way of de-misting the car if it steams up when you first get in it on a cold day. Continue reading
Driving home for Xmas with the family is waning in popularity. But of the millions of car owners who do make the trip home for Christmas, 510,000 will be delayed on the way by a conked out car. According to Green Flag research, between December 24th and 29th, there will be a breakdown every six seconds.
Throughout December and January, Green Flag warns there will be 900,000 breakdowns. Despite that, only 23 per cent of drivers now carry a tool kit in their car. However, 41 per cent do have a first aid kit; 44 per cent will be carrying water and 74 per cent of British drivers will be armed with their trusty ice scraper.