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How to prepare your vehicle for winter - driving safety checks

How to prepare your vehicle for winter - driving safety checks

4th November, 2021

Rain and surface water, snow and ice – each of these hazardous weathers present a real challenge to motorists, making it crucial to prepare yourself before embarking on a journey.

Breakdown service providers report a sharp increase in the volume of breakdowns when the weather turns cold, so it’s important to carry out the right checks on your vehicle.

Underlying mechanical issues can deteriorate when temperatures drop, so it’s worth checking your car, van or bike regularly during the winter – and especially before setting off on a long journey.

Check your vehicle: 

1) Make sure you have plenty of fuel in your tank and that your oil level is between the minimum and maximum mark on your vehicles dipstick and top up if necessary.

2) Check your tyres for general wear and tear racks, cracks, splits or bulges, and tread depth. During winter it’s advisable to have 3mm of tread on your tyres, and ensure you have the correct pressure in your tyres.

3) The legal minimum tread depth for tyres in the UK is 1.6 millimeters, and you should replace the tyre immediately if its tread is any lower.If you’re driving abroad, remember that different countries have different minimum tyre standards and what may be legal at home could be illegal elsewhere.

4) Check your wiper blades for splits and cracks and replace as necessary.
Wiper blades can get frozen to the windscreen in freezing weather so clear your windscreen first and ensure they aren’t stuck before switching them on. Use de-icer or warm water – but never hot water - to free them if necessary.

5) Check your vehicles coolant level to avoid a frozen engine or overheating.

6) Make sure all of your lights are working and clean them free from dirt and snow.

7) If your vehicle struggles to start you should get it checked by a garage. If it hasn’t been serviced recently, consider booking it in for a service before the weather turns cold.

8) Check your screen wash level and top up with a quality screen wash additive or pre-mix which is effective down to at least -15 degrees celsius.

9) If you live in an area where snow is common it might be worth changing to winter tyres with a deeper tread.If conditions are really bad you might want to consider the use of snow socks or even snow chains.

10) Be prepared in case of a breakdown and take the following items with you: a torch, a hi-vis vest, a blanket or sleeping bag, food, drink, a phone charger, a map, a first aid kit, a warning triangle, jump leads, a spade and a square of carpet that you can put under your drive wheels if you get stuck in the snow.

11) Always take a fully-charged mobile phone with the number of your breakdown provider so you can call for help.

12) Driving in low sun is one of the biggest hazards for winter drivers so keep a pair of sunglasses nearby at all times, and use the sun visors.

Many manufacturers offer special winter check deals that inspect key areas of your vehicle and ensure you can drive safely in the winter.

Before you set off:

13) Wherever possible stick to main roads as they’re more likely to be kept clear, and avoid rural or hilly areas if you can.

14) If you’re concerned that the weather might prevent you completing your journey, consider whether it’s really necessary in the first place.

15) Plan your journey carefully and have an alternative route in case you encounter a problem.
Keep up-to-date with the local weather and traffic news to avoid delays and diversions.

16) Share your location with family and friends so people can keep track of your journey.
Always leave plenty of time for your journey.

When driving:

17) Move off in second gear to reduce wheel slip. Some vehicles have a winter mode, which does the same job, so consult your vehicle’s handbook if you’re not sure.

18) Keep your speed down and allow more time to stop and steer.

19) Keep your windscreen clean and slow down if visibility is reduced.

20) Maintain safe stopping distances between you and the vehicle in front, leaving as much as ten times the normal recommended gap. 

21) Prepare for an uphill by leaving plenty of room in front. Use a low gear for going downhill and try to avoid braking unless necessary.

22) When approaching a bend, brake before you turn the steering wheel.If you lose grip take your foot off the accelerator and make sure that your wheels are pointing in the direction you want to go in.

23) If you do skid, steer gently into it: for example, if the rear of the vehicle is sliding to the left, steer to the left. Never take your hands off the steering wheel or stamp on the brakes.

24) When driving in heavy snow, make sure that you use your dipped headlights.

25) If visibility drops below 100m, put your fog lights on.

Here at One Call, we want nothing more than for you to be safe whilst out on the roads.

If you’re an existing One Call Insurance customer, don’t forget that you have free breakdown membership provided in your policy. Therefore, if you do breakdown, please don’t hesitate to let us know by simply logging the incident on your account on our customer portal so that we can help.

Registering a breakdown via the portal is not only simple and convenient, but it allows us to access your precise location which can be particularly beneficial if you’ve broken down in an unfamiliar location.

Alternatively, you can give our breakdown team a call on 01302 554 265.

Please drive carefully, take extra precautions and remain safe when driving about.

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