Allow extra time in the morning to de-ice your car, up to 10-15 minutes is recommended. You can’t rush de-icing your car, make sure it’s done properly. If you absolutely have to travel in snow and ice allow extra time, don’t rush anywhere and drive safely and cautiously.
Prepare your car for the worst case scenario, keep a supply for food and water in the boot, a first aid kit, warm clothes and blankets, a wind-up torch or one with spare batteries, a shovel, a pocket knife, matches, spare fuel and extra de-icer, a tow rope, jump leads and a phone charger.
Prepare Your Car.
Check your battery. Car batteries typically only last for 5 years and they have to work even harder in the winter, so check your battery doesn’t need replacing before it fails on you. They always fail at the most inconvenient time!
Fill up your screen wash. Your windscreen can get very dirty very quickly in the winter and this can be dangerous! Make sure your screen wash is full and keep some spare in the boot. Use a higher concentration or “winter grade” in winter to help with de-icing. It will also help prevent the screen wash jets from freezing up.
Check your tyres. Consider fitting winter tyres to your car, but if you don’t do this, your summer tyres need to have at least 3mm tread on them. And don’t reduce the tyre pressure to get more grip, it doesn’t work and will damage your tyres.
Anti-freeze. It’s not the first thing that comes to mind but it’s very important. Most modern cars will have long-life anti-freeze in them, just be careful not to mix different types. To protect your engine from freezing you need a 50/50 mix of anti-freeze and water (protects down to -34°C) without it your car can overheat after only a couple of miles and can cause severe engine damage costing hundreds of pounds to fix.
Adjust your driving style.
Did you know that stopping distances are 10 times longer in snow and ice! Drive carefully and slowly at a constant and steady speed. Keep a large distance between yourself and the car in front of you, don’t brake hard and approach junctions and roundabouts slowly and cautiously.
Check your shoes! Are your shoes covered in snow and ice because you’ve just de-iced your car? If they are, don’t drive in them! Your feet can slip on the brakes and accelerator which can be very dangerous, keep a spare pair of driving shoes in the car that you can change into.
If you can, try to pull away in 2nd gear to avoid wheel spin, accelerate slowly, keep your revolutions low and change up your gears as soon as possible. Approach hills slowly at a constant steady speed and try not to stop, if coming down a hill use a low gear to avoid braking and skidding. Always keep a large distance between yourself and other cars.
De-ice your car correctly…
Keep some de-icer and a scraper in the house. If your car is frozen solid you won’t be able to get to them and if your locks are frozen you’ll need to use the de-icer to release them.
If you want to de-ice your car with hot water use warm water out of the tap, NEVER use boiling water from the kettle, this will cause your windscreen to crack! If it’s really cold even warm water will freeze, so once you have cleared the ice wipe the water straight off. And I’d never recommend using a credit card to scrape through ice, we’ve all know someone that has snapped their card in two doing that!
If you know snow and ice is on the way you can cover your windscreen the night before with a blanket or an old towel to keep it clear from frost, there are also windscreen frost protectors available to buy. This may require some forethought but it will save you time on a cold and frosty morning.
Ensure you clear all the windows and mirrors of snow and ice, not just the windscreen, if you drive away with only a small patch cleared to see through you will more than likely be pulled over by the police if you don’t have an accident first! If you use your car heater to de-ice, don’t leave your car unattended, you run the risk of having your vehicle stolen.
Don’t forget about the roof, lights and number plate! Make sure you clear all the snow off your roof, when you’re driving snow can fly off into cars behind you and if you break hard the snow can come down onto your windscreen and block your visibility! The Law states your lights and number plate must be clear from snow and ice and fully visible at all times. If you don’t adhere to these rules you could leave yourself open to a fine and penalty points on your licence for careless and inconsiderate driving.
Above all consider if your journey is entirely necessary in bad weather, if you’re just popping out for a pint of milk it probably isn’t worth it. And always put your safety above punctuality, if you prepare and allow yourself time to de-ice properly you should be fine, but if you are running late, don’t rush you could hurt yourself or someone else.