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What Car? winter driving guide 2016

Low temperatures and icy conditions put extra stress on you and your car. We present our ultimate guide to winter driving, including winter tyres, car maintenance and driving tips

Words ByWhat Car? team

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Now that we're in the depths of winter, driving is ever-more dangerous. It doesn't even have to snow to cause havoc. The rain, the cold and the longer nights all make winter driving riskier.

Over the next few pages, we'll tell you need to know to stay safe on the roads this winter.

Part 1 - getting your car ready for winter

First thing's first - it's vital that your car is in top working order so that it's ready to tackle the worst driving conditions that winter causes. We're highlighting these checks as being necessary for winter driving, but if you perform them all year round, you and your car will be prepared for whatever comes your way.

Tyres

We're going to focus on winter tyres a bit later on. Whether you go for winter, summer or all-year tyres, we recommend you regularly check their condition and pressure. Ensure that your tyres have plenty of tread (1.6mm across three-quarters of the tyre, all the way round, is the legal minimum). You can measure the tread with a 20p piece. Hold the coin in the tread and as long as the rubber comes above the border around the coin, your car's tyres are legal.

The recommended tyre pressures for your car will be listed either in the manual or on the door frame.

Battery

You don't want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere because of a flat battery. You can take your car into a garage to have the battery tested. Make sure it's in good condition and fully charged and, if you're concerned, carry a set of 'jump' cables with you, which can connect to another car's battery and give yours a jump start if needed.

Brakes and brake lights

Wet, snowy or icy conditions all increase stopping distances. Check that the brakes work effectively and that the brake lights are functioning.

Oil

Check oil levels and ensure you use the correct engine oil, because cold weather can make it thicken. Information on which oil to use can be found in the manual or can be obtained from the manufacturer's service department.

Washer fluid

You’ll use far more screenwash than normal because of the spray thrown up by damp, salty roads, so make sure you keep it topped up. Also make sure it's of a high enough concentration so that it won't freeze.

Wipers

Check your windscreen wipers - they shouldn't smear dirt across the screen. If your wipers aren’t clearing the screen properly, clean them first, then replace them if that doesn’t work. Perished or split wiper blades should also be replaced immediately.

Fuel

Keep your car topped up with fuel so you can run it to keep warm if you get stuck in snow.

Radiator

Top up your radiator with anti-freeze - your local garage will be able to check that it's the right concentration. Anti-freeze comes in different colours, but generally red anti-freeze lasts longer than blue, green or orange colours.

Lights

In conditions where visibility is reduced, your car's lights make other road users aware of your presence. Check that all lights are functioning as they should, including brake lights and indicators. Also check your foglights. However, only use them when visibility is poor because they can dazzle other road users and make your brake lights difficult to see.

Click through to the next page for part 2 of our ultimate winter driving guide

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