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Safe Winter Driving Tips

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December 6  |  Motoring, News, Safety  |   Chris Smith

Driving in Fog

  • Automatic headlights won’t necessarily come on if it is bright as well as foggy as they rely on sensors to measure the light level
  • Use dipped headlights, full beams will reflect the light back at you off the fog
  • Keep a good distance from the vehicle in front, try to leave a 3 second gap
  • Tailing another vehicles rear lights is dangerous
  • Before slowing down, check your mirrors, vehicles may be closer than you think.
  • Be aware of other vehicles not using headlight, they can be hard to spot

If you’re using fog lights, remember to turn them off if the weather clears so you don’t obscure your brake lights or dazzle oncoming traffic

Using Antifreeze

  • No one wants a broken engine, let alone in the winter, and with anti-freeze only setting you back a couple of quid, no car should be without it!
  • Remember you’ll need a 50/50 split of water and antifreeze during the winter which will protect your engine to as low as -34C.
  • Make sure you check what kind of anti-freeze your car uses as some types need changing every couple of years.
  • Remember if your car overheats, chances are you have a frozen radiator. It’s best to stop as soon as it’s safe to do so, to reduce the risk of any serious damage.

Batteries and Electrics

With a limited lifespan of around 5 years and a more connected car than ever, the winter season can be a real strain on your car battery.

  • When starting the engine, be sure to have lights, wipers and heaters turned off until the engine is running
  • Use the ignition in 5 second bursts
  • Leave 30 seconds between attempts
  • Wait until the engine is on before connecting phones, satnav’s and other power hungry accessories.

Tyre Maintenance

  • Be sure to check your tread when the weather changes, the AA recommends at least 3mm.
  • Winter tyres and all season tyres are made from a special rubber making driving in the wet and cold conditions, easier and safer
  • Snow chains can damage roads if the snow isn’t deep enough so make sure to check this before attaching them
  • Less air in tyres does not give better grip and is unsafe, make sure your tyre pressures are correct.

Ice and Snow

  • Slow and steady is the key to driving on ice and snow, stopping distances can be 10 time longer on icy roads.
  • In dry conditions, when travelling at 20mph the overall stopping distance is 40 feet, so this can be up to 400 feet on ice – that’s longer than a football pitch!
  • To avoid wheel spin, try pulling off in 2nd gear
  • Wear dry shoes for driving whenever possible, as a back-up keep an old towel in the car to dry the bottom of your shoes so you don’t slip off the pedals.
  • Driving uphill – always leave as much room as possible so you don’t have to stop half way, try to keep a constant speed and avoid changing gear
  • Driving downhill – slow down as you approach the hill, again leave as much room as possible, as well as the lowest gear possible and on your way down try to avoid braking


  • Snow on the roof can melt onto your windscreen and block your view – be sure to clear it before setting off
  • Make sure your wiper blades are in good condition
  • Get the correct screenwash with antifreeze additives to ensure this doesn’t freeze, visibility can deteriorate quickly from drying salt in grit
  • Air-con will work better than fans to clear your screen faster, it also reduces condensation.
  • Clear ALL of your windscreen from snow, frost and ice so you can clearly see, not doing so can result in fines
  • The sun being low in the sky can cause white outs due to a dirty interior windscreen, make sure you clean both sides


  • To avoid fines keep your number plates clean and visible
  • Don’t forget to remove snow from headlamps
  • Clean lenses and make sure all lights are working correctly
  • When the roads are wet and muddy you may need to clear your lights after each journey
  • If you’re using fog lights, remember to turn them off if the weather clears so you don’t obscure your brake lights or dazzle oncoming traffic

Before Setting Off

  • Try to leave the house earlier than usual as it takes a good 5-10 minutes to de-ice the car and the screen to clear.
  • Give yourself more time for travelling during the winter, traffic will be moving slower and there can be unexpected delays
  • Aim to keep over a quarter tank of petrol in case of detours or delays
  • Clear all windows using a scraper and de-icer and don’t forget your mirrors


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