Depending on your journey time, distance and terrain, ensure you have the essentials with you
We Asians love our cars. From Mercedes-Benz saloons, Audi sport cars, to even your dad’s trusty Volkswagen. But we do tend to neglect the maintenance of them, especially in Winter.
With the typical Desi mentality being not to spend any money unless necessary, many are guilty of not investing time and money preparing cars before the winter months, and risk avoidable accidents.
More often than not, icy and snowy conditions creep upon us when least expected, such as returning home from work, and can prove fatal.
These situations cause breakdowns, which end up costing more to repair than if preventative measures are budgeted for and implemented early on.
DESIblitz provides you with some vital top tips to get your car winter ready as well as advice on how to get yourself out of tricky road conditions.
Antifreeze – Antifreeze helps to ensure your engine’s cooling system doesn’t freeze at sub-zero temperatures.
Once a week, when the engine is cold, check your engine coolant temperature using an antifreeze tester (you can buy for a few pounds from any car spares shop).
If the level of coolant is below the minimum mark, top it up with the recommended mix of water and antifreeze for your particular car.
Screen wash – It’s fine to use water alone to spray on your windscreen in the summer months. During the winter however, the water can quickly freeze when you most need to use your wipers.
Top up with screen wash, as it has a lower freezing point than water.
Ready to pour screen wash as well as concentrated solutions which require to be mixed with water are easy to find in most supermarkets.
Tyres – These can be expensive to replace, and for this reason they are often left with little or no tread which is seriously dangerous at any time of the year.
The legal tread depth requirement is 1.6mm, however during winter 4mm is recommended.
Tyre pressure should be kept a little lower than usual, so more surface area of the tyre touches the road whilst driving, giving you more grip on icy surfaces.
Rear-wheel drive cars such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz find it very difficult to find traction and manoeuvre on icy roads.
Whilst newer models have better technology to overcome this (BMW’s new xDrive system can move power to the front wheels if required), a safe option is to invest in winter tyres.
These have plenty more grip and make a noticeable difference in grip.
Other features to check regularly before it gets too cold are the car battery, heater, lights and wipers.
Depending on your journey time, distance and terrain, ensure you have the essentials with you from the list below to help yourself make the best of a bad situation:
- Overnight covers (with neon highlights or bright markings) for your car to spare you scraping snow or ice off in the morning if you don’t have a garage.
- Battery charger – Allows you to jump start your car without the need to have another car present. Great if you’re stranded.
- Emergency first aid kit
- Torch (with batteries)
- Food – Jalebis are an ideal source of sugar to keep the energy levels up!
- Make sure you have the breakdown services number stored on your mobile phone. Also keep a spare charged mobile phone battery.
- Small shovel
- 2 bags of grit or salt – keep them on either side of your boot near the wheels for better traction. You can also spread them around your tyres for more grip should you be at a standstill on a sloped icy road
- Travel pillow
- De-icer spray to help get frost off the windows effortlessly
- Tow rope
Driving Tips for Snowy or Icy Conditions
In very cold conditions when you start your car the tyres are likely to look flat due to the hot air from the night before rising to the top. Drive very slowly to allow the air to circulate all around your tyres.
Drive slowly and smoothly as possible and remain visible with the lights on, maintaining a 10-second gap between you and the vehicle in front.
You never know where invisible ‘black ice’ may be lurking.
Most new cars are fitted with Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) which allows ensures the wheels don’t lock (and the car to skid) when you brake hard on an icy road.
For older cars without ABS, you can replicate ABS to some extent by repeatedly applying and releasing the brakes which will allow you to steer your vehicle.
Your car is likely to understeer and oversteer when cornering on icy roads.
Understeer is when the front wheels slide and lose grip, causing the steering to be ineffective. Slow down your speed and straighten the steering to get more grip.
Oversteering is when the back wheels slide and lose control (often occurring on rear-wheel drive cars). If for example, you take a sharp right turn, the back of the car will swing to the left.
In this situation negate this unwanted momentum by steering in the direction the back of the car is in.
Overall it is worth doing all you can to prevent accidents and your car from breaking down in well before conditions get really bad.
This could mean the difference between you stranded in the middle of nowhere, spending all night alone in your car, and reaching home safely to be in the comfort of your own bed.