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Scotland Ash News

  • 23rd February 2016

    Top tips for driving in icy conditions

    With Arctic air leaving Britain shivering recently, the nation is still having to endure waking up to chilly mornings, icy windscreens and freezing fingers. However, the countdown to Easter is now underway, meaning spring is just around the corner, but until we can welcome the long-awaited thaw, we’ve prepared some advice to help motorists brace for the wintry weather and get safely through the most dangerous season for road users.

    Gear up for the weather

    When it’s icy outside, allow extra time to ensure you’re not rushing and worrying about being late for work or an appointment. This additional time will enable you to properly prepare for your journey, as well as drive slower and more carefully to avoid slippery patches.

    Never drive without fully clearing your windscreen and windows of any ice as not only is it incredibly dangerous as it causes blind spots, but if your vision is obscured in any way, it could incur a large fine.

    Always keep your car stocked with a full can/bottle of de-icer, a functional scraper and a pair of gloves. Use the heater settings to help quicken the demisting process, but ensure your engine is running as this could flatten the battery.

    Remember, never try to cheat and use hot water on your windscreen; if the water is too hot it will crack your windscreen and could also spill onto the floor and freeze, leaving dangerous spots. Don’t rely on your windscreen wipers to do the job for you either, as this is a lengthy process and could damage them.

    Although you may normally avoid them, plan your route via main roads as these are more likely to be gritted or thawed out.

    If it has snowed, remove the snow from all of your light’s lenses and your roof as it will continue to fall down, impairing your vision. It may also drift back onto the car behind you which can be dangerous.

    Ensure you’re fully charged

    During winter, batteries are prone to more wear as they are forced to work a lot harder than usual. A significant decrease in daylight hours and colder temperatures mean a lot of motorists commute to and from work in the dark using the vehicle’s lights a lot more frequently, as well as the heater.

    Avoid using electrical systems longer than necessary and turn off any non-essential functions. As mentioned previously, it’s important that heating systems, the radio and lights are not left on while the engine is off as this is a sure-fire way to kill your battery. It’s also advisable to turn off these functions when starting the engine too to prevent added strain on the battery.

    With a lifespan on five years, we recommend replacing old batteries to save time and hassle spent on the side of the road.

    Tread carefully

    We would also recommend checking your tyres before heading off. The tread depth should be 3mm, and at minimum 2mm in the winter months; use the edge of a 10p coin to check this. Defective tyres can cause skidding, and don’t listen to the old tale that reducing tyre pressure can increase grip – it doesn’t.

    Keep a clear view ahead

    Winter is a bad time for visibility on the roads, whether it be the dazzling sun, icy windscreens, clouded windows from condensation, thick fog or dark commutes, there always seems to be something shielding a motorist’s view.

    Scratches or chips can distort your vision if the sun is shining through your windscreen and so we advise you get them fixed as soon as possible.

    Remember also to switch off windscreen wipers as they could freeze to the windscreen, damaging the blade.

    Some specialist windscreen washer fluids contain antifreeze, helping to speed up the demisting process so it’s a good idea to invest in these. Please note, don’t use ordinary antifreeze as it will damage your paintwork.

    Good lightbulbs are also a necessity for all motorists in the winter months, so ensure your lenses are always clean, as well as your number plate as you can be fined if it is illegible.

    Prepare for the worst

    Keeping a winter survival kit may sound extreme, but it can come in handy if your car breaks down in the cold weather.

    Always carry an adaptable, car mobile phone charger as you never know when you may need to make an emergency phone call. It’s useful to keep a shovel and some grit in your car too to drive through slippery conditions. Storing extra bulbs is also practical as we all know good visibility is key during the winter.

    We would also recommend packing a blanket and warm clothing during journeys as you may be heading straight into a warm building, but your car may have other plans and if you break down on the side of the motorway it is essential you leave your vehicle, whatever the weather.