What Car? winter driving guide 2019

With snow predicted across many parts of the UK, read our ultimate winter motoring guide to ensure you stay safe during the most extreme weather...

30 January 2019
What Car? winter driving guide 2018

Driving can be dangerous in winter. Although snow is forecast for many parts of the UK, it doesn't even have to snow to cause havoc. The rain, the cold and the longer nights all make this a riskier time to be behind the wheel. It's also worth bearing in mind that although many modern SUVs, such as the Nissan Qashqai, have rugged off-roader looks, most will be two-wheel drive, so they won't fare as well as you might think in snow and ice

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

Part 1 - Getting your car ready for winter

First things first: it's vital that your car is in top working order so it's ready to tackle the worst of driving conditions. 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

What Car? winter driving guide 2018

We focus on winter tyres a bit later on, but 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, the tyre is 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, so it's worth taking your car into a garage to have its battery tested. Make sure the battery is in good condition and fully charged and, if you're concerned, carry a set of 'jump' cables with you, so you 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 your car's brakes work effectively and that the brake lights are functioning.

Oil

What Car? winter driving guide 2018

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 it 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-coloured equivalents.

Lights

What Car? winter driving guide 2018

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.

Next: What to keep in your car during winter >

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