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Guide for gearing up for winter motoring – Don’t get caught cold

12 January 2015

With winter weather arriving in earnest and parts of the country getting badly battered by the Atlantic storms, drivers are being urged to think carefully about their plans for the festive period.

Cold, wet and icy conditions can be tough on cars, while Government figures show that November, December and January are the months resulting in the highest personal injury accident rates per vehicle miles driven.

Despite this, the Highways Agency has found that almost half of motorists do not carry out any winter checks on their vehicles before setting off on a journey.

This is particularly worrying given that last year more than 13 million people took to the roads between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.

As a driver, it is important to take precautions to ensure you are fully prepared for severe weather. If not, you risk getting caught short.

“Before hitting the road to visit friends and family, give your car a winter service,” says Gordon Morris at Age UK Car Insurance. “This will reduce the likelihood of a breakdown.”

Here we look at the steps you can take to stay safe on the roads this winter.

Begin your winter service by checking tyre tread and pressure.

“The current minimum legal tread depth is 1.6 mm, but deeper tread depth, such as 3 mm, will result in better grip,” says Morris. “This will be beneficial in icy, snowy or wet conditions.”

You could also look at changing from summer to winter tyres as these offer increased grip in snow, slush or ice.

Clean your lights and check they are working properly as grime, dirt and salt from winter roads can prevent lights being as bright as they should be.

Check your oil, water, screenwash and anti-freeze levels and top up if necessary.

Your screenwash, which should be able to tolerate temperatures down to minus 10C, will prevent ice forming on your windscreen.

Ensure your battery is in good condition and fully charged before starting a long journey.

Batteries have to work harder in the winter to support cold starts, greater use of lights, and windscreen demisting and deicing.

Check the condition of your brakes as road surfaces can be more treacherous.

If you are unsure about carrying out any of these winter checks yourself, ask a reputable garage to inspect your car for you; some will offer this for free or at a discount.

“A few regular checks will help prepare your car for winter journeys,” says Roger Griggs at car servicing company Kwik Fit.

“Equally, having tyres and brakes in top condition will mean that when you do have to take evasive action it is more likely that you will be able to stay in control of your car.”

Kwik Fit found that only a third of drivers have supplies in case of breakdown, meaning they are leaving themselves vulnerable should they get stranded.

“In January hundreds of drivers were stuck overnight on the M6 near Wigan, and in March many motorists had to spend the night on the A23 in Sussex,” says Griggs. “But these events appear to have been forgotten, as few drivers are carrying the right items with them.”

As a matter of course, carry a warm coat, high-visibility vest, blankets, gloves, torch, water and snacks. Also ensure you have a scraper, de-icer and shovel.

Check that your mobile phone is fully charged before leaving, and take a charger with you.

Check the internet for the most up-to-date weather forecast and traffic updates ahead of getting behind the wheel.

“If either of these is adverse, consider delaying your journey or taking public transport instead,” says Tom Thomson at Sainsbury’s Car Insurance.

“Defrost and warm up the car before pulling away, but never leave your vehicle unattended when the keys are in the ignition.”

Inform people of the route you are planning to take, and allow more time for travel in bad weather to avoid having to rush.

Winter conditions require different driving styles. “Severe weather can be frightening and dangerous for drivers, so it pays to be prepared,” says Asda’s weather expert Chris Carden. “Treacherous conditions can test the abilities of the most experienced motorists.” ?

Reduce your speed and leave a greater distance between you and the car in front.

Leave more time for all manoeuvres and change speed slowly. Dropping gears instead of braking can prevent skidding.

In icy conditions avoid stopping when going uphill, and use a lower gear downhill.

If you get stuck in ice or snow, make sure your handbrake is on and clear the area around the wheels. Then sprinkle grit or salt around the slipping wheel, or place a piece of cardboard in front of it. Use low revs to gently move away. Setting off in second gear can provide more traction.

Dig out your car insurance paperwork and check it is up to date.

Also ensure you have breakdown cover in place, as a good-quality policy will give you peace of mind that you can call for professional assistance if you need it and avoid a long wait.

Comprehensive cover does not need to break the bank, with policies costing from about £35, according to price comparison site MoneySupermarket.com. This includes national recovery, onward journey and home start.

Keep a note of your insurance details and breakdown phone numbers in the car with you.

Article Reproduced from Express.co.uk

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