It’s that time of year where the weather starts to get really bad. The magic of Christmas is long in the past, and the prospect of a blanket of fresh white snow fills us with dread. Travel chaos, being snowed in without supplies, or even worse - power cuts.
When the white stuff does come, you want to be certain that your car is ready to go, even if it’s just to take you back to the comfort of home from work. So what can you do to ensure that, when the time comes, your car is ready to battle this most difficult of winter elements? Here are our top tips.
One of the easiest ways to stay out of trouble in the snow is to avoid it completely. The media love a snowstorm and will hype up even the smallest chance of precipitation. But as we're all too familiar with, in many cases all we get is a single snowflake and its all a bit of an anti-climax. When snow really is on the way, then you will hear about it from a reputable source, like the MET Office.
So now is the time to plan your journeys carefully. Can you avoid that long trip on the motorway? Would you be able to work from home if requested? And do you have the supplies you need should you be stuck at home for a day or two? Careful planning will mean you can be snug and smug at home, watching the carnage on the roads with a cup of cocoa and the knowledge that you were well-prepared.
But, it’s often the case that snow catches you off guard, and you’ll come outside to find your car covered in a thick layer of snow. Nobody likes seeing those idiots on the road that still have snow piled high on their car. So you’ll want to give it a good clear off before you move on.
Have some gloves stored in the back of the car, to prevent your hands from freezing too much. De-icer spray and a scraper is vital for clearing the windscreen. Some modern cars come with fancy technology that will remove the ice from your windows. But if you aren’t so fortunate, then you’ll need to give them a good scrape.
Make sure you do your mirrors too. In the difficult climate and conditions, you’ll be relying on them much more than useful.
Checking the air pressure on your tyres is easier than you might think. Most cars will have a plate inside the door that tells you the air pressure you need. All you have to do is match the usage of the car to the tyres your using. Many air pumps will allow you to program a pressure and do the hard work for you. Having your tyres at the right inflation will give you more grip on the road.
Tyre tread is also important. Your MOT should warn you if the car is going to need new tyres soon. Best to do this in the warmer months, where grip on the road is not as vital as it would be during an icy spell.
The fear of your car overheating in the summer might lead you to top up the car with water several times. But you might not be keeping the anti-freeze at a suitable level to prevent your car from locking up completely.
You will find most supermarkets will have anti-freeze and de-icer sprays on sale during the cold snaps, so you can take advantage then. Otherwise, you might end up with a long wait in your car as you wait for it to defrost.
If you do have to head out on the road, then you should be prepared for traffic jams, congestion and the increased possibility of a breakdown. The UK is never fully prepared for a snowstorm and there have been lots of tales of people having to abandon their cars because the road has become completely impassable.
If you are going to spend lots of time stationary in your car, then you will want to keep as warm as possible. Heavy blankets can help reduce some of the chill in the air and keep you insulated, especially if there are little ones in the back.
Some snacks will also help if you are trapped for a long time. A thermos of soup or hot coffee is ideal. If not, something that won’t go out of date quickly. Who knows how long it might spend in the back of your car?
On icy roads, it’s easy to lose grip and have your car start to spin and slide. So what should you do? The key thing is to drive into the skid. So if your car starts drifting to the right, steer to the right. That should help you to regain control.
What you must not do is to brake sharply. This will cause the wheels to lock, leaving you moving without any control of your car. Take your foot off the accelerator, gently press on the brake, and try to remain calm at all times. Once your car comes to a stop, check your surroundings to ensure that its safe to try and move off again.
The threat of a snowstorm often means that you will be considering just how capable your car is for the bad weather. Have you been putting off an upgrade? Modern cars have lots of advanced safety features that help to reduce the threat of a sudden snowfall. Combine that with greater reliability, better economy, and an overall fantastic safety record, then the snow can be a great excuse to change.
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