The weather is getting chillier, and we’re in the midst of the darkest days of the year. While that may make you feel very festive, it’s also worth bearing in mind that driving is more hazardous now than at any other point in the calendar. This is because not only do we not have much daylight, but the roads are also likely to be wet and even icy. Furthermore, because it’s the festive season you are likely to be making longer journeys than usual, perhaps down narrow, unfamiliar country roads to visit friends and family members. To help you survive this tricky driving season, we’ve put together a selection of top tips below.
1. If in doubt, don’t.
If you think it’s going to be too dangerous to drive, then stay at home. Unless it’s an emergency, then you’re better off leaving that journey until another day.
2. Carry an emergency kit.
It might sound extreme, but keeping things such as a torch, tow rope, water and spare phone in your car may be a vital lifeline if things go wrong.
3. Check before you travel.
Look up the traffic on your chosen route, the weather forecast and potential stop-off points along the way. The more prepared you are, the easier it is to make a decision on whether or not to travel, and what to do if there’s an unexpected block in the road.
4. Prepare your car for the journey.
It may sound obvious, but to drive on winter roads your car needs to be in peak condition. Make sure your MOT is up to date and, if possible, fit winter tyres to your car, something we can arrange for you with our tyre service. A list of things to check is below, but if you’re unsure of what to do it’s best to take your car to the professionals, who will spot any defects you may have missed. Diamond Alloys can help you make your car ready for winter, and in particular ensure that your wheels and alloys can withstand the cold weather.
Things to check:
• Condition of wheels and tyres – are there cracks in your alloys? Do your wheels need a protective coat?
• Condition of batteries – will your car start in poor weather?
• Function of all electrical systems – electrics are one of the easiest parts of the car to go wrong, it’s vital that you check these.
• Condition of coolant hoses.
• Operation of exterior lights – are they clean?
• Oil and fluid levels.
• Antifreeze level and strength.
• Wipers and screen wash – have you ensured that this won’t freeze in very cold weather?
5. Drive carefully in snow.
Snow is dangerous, so the first thing you’ll need to do is reduce your speed. Leave a larger than usual gap between you and the car in front, and avoid harsh braking or steering inputs. Keep your windscreen clear of snow, even if it means stopping periodically to do so, and of course remove all snow from your vehicle before you travel. If you need to slow down whilst driving, move down into a lower gear much earlier than usual, to avoid having to rely too heavily on the brakes.
6. Avoid floods where possible.
We all love driving through puddles, but needless to say water is not a good thing for your car. If you’re not sure how deep the flood on the road is, don’t attempt to drive through it. 99% of the time there is another route to take, and a diversion is quicker than waiting for the breakdown service to arrive. If you feel you can attempt a crossing, however, then do so slowly but with a high engine speed to avoid stalling. The deepest water is normally nearest the kerb, so aim for the middle of the road and give way to oncoming traffic if you’re not ready to go first. Test your brakes once you are through the flood.
7. Drive carefully in fog.
Fog is incredibly dangerous. If you become caught in fog, switch on your fog lights immediately, remembering that you may need to dim your rear fog lights to avoid dazzling those behind you. Turn off any music in your car and open the window: this will give you the best possible chance of hearing oncoming traffic. Drive very slowly, and pay attention to the direction of any tail lights in front of you, without getting too close.
8. Don’t panic if you break down.
Unfortunately, even the best drivers can break down or become stranded in winter, and the most important thing is to stay calm if you do. Call the breakdown service or, if necessary, the emergency services (the number works even in areas of poor signal) and wait with your vehicle for help to arrive. If you’ve packed your emergency kit you should have everything you need to stay comfortable, and we’d highly recommend including blankets, chocolate and a portable music device in there to keep everyone happy!