Brrrrr! How to keep a cool head in freezing weather
With much of Britain seeing icy roads at the very best, driving is feeling a liiiiiittle bit sketchy right now. While there's snow, sleet and black ice about, there are a few winter driving tips you should keep in mind.
Prep your car
If you haven't got around to winter car preparation yet, now is the time:
- Get your battery checked - places like Halfords often do this for free
- Put anti-freeze in your car's cooling system
- Check your tyres have the right tread - that's at least 3mm
Pack your emergency kit
Think I'm joking? See how funny it is when you're sat in snow outside Reading for two hours with no chocolate and no coat. Oh right, that was me.
Nothing mad, just the basics:
- Jump leads in case your battery goes flat (could happen if you've got the engine running to keep warm!)
- An icescraper and de-icer for your windscreen - make sure you clear all of it, not just a little hole
- A road map, which is a set of papers that people used to find places before smartphones (smartphones die)
- Warm clothes and a blanket - much better if you're stuck than running your battery down with the heating
- A torch, in case you get stuck in the dark
- Sunglasses - glare! From the SUN! IMAGINE!
- Spare batteries for your phone, torch, satnav, everything
- First aid kit just in case
Plan your journey
For your safety AND sanity, check your journey before you leave the house.
If you really must drive in potentially dangerous weather (good reasons: partner in labour, appearing in court), make sure you know your route without having to rely on a satnav - and that you're prepared for the conditions affecting your journey.
Keep up with what the weather's doing with the Highways Agency's @winterhighways Twitter feed.
Clear your windscreen properly
Yes, I've seen you. Peering out through a little face hole in the inch-thick ice covering your windscreen. You didn't see me though - you didn't see much at all, actually.
In bad weather, you need to be able to see as well as you possibly can, so limiting your vision to one tiny frame is not a very good idea.
- Don't use boiling water unless you happen to want a new windscreen
- Use that ice scraper and de-icer I mentioned earlier
- If snow is fresh or temperatures haven't dipped below zero, you can usually brush it off
- Top up your screenwash and check your wipers - yucky spray makes it difficult to see out
If there's snow...
You must clear snow from:
- Your car's roof, so it doesn't fall down and distract you or block your vision
- Your bonnet, as it could be blown back onto your windscreen
- Air intakes - do you really want your heating to conk out right now?
- Your windscreen and wing mirrors. Obviously.
If you have to drive, keep your distance from other cars. Your stopping distance is much further in ice and snow, so you need to be driving slower.
Try to keep engine revs low by changing into a higher gear early and into lower gears late. Take corners slowly, braking early and gradually. If you feel your car skidding, take your foot off the accelerator and steer in the direction that the back of your car is sliding. It's counter-intuitive but it'll stop you spinning out.
If you get stuck in snow, move off in a high gear and take your foot off the clutch gently. Revving hard will just spin your wheels, leaving you exactly where you started.
Images: Highways Agency