Are You and Your Vehicle Ready for Winter?
Updated: Oct 19, 2020
You were probably greeted this morning by a frozen windscreen, not the greatest sight on a Monday morning! As we all know however, this is only the first sign of things to come over the next four months or so. Don't you just love the UK climate? Over the years, we have shared various driving tips on our social media feeds, but this year we have got with the times and can write our own blog post instead. Yay. You may already know much of the stuff in this post, but hopefully, everyone can learn something. After all, we are professionals! *
Preparing Your Vehicle
Before we move on to our professional winter driving tips, it is important that we cover some of the essential checks and preparations that you should carry out, to ensure that your vehicle is ready for the battles ahead. As we are still in mid November, now is the time to stock up on all the items that we mention in this post. Don't be that person who leaves it too late and then misses Christmas, as you can't get round to see the family because your engine has frozen.
Basic Vehicle Checks
Some of these items may seem obvious, but it is essential that you carry our the following checks prior to driving in bad winter weather. Now, not everyone is a mechanic, but anyone can carry out these simple checks at home:
Make sure you have enough fuel for your journey. Fill up at a station close to home, do not bank on filling up during your journey, as this may become problematic for various reasons
Check your oil level and top up if it is low. Ensure that you have the correct oil for your vehicle to hand. Gone are the days of simple petrol or diesel engine oil! Check your vehicle manual, or do a quick search online to find the correct oil type
Check your coolant level. As with oil, there are different coolant types, so ensure you stock up on the correct one. Coolant contains antifreeze, which will prevent your engine from freezing in the sub zero temperatures, so DO NOT top up your coolant level with tap water
Top up your screenwash, as you are likely to need a lot of it. Make sure you use actual screenwash fluid, as like coolant, it contains antifreeze. Again, DO NOT top up using tap water, or you risk your washer pipes freezing and becoming useless
Check your electrics are all working before setting off, i.e. your heaters and lights. Have someone help you check that the rear lights are working. It is worth going to your local mechanic and asking them to do a test on your battery prior to winter, replace it if the test results are poor
Tyres are obviously very important for winter driving, so you must ensure that all tyres have a good tread on them. If you can, fit winter tyres, but this is not essential as long as you have a good tread. Make sure that you check your spare tyre and tyre changing equipment is all in order
Finally, your brakes need to be in good order. If you hear any grinding noises when you press your brake pedal, or there are any warning lights on the dash, it is essential to have your brakes checked out before using your vehicle in winter.
Stock Up Your Vehicle
As well as the vehicle checks above, we would also advise that you stock up your vehicle with equipment and provisions. It is not unusual to become stranded in snow, even to be stranded over night in adverse conditions. It is essential that you are prepared for every eventuality. We recommend carrying the following:
Jump cables and rubber coated gloves
A travel snow shovel
A first aid kit
A foot pump
A warning triangle (in case of breakdown)
A phone charger (sign of the times, but essential)
An ice scraper and de-icer
Spare socks (thermal if possible) and extra clothing layers for each person in the car. It may not be possible to leave the in car heating on, so warm clothing is a must
Survival blankets for each person in the car
Bottled water. At least 1 litre per person. If possible, try not to use single use plastic
Food. This is up to personal choice, but sandwiches, chocolate biscuits etc are a good starting point. A flask is great, but the contents may not stay warm through your entire ordeal.
Bad Weather Driving Tips
Now that your vehicle is in tip top condition and stocked up ready to survive a zombie apocalypse, we are going to offer some winter driving tips for getting you through bad snow. Now we are talking proper snow, you know the kind that grounds planes? Not the light dusting that makes 50% of the country stay off school and work! Okay, here we go:
If the snow is really bad and you can't get traction, try moving off in second gear instead of first
Accelerate slowly and evenly
Try to slow down using your gears as much as possible, rather than your brakes. This can help you avoid skidding
When going down hill, keep your vehicle in as low a gear as possible, driving as slow as possible. You will want to avoid using your brakes when going down hill
If you skid or slide, turn IN TO the skid i.e. turn the front wheels in the same direction that the rear of the vehicle is sliding
Check the weather forecast before setting off on any journey and ensure that you can handle the conditions that may worsen
Only make necessary journeys
Most important of all is that if you are not a confident driver, then DO NOT drive in the snow. Get a taxi or make other arrangements for your journey.
Here is an illustration that we previously shared on our Facebook page. We can't remember where it came from and so are unable to credit it's creator.
A Tale of Exceptional Driving Skill and Legendary Bravery
It was around Christmas time, December 2007 (I think), when a brave, handsome, young (ish) technical courier called..... let's call him KPG for now, in the interests of data protection (hereafter "Our Intrepid Adventurer" or "Our Hero") was on a mission to install a new training PC in a bank in Aberdeen. Anyone who has driven to Aberdeen, will know that once you pass Dundee, you see very little but cows and the North Sea for the next 70 miles or so.
On the journey up, the snow was falling quite heavily, but nothing that would stand in the way of Our Intrepid Adventurer. He simply would not be denied, he had to complete his mission and get a signed POD. He continued on with his quest, eventually arriving at the bank in Aberdeen. Our Intrepid Adventurer was welcomed by the friendly staff at the branch and he quickly set to work. After some thirty minutes, he had removed the old system and installed the new one. Easy for a man of such skill and knowledge. Our Hero had finished his task in such good time, that he decided to have a coffee and chat with a couple of the ladies who worked at the bank, before heading back in to the wilderness on the long trip home. One lady asked Our Hero, "where are you staying tonight?", "staying tonight?" he replied, "I shall be heading straight back out there and staying in my own, cosy bed" he proclaimed. The two ladies shot a concerned look at each other, "there is a blizzard due" one of them said, "you would be mad to head out in it, you will get stranded, or worse". Our hero scoffed, "I can handle it, I will be fine" he reassured them. He finished his coffee and headed back outside, ignoring their pleas and warnings. The snow had indeed gotten worse....
Our Hero left the pretty much deserted streets of Aberdeen and headed back towards Dundee and ultimately, St.Helens. His van was off with a deafening roar. It wasn't long, before he began to question the wisdom of his decision. As what can only be described as the worst blizzard he had ever seen blew in from the North Sea, there was literally not another vehicle or soul to be seen. The driving conditions got so bad and the snow on the road so thick, that Our Intrepid Adventurer dared not go over thirty miles per hour on the traffic-less A90. Lesser drivers would have been done for, but he mustered all his bravery, skill and concentration and tackled the blizzard head on. After some three hours later (in which he didn't see another soul), Our Hero reached the safety of Dundee. The blizzard eased and he was free to continue his journey back to St.Helens at reasonable pace.
Moral of the Story
Unfortunately, not everyone is as experienced and brave as Our Intrepid Adventurer and such serious conditions could have resulted in disaster, even death. The moral of this story is: always check the weather before heading off on a journey and if you are somewhere that you don't know, always take the advice of the locals.