Winter Driving

By November 24, 2017Blog, News

We are now well through November and the days have gotten shorter, there has been a noticeable drop in temperature and it has become very wintery.  The winter brings a new set of challenges for all of us due to the more hazardous road conditions. Here are a few tips on how to prepare for and drive in the dark and wet winter weather condition.  Sometimes a little preparation can help save a lot of bother at a time when you don’t really need it.

Is your car winter proof?
If you haven’t checked whether your car is winter proof yet, now is the time to do it.  Is it in a suitable condition to tackle those cold frosty mornings and dark wet evenings of the winter months?  How long has it been since your last service?  Maybe now is a good time to get those brake pads checked and the oil changed?  All of the following checks should be included in a routine service at your local garage.

If your car is not due a service, here are a few checks that you yourself can carry out without spending too much time.  And you don’t have to be a mechanic either!

  • Do the back or front window wipers need new wiper blades? Are they both working properly?
  • Are the window washers working and is the washer container full with water?
  • Do your tyres have an adequate thread depth? The minimum thread depth requirement in Ireland is 1.6 mm on 75% of the tyre.  A little more may be required in the winter.
  • Does your cooling system contain the proper coolant? Do you need to treat it with anti-frost?
  • Do your indicators, brake lights, parking lights, dips and headlights work properly? You may need to get a friend to stand in front and behind the car as you check them.  All very important on those dark wet evenings.
  • If you are concerned about any of the above checks, call in and ask at your local garage. Most mechanics would be only too happy to help you out with some friendly advice.

Switch on those Lights
Shorter evenings mean less light and in the middle of winter the darkness starts to creep in at around 4 pm. If you are driving a dark coloured car in these conditions, it is difficult to be seen.  Therefore, it is advisable to have your lights on during the day, particularly in the early evening.  During the day the parking lights help to make you more visible.  As the day draws towards 4 pm, you may need your dipped headlights.  The recommended time to switch on your dipped headlights is a half hour before dusk and after dawn.  No harm in doing it earlier.

In normal conditions headlights are used to increase the motorist’s visibility at night time.  Visibility in fog or falling snow during the day is poor but at night it is a lot worse. Using the full headlights through fog or falling snow unfortunately does not help and in most cases, has the opposite effect of decreasing your visibility by causing a reflective glare off the fog or falling snow.

Dipping your headlights eliminates this problem to a certain extent and increases your visibility closer to the car.    

Leave early and plan you journey
In the winter months traffic is moving slower and the condition are more treacherous.  Plan to depart on your journey ten to fifteen minutes earlier giving yourself that little bit more time.  This can sometimes save you a lot of bother in the long run.  How many times have you been running late to open the front door and realise your car is frozen over?

Take a few minutes to think about and plan your journey.  The weather conditions, the type of road and the expected traffic should all be taken into consideration when choosing the best route to your destination.  In frosty and snowy weather, try to keep to the main roads that have been salted or gritted.  A little bit of planning can help you avoid that traffic jam at a busy junction or a dangerous stretch of icy road.

Make sure those windows and mirrors are clear and your visibility out of the car is good.  Consider your fellow motorist and keep the lights and indicators clean also.  A quick wipe with a damp cloth in the morning will do the trick.

Adjust your driving to suite the conditions
Making the following few small adjustments to you driving will make you a safer winter driver.
Slow Down. Icy roads mean reduced traction and a higher chance of skidding or losing control of the car.
Stop more Gradually. Start reducing you speed a little earlier coming into junctions.  Gentle use of the brake and gears is what you are looking for. Uses engine braking.
Increase your Stopping Distance.  It can take from three to ten times longer to stop on an icy road.  Give yourself a larger safety gap between you and the vehicle in front of you.
Avoid Unnecessary Overtaking. Overtaking usually involves increase in speed.  Ask yourself how much time are you really going to gain if you overtake this car?
What does the term ‘Engine Braking’ mean?
Engine braking is a technique involving the use of the accelerator and gears to reduce the speed of the car instead of the brakes.  Engine braking, if used correctly helps avoid skidding and should be used as much as possible in snow or icy conditions.

Early reaction to junctions and hazards on the road is importing when employing this braking technique.

Conclusion
Leave a little earlier and slow it down just a tad. The best way to avoid difficulty in the winter weather condition is to avoid driving if it is not necessary.

If you have any further questions or queries don’t hesitate to call into to the Swilly Group office on Business Park Road in Letterkenny, give us a call on 074-9151212 or email us on info@swillygroup.com.

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