Driving Home for Christmas?

With December approaching, many of us will be getting ready to travel from far and wide in preparation for Christmas. Whether it’s to deliver the presents we’ve bought for our family or driving to spend Christmas together. Despite the high spirits of everyone around this time of year, the weather can lack in festivity. It can spoil your plans if you’re not properly prepared. Whether you’re struggling to get your car started or having to weave through abandoned cars on the roadside there are many obstacles you can face on long wintery journeys.

The wintery weather can ruin our plans in a multitude of ways. With bitterly cold temperatures, our cars can fail to start for reasons such as the engine freezing over, to the battery losing all of its power. Many of these problems can be avoided by the correct preparation and here’s what you need to do.

Engine

When temperatures start to drop, cars that are left out in the open are susceptible to freezing, including underneath the bonnet. In order to avoid freezing or cracking your engine, it’s worth investing in anti-freeze and mixing with water, 50-50.  Antifreeze enables your engine to withstand temperatures as low as -34°C. However, it’s important to check the product you’re using. Many cars in today’s market come with a long last anti-freezing solution. Some types of anti-freeze do require replacing every 2 years.

Fuel

Making sure that you’ve got enough fuel is key. This might seem obvious, but when you’re using lower gears in order to get through the snow this can run through your fuel a lot quicker. It’s a good idea to have a reserve jerry can for emergencies.

Tyres

When out on the roads it’s important that you can get enough grip in the snow with your tyres. However, if you don’t keep up to date with your tyres they can become run down and lose a lot of grip through a lack of tread depth. In order to get a good amount of grip on the wintery roads, you need at least 3mm of tread depth on your tyres. If you have less than this then we would recommend thinking about getting winter or all-season tyres. These are specially designed for the worst weather as they’re made with a special rubber that’s most effective in cold wet weather. 

Notice: snow chains should only be worn when there’s been sufficient snowfall. This is to prevent damage to the roads and your car.

Electrics

If you manage to get out on the roads, then it’s important that you’re able to be seen as well as to see. Checking if your lights are working and are bright enough is essential when on the roads. When in the winter months our lights become dirty quicker and can make headlights and indicators look a lot dimmer, making it key to clean your lights regularly.

In the colder months, your battery is also more likely to become faulty as at low temperatures batteries can lose a lot of power. If you have a battery that’s over 4 years old then it’s recommended to have this replaced. This will reduce the likelihood of your car not starting.

Snowy car

Visibility

Having effective wiper blades is essential in winter driving. Over the years wipers can become cracked and split making them ill effective when wiping away rain let alone snow. Having cracks and splits in your wipers also allows water to be stored in them. This can result in your wipers freezing onto the windscreen. 

When starting your car make sure to check if your wipers have frozen. Turning them on before allowing them to thaw can result in breaking your wiper motor.  The best solution for this is to use is de-icer, a quick spray over the wipers should thaw away the frost. Using an anti-freeze solution in your wiper fluid over the winter months will be a good way to defrost windscreens as well.

Winter driving tips

  • In snow and ice, stopping distances can increase by as much as 10 times compared to dry conditions.
  • Drive slowly, allowing you to stop within the distance you can see in case of any obstacles in the road. It’s key to be smooth with your driving as harsh controls can unsettle the car.
  • Pull away in second gear, bringing your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel-spin.
  • If you do get stuck, straighten the steering and clear the snow from the wheels. Put a sack or old rug in front of the driving wheels to give the tyres some grip.
Snowy road

Plan your route

It’s important to plan your route in advance if the weather has been or is predicted to be cold and wintery. Looking at weather reports across your journey is a great way to work out what route to take. They also help you find alternative routes if one becomes difficult to follow. Using main roads should be a priority. They’re most likely to be cleared after a snow shower or paved with grit to reduce ice coverage. In case of emergencies, it’s important to have an in-car phone charger. This allows you to have a point of contact in case you become stuck and need to contact others in an attempt to rescue you.

If you’re part of the AA then you will be covered 365 days of the year including Christmas however services may be limited. To find out more or in need of the AA make sure to call the AA Customer Services number.

If you’re a member of the RAC, they offer Christmas breakdown cover. If you want to find our more information, make sure to contact the RAC customer services number.