With the Winter fast approaching, and the dreaded English roads begin to freeze up slowing down traffic, it’s a good time to have a few tricks up your sleeve to minimise the risks of a car failure and ensure your journey is as safe as possible!
Just like humans, a car also needs to be kept warm, and looked after a little more, during cold climates, freezing temperatures and snow. Here are some key areas of winter car care with advice on keeping you secure and mobile!
Starting and running the car
As temperatures drop below freezing point, your car’s engine will take a bit longer to heat up and electrics having to work a little bit harder. As well as taking care of your car battery, it is recommended to leave your car running in neutral for a minute or two before pulling off. This gives the engine time to lubricate the piston and other internal elements. You may be tempted to let the car run idle for longer to warm the inside of the car up – do not this! This actually damages the decreases the life span of your engine by stripping oil away from the cylinders.
On the road, take it easy for the first 5 – 15 minutes. Compared to summer temperatures, the oil tends to become thicker when cooled down, thus needs a bit of time to become more fluid and lubricate.
Car batteries have to be maintained at a better state during winter as the electrolyte inside the battery can freeze regularly. This in turn causes damage to the internals. Long periods of car storage can also cause the battery to self-discharge making it unable to start.
Battery chargers are one way to get keep your car’s battery at a perfect state. Commonly known as Tenders, they are equipped with float and storage modes and they have the necessary circuitry that keeps the car’s battery charged at the right level.
Examine your tyres for tread life and check sidewalls for cuts. Under-inflated tyres offer less traction on the road, risking your safety. Check your tyre pressure regularly as every 10 degree fall in temperature, the inflation pressure reduces by 1 psi. Make sure you have a spare tyre and jack ready at all times. Is it also recommended that your wheel alignment should be completed regularly to avoid any potential damages to your tyres as it can cause uneven wear and tear of the tyres.
Clean the debris on your tyres and use lower gears on steep gradients. Winter tyres are used during extremely cold temperatures as the tread designs endure extreme wear. These tyres are more flexible at low temperatures and can provide better traction.
As it can be dark at almost all times during winter, you need to have your lights and bulbs inspected before winter sets in. Replace burned out ones and if your headlights are yellowed out, consider replacing them too. Make sure you clean the snow covering exterior lights before you start driving as it can help other drivers.
Coolant is one of the most important fluids that can make or break up your car during the icy cold conditions. It prevents the engine and other internal systems from freezing during extremely low temperatures. Top off coolants using a 50-50 mixture of coolant and distilled water in the radiators instead of just using the coolant. Check your manual for the exact ratio of the mixture. This results in lower engine freezing point than just coolant.
It is important to keep your fuel tank as full as possible at all times throughout the winter. The reason being, a full tank prevents the freezing of accumulated water inside the fuel pump. This can keep your engine warm and prevent it from stalling.
Demisting the windshield
There are possibilities that your windscreen gets fogged up during cold mornings. Demisting is necessary before you start your vehicle. Rubbing it with a cloth will provide temporarily demist the air inside the car. The air mists up again as you breathe. Here are a few tips for demisting the air inside.
- Use your heater effectively. Start the heater from the cold markings and increase the temperature gradually. This makes sure the air inside the car dries out.
- Another way is to switch on your car’s Air-Conditioner. Hot air from the heater will dry the glass but the air will cool down again. So using the heater together with the air conditioner will keep the air dry.
- The windows of your cars can be rolled down in case you don’t have an Air-Conditioner. This will quickly dry up the air and prevents the screen from misting up.
- For cars with a climate control, there will be a feature for demisting the air by adjusting the settings.
Getting stuck in the snow
If you find yourself stuck in the snow, a few tips on finding traction:
There are possibilities that one wheel may have traction and the other starts spinning.
Pressing the brakes can decrease the spinning of the wheel and transfer some torque to the other wheel which can help the car come out of the snow. Do not press the brakes hardly as they can overheat and wear out soon.
Start out on a lower gear and accelerate gently till you pull out your vehicle out of the snow. Gradual acceleration will move the car forward slowly and help in attaining traction. Higher amounts of acceleration can result in the tyres getting deep into the snow.
Last but not the least, make sure to have a shovel in your trunk always.
Last but not the least; Make sure you have an emergency kit at all situations. It can be extremely useful.
- Emergency warning triangle
- Ice scraper and de-icer
- De-icing salt
- Tow rope
- Snow shovel
- Hi-vis clothing
- Jump leads
- First aid kit
- Torch with Batteries
- Fully charged mobile phone - have your breakdown service's number saved
- Warm clothing as well as blanket
By means of proper planning, many of the problems we encounter every year can be avoided! Minimise your risk of getting stuck in the cold and wet weather!