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The Roads In Winter

By raccars Published

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Summer is officially over and as autumn marches in, it brings with it lower temperatures, rain, wind and mists, followed by ice and possibly sleet, hail and even snow. It's a pretty grim picture which can make driving difficult and expose your car's mechanical weaknesses. However, a little preparation before the cold sets in can help to keep you safely on the road until Spring.

Essentially, you'll be performing the same regular maintenance tasks you should already be carrying out on a regular basis, with a little extra attention necessary in some areas. If this isn't something you feel you can do or don't have time, a number of main dealers and car parts shops perform a winter check service for a few pounds, or sometimes even for free.

Battery

Car batteries do not like the cold and the damp. If your battery is already showing signs of fatigue, the winter will certainly hasten its demise. Don't wait for it to fail to start before you consider replacing it. If you aren't sure what condition your battery is in, you can ask a mechanic or car spares shop to test it for you, and if you need a new one, they'll probably fit it for you.

Expect to pay from about £60 for a battery, fitted, but prices can go up to over £100 for cars with stop start ignition.

If you are reading this too late and your car is sitting outside with a dead battery, use jump leads to get started so you can at least go out to buy a new battery.

Antifreeze

Antifreeze prevents the water in your car's cooling system from freezing when the temperature drops. You can buy antifreeze testers to ensure yours is capable of withstanding the winter. The process is simple - with a cold engine, remove the cap from the coolant reservoir. Dip the tester tube into the coolant and use the rubber ball system to extract some of the liquid. There is a scale inside the tester tube, which will give you the point at which the anti-freeze will operate. Return the antifreeze sample to the reservoir and screw the cap on. If you aren't happy with the results from the tester, arrange for your anti-freeze to be replaced.

Screen wash

Make sure you use a freeze resistant screen wash for winter, not only to clean your windscreen more efficiently but also because water alone can freeze.

Winter tyres

If you live in an area with a poor road surface and drive a lot, consider investing in a set of winter tyres. They offer extra grip at temperatures below 7C and on ice and snow.

In car emergency kit

Always keep an emergency kit in the car - you never know when you might get stranded. A kit could contain a mobile phone with car charger, a couple of hazard warning triangles, a high vis jacket, a first aid kit, de-icer and a window scraper, a shovel, a tow rope, a pair of rubber boots, a torch, spare clothes and something to eat and drink. Make sure you keep some decent rubber mats in your car, not only to protect the carpet from the mud and rain but also to use as traction mats under the wheels, if you get stuck.

Driving

When driving in adverse weather conditions, moderate your speed accordingly. Pull away, brake and steer gently to avoid skidding. If you are trying and failing to pull away on a patch of snow, change from first to second gear and use the clutch to rock the car away gently. Use engine braking to slow you down gently, rather than using the brake pedal aggressively. Pay extra attention to other road users.

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