Of all the seasons, winter is the most demanding on both vehicle and driver. With such variable weather conditions, it’s necessary to adapt your driving style if you’re to get from A to B safely. Rain, wind, ice and snow each throw up different driving conditions, so motorists need to be ready for whatever winter throws their way.
To help you drive safely this season, we’ve put together a guide on how to maximise your car’s performance in even the toughest wintry conditions.
Look After Your Battery
According to the RAC, battery problems accounted for more than 450,000 roadside callouts in 2014, making batteries one the most troublesome components beneath the bonnet. Of course, not all of these breakdowns happen in winter, but it’s well known that the season can mean bad news for your battery.
During the winter, cold weather can wreak havoc on the chemical processes inside the battery, and this can make it difficult for it to produce and store electricity. In many cases this can lead to a significant drop in power — not good when you’re trying to drive through a snowdrift.
Before the onset of winter, it’s a good idea to purchase a new car battery and replace the old one if it’s over five years old. Failing that, try not to use too many electrics (heated screens, stereo etc.), particularly when starting the car, as this can increase the strain on the battery. And, wherever possible, park somewhere where the car won’t be exposed to the elements for long period of time.
Pay Attention to Your Coolant/Antifreeze Level
Coolant/antifreeze is important all year round to keep your car’s engine working at its optimum temperature. Even in winter, your engine can overheat if you don’t have coolant/antifreeze while you’re driving, and it also stops it freezing when the temperature drops. Without it, you could cause serious damage to your engine.
Prestone, makers of the number 1 coolant/antifreeze in the US, recommend using a quality coolant/antifreeze that’s tested in the toughest conditions and proven to work in temperatures from -37°C to 129°C. They said:
“By using a high quality coolant/antifreeze, you’ll prevent the cooling system from freezing in sub-zero temperatures — something which causes catastrophic damage to the engine, even here in the UK. During the winter, we’d recommend checking your coolant/antifreeze level every 1-2 weeks, and topping it up as and when required.”
Take Care of Your Tyres
When it comes to driving in rain, hail, ice and snow, your tyres have got a lot of work to do to keep you and your car planted on the road. If your tyres are underinflated or in a generally poor condition, this will have a massive impact on how the car handles and performs in potentially dangerous weather conditions.
During the run up to winter, it’s a good idea to take a few minutes each week to check the condition and pressure of your tyres — paying particular attention to the tread depth. If it’s looking a little down, it’s a good idea to replace your rubber before the cold snap takes hold.
Before you invest in any old type of tyre, decide whether it’s worth investing in winter tyres which have been specially made to offer better handling, grip and performance in cold conditions. According to tyre experts Continental, winter tyres are constructed from materials which are more suited to temperatures below 7°C — meaning they provide better performance in wet and icy conditions, and can help to reduce the chance of aquaplaning.