Winter

To chill or not to chill: when to use a car’s air-conditioning in the winter

Driving in winter with air conditioning

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

Half a million breakdowns driving home for Xmas – but you can avoid it

Driving home for Xmas

This is what the Christmas break will mean for more than half a million drivers

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.

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Expert advice: Driving through flood water

Driving through flood water

Driving too fast through a flood can cause mechanical damage to cars. Experts recommend no more than 3-4mph

With more heavy rain forecast, it’s vital drivers know how to deal with flooded roads. The waterlogged carriageway might look innocuous enough, the prospect of entering deep water quite an adventure. But it can be one of the most perilous – and expensive – things drivers do. So if you encounter a stretch of flooded road, the first thing to do is attempt to avoid it. If that’s impossible, here’s what you need to know.

How deep is the water?

Never consider driving through flood water unless you know how deep the water is. Once you’re committed it’s impossible to do a three-point turn if you discover part way along that the water is deeper than you thought. Discretion really is the better part of valour here. Assuming there are other cars on the road, park out of the way and watch other drivers try it. See where the water comes up to on their cars and if there are any points where it’s deeper than you first thought.
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Why December is the best month for buying a car

Buying a car

Selling cars can be a thankless task in the middle of winter

It’s the end of the year and a brilliant time for buying a car. Whether you’re looking to buy new or used, it’s the period in the year when car dealers are under the most pressure to make sales. Which is great news for buyers. Here’s why, if you’re considering a car purchase, December is the best time to head down to the dealership.

Why is Christmas such a good time to buy a car?

Think about it. Buying a car is probably the last thing you want to do. You’ve got presents to buy, holiday to take, don’t forget forking out for the other half’s Christmas present, and then there’s paying to feed the 5000 on the big day itself. You’re not alone. Frequently at this time of year, the inside of a car dealership can feel like someone’s forgotten to unlock the door. If you go in willing to do business, any half-awake sales exec will snatch your hand off.
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Road safety week: upgrading a car’s headlamp bulbs

Stay safe this road safety week: upgrade your car's headlamp bulbs

Improve road safety and upgrade your car’s headlamp bulbs (Picture © Ford)


This year’s national Road Safety Week promotes the message that drivers should use their car less and live more. It’s a heartfelt and honest sentiment, but not necessarily entirely practical for those who rely on their car to commute, get the children to school or carry out their job. So what simple but proven things can drivers do to make them and our roads safer?

Upgrading a car’s headlamp bulbs is an ideal starting point at this time of year. For one, it’s an affordable improvement that won’t deplete the Christmas present fund. A pair of the best-performing halogen headlamp bulbs costs around £20 or less, and even the least mechanically minded motorists should be able to fit them.

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Expert advice: How to keep your car motoring with our winter checks

Winter checks

Hopefully we won’t see too much of this. But it’s good to be prepared…


To coincide with 2015’s Road Safety Week, it seems sensible for us to carry out some simple checks to ensure our cars are up to everything that winter weather can throw at it. Of course, at Green Flag we know from experience that there are some things no driver can predict. But there are plenty that we can. To help less experienced or less confident drivers be prepared for bad winter weather, I’ve compiled these six simple checks that take just couple of minutes to carry out and can minimise the chances of a car breaking down in harsh winter weather.

Check your tyres

Even if this winter is a relatively mild one, as it has been so far, it’s likely to be pretty Continue reading

Winter tyres or 4×4: What’s best for cold weather driving?

Winter tyres

Is four-wheel drive better than winter tyres in the snow? (Picture © BMW)

The clocks have gone back, it’s getting dark ever earlier, and the forecasters say it’s going to be a cold winter. It means the roads are wet and greasy, or even worse, could be slippery with ice or snow. And that means regular two-wheel drive cars like most of us own can struggle for grip. It’s little surprise that so many drivers consider swapping the family saloon for a four-wheel drive SUV at this time of the year.

However, there could be a simple, more affordable approach for drivers other than forking out for an SUV, or indeed any four-wheel drive car: fitting winter tyres to their current car. Here’s how drivers can keep moving this winter.
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Driving in snow: How to prepare and stay safe

Driving in snow

Snow can make for the most hazardous driving conditions (Picture © Renault)

Driving in snow presents car owners with one of their biggest challenges at the wheel. And with an arctic blast prompting forecasters to predict snow for the rest of the week, and some reports suggesting we’ve got a month of icy weather to look forward to, it’s time to be prepared for driving on slippery surfaces.

Research by tyre maker Goodyear showed that less than half of drivers, 48 per cent, ready their car for freezing conditions. Here are some simple steps to prepare for and then actually drive in snow.  Continue reading

Car hire costs: How they catch drivers out

Car hire costs

Hiring a car means freedom but watch the costs. (Picture © Europcar)

Car hire costs can more than double at this time of year thanks to extras tacked on at the rental desk, new research suggests. The study found the average £214 basic cost could be inflated to £379 by extras sold to unsuspecting drivers as they collect their cars.

The study by iCarhireinsurance.com looked at car hire costs for the half term week during February, comparing five mainstream rental companies (Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt) at seven European airports. Here are how car hire costs can be inflated and, importantly, tips for negotiating them down.  Continue reading

Driving in fog: all you need to know

Driving in fog

Fog can cause drivers big problems. (Picture © IAM)

Being on the road in the winter can mean driving in fog which is responsible for some of the most treacherous conditions car owners face. Hardly surprising that it’s believed a large number of crashes every year are caused by poor visibility. In 2013, 60 drivers were injured (35 of them hospitalised) when 130 vehicles were involved in a series of accidents in heavy fog on the Sheppey Crossing in Kent. Here’s all you need to know about driving in fog and the steps you can take to avoid something similar happening to you.  Continue reading