Winter driving advice – Car maintenance and driving in cold weather

In order to drive safely in winter weather, it is important for people to respect the road conditions and apply common sense. Anybody too fearful of winter driving might be better off avoiding it, as their nerves could endanger both themselves and other drivers. The road and the car have to be respected, not to mention the power of Mother Nature.

There are number of different winter road conditions that drivers may encounter. Check the road conditions before leaving so you know what to expect. In one trip, it is possible to travel roads that are wet, icy, snowy and slushy. In many cases, road conditions will worsen before the return trip home. When precipitation is falling, blowing snow can reduce visibility. Four-wheel drive vehicles manoeuvre better in deep snow, but remember that it does not help on slick ice.

It is common sense for people to stay off hazardous roads as much as possible. People who must be out on the winter roads should slow down and pay attention. Many people are required to travel to work, go to doctor appointments or other places during adverse driving conditions and using common sense along with winter driving techniques will help people reach their destination safely.

In winter driving do everything slowly; take off cautiously, reduce road speed and if braking is required, apply them softly. Completely clear all winter precipitation from the windows and mirrors on the vehicle; drivers cannot drive safely with their view partially blocked, do not follow other vehicles too closely either. Stopping time can increase as much as ten times the normal distance. Maintain a consistently slow speed and avoid making any sharp, quick turns.

Leave early when winter road conditions are hazardous, it helps reduce the temptation to drive faster to avoid being late and adopt the philosophy that it is better to arrive late than not at all. Pre-plan the safest route to a destination and make sure someone knows what it is. Also, maintain a winter emergency kit containing items like gloves, coats, hats, blankets, flashlight, first aid kit, food, water, sand and a shovel.

Diligently winterize a vehicle before winter arrives. A prepared vehicle decreases the odds of an accident. Tyres should have 2mm to 3mm of tread depth for the best gripping action. Check tyre pressure often and keep them properly inflated; unequal pressure can cause a vehicle to pull to one side. Check the windshield wipers for wear and change them accordingly. People need good wiper blades to maintain clear vision. Use a non-freezing solution to keep the washer reservoir full. Winter requires frequent windshield washing due to falling precipitation and road splatter.

Winter demands can put an extra burden on a vehicles battery. The normal life of a battery is approximately 5 years. If the life of the battery is close to that number, change it before winter. If an incident should occur, drivers need a good battery that can provide heat while idling. Decrease unnecessary demands on the battery system in the winter months to preserve on its energy. Make sure the battery posts are clean and free of corrosion; if not, clean or change them.

Keep your fuel tank full, because winter often brings detours and unexpected traffic jams; do not take a chance of sitting on the roadside with an empty fuel tank. Check the antifreeze level before winter, as antifreeze keeps the vehicles engine from freezing. The most recommended mix is 50 per cent water and 50 per cent anti-freeze. Most guidelines recommend changing anti-freeze every two to five years and each driver should follow the cars suggested maintenance guidelines.

About the author:  Matt Bonner has worked as a mechanic since he left school, and whilst he now works as an advisory for Easy Wheels; he can still be found underneath vehicles covered in oil every now and again.