It might be autumn but it’s a great time to start thinking ahead to winter. Car maintenance tends to be forgotten about in the dry and sunny summer months. No wind noise in the cabin, wipers are neglected and usually the only problem is a broken air conditioning system.
Of course, the first thing that comes to mind when prepping your car for winter is the tyres, because once the temperature drops below 45-degrees Fahrenheit, an all-season tyre’s ability to grip the road is compromised. The colder weather brings a whole new set of driving challenges – slush, ice and hard-packed snow. And even with all of the performance capabilities built into today’s vehicles, they will only perform as well as their tyres allow. And in extreme winter weather, that can mean the difference between focused braking power and out-of-control handling.
There are a few minor problems that you can rectify yourself.
Frozen door lock/handle
Use luke warm water, not hot, to defrost area or spray with de-icer.
Vehicle unlocked but door frozen
Use luke warm water, not hot, around door edge to de-ice seals. To prevent this happening again, use silicone polish on a cloth and wipe around door seals.
The biggest problem is wipers being used to clear screens. Don’t turn on the wipers. Make sure any auto wiper control is switched off before turning the ignition on as this could blow the wiper control fuse. Use luke warm water, not hot, to wash away ice and clear windscreen.
As above, don’t operate your washers if they’re frozen, as this could blow the protection fuse. Use luke warm water, not hot, to wash away ice and clear windscreen. Use a bottle of water where convenient to wash the windscreen and maintain forward vision.
It’s important to accelerate very gently, use low revs and change up to a higher gear as quickly as progress allows. It may be necessary to move off in the second gear as this will help reduce wheel slip.
Once you’re on the move, take extra care while driving to prevent skidding and watch out for black ice.
Getting stuck on ice
At home, use salt or gravel to help grip. If this isn’t available, an old carpet, car mat or something similar placed under or just in front of the slipping wheel will provide traction to move the vehicle.
Important: make sure that your parking brake is on, as once free of any blockage the vehicle may move on its own. Use a low engine speed and keep wheel spin/slip to a minimum. If other road wheels are blocked from movement clear the wheels so the vehicle will move easily.
Driving in Traffic
Skidding is most drivers’ biggest concern, and can be largely prevented by driving slowly. The available grip between tyres and road will be drastically reduced by ice and snow so to achieve grip wheels need to be kept turning, not locked, by braking or spinning by aggressive acceleration.
Important: always keep a good distance behind the vehicle in front as stopping distances will be extended. When you need to slow down, try to anticipate junctions or turns and change down to a lower gear before applying the brakes.
Drive slowly and think ahead.