Winter

Clocks going back: Tips for driving at dusk and after dark this autumn

Clocks going back driving at dusk

One minute the sun’s out, the next it’s nearly dark. The joys of driving in autumn and winter

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.”

Look out!

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Black ice: How to keep control on the hazard you can’t see

Black ice

Black ice looks like the road surface has been freshly painted. From a car it’s frequently invisible until it’s too late

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.

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Expert advice: Simple DIY jobs to keep your car working in winter weather

Simple DIY car jobs

Many garages offer to perform free winter checks on cars

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

Top 5 winter emergencies drivers face – and how to deal with them

 

Winter driving emergencies and how drivers can deal with them

Aquaplaning is the most common hazard drivers face in winter (Picture © Porsche)

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.

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Automatic car washes dying out as the hand car wash cleans up

Car wash

The number of mechanical car washes has halved over the last 15 years

A Saharan dust cloud is expected to hit the UK on Thursday. Brits on the east coast are being warned to expect warm weather and high pollution levels as unseasonable temperatures hit us. But if the dust does make it and your car is covered, how will you clean it off? According to a new report, the days of the mechanical car wash could be numbered.

The growing popularity of hand car washes has prompted the decline in so-called ‘rollover machines’. Now the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) claims the number of automated car washes has halved over the past 15 years. It says that since 2000, the mechanical car washes on UK garage forecourts have plunged from 9000 to 4200 this year.

Why are hand car washes becoming so popular?

A report from five years ago by researcher Datamonitor revealed that the UK spends £523m a year on car washes. But according to the PRA, mechanical car washes are increasingly standing idle because hand car Continue reading

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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