Temperatures are set to plummet on Thursday with wintry weather on its way and possibly the first snowfall of 2019.
It’s usually January, February and March when we get our worst weather. Expect to wake up to a frosty windscreen and having to de-ice it, before heading out onto icy roads, which could be blanketed with snow.
The Met Office has issued an ice warning, saying North East roads could be dangerous on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Wintry showers are also forecast.
So it’s wise to make sure you’re prepared for driving in chilly conditions, by brushing up on tips for navigating winter roads and de-icing your car in the mornings.
How to de-ice your car safely
First, stock up on what you’ll need: a plastic scraper for windows and a bottle of de-icer.
Spray the de-icer on the glass and make sure there is enough so it truckles down the screen. It should melt the ice, do not add hot water from the kettle.
Next use the scraper to remove the frost, with broad, firm strokes across the glass. Clear the whole screen, not just a small space in front of the driver.
Once you’re in the vehicle, use the car heater to clear up the inside. Start with a cool breeze and gradually increase the temperature as the window clears. Don’t just instantly blast it with the hottest setting, as that can lead to mist.
Then wait as long as it takes for all the glass to be clear. You shouldn’t move off until your windscreen, rear screen, side windows and door mirrors are free of ice, snow or any condensation.
Don’t use the kettle
You may be tempted to speed up the process by pouring hot water over your windscreen to melt the ice.
Don’t do that, hot water can cause the screen to crack. Making you even more late, and left with an expensive bill.
Don’t step away from your vehicle
Don’t be tempted to step away from your car with the engine running to wait for the screen to clear.
First of all, some chancer could steal your vehicle or something inside it.
And, it’s actually illegal to leave an engine running unattended on a public road.
Don’t wipe inside the windscreen
Let your heater do its job – it’s tempting to wipe the glass to clear it, but this can leave marks which make it harder to see, and could prove dangerous.
Don’t use a CD case
Make sure a proper scraper is to hand, and don’t be tempted to grab something makeshift like a CD case – it may scratch the surface of the glass, causing expensive damage.
Don’t use the windscreen wipers to defrost a screen
Windscreen wiper rubber is designed to be very effective at clearing liquid from glass. But ice is abrasive, something windscreen wiper rubbers definitely aren’t designed for. Putting your wipers on to de-ice your car won’t work and will simply cause unnecessary wear to your wiper blades.
DON’T be tempted to drive away with a misty or frosty windscreen
If you’re caught you can be fined £60 and get points on your licence. If it contributes to a collision, the punishment can be even worse.
You MUST be able to see, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows
You MUST ensure that lights are clean and number plates are clearly visible and legible
You MUST make sure the mirrors are clear and the windows are demisted thoroughly
How to prevent your windscreen from being frosty in the morning
Running late for work is stressful enough, without having to spend 10 minutes clearing your car’s windows.
But there is a step you can take to prepare your car so your windscreen does not need de-icing.
Use a windscreen cover, if you have one – if not, it’s best to use fabric material if you can such as an old blanket, but even cardboard would work if it’s tightly fitted and doesn’t allow the morning dew to seep in.
Goodyear tyres’ tips for driving in the ice and snow
First of all, remember that ice means less grip in the roads
Two common problems are oversteer and understeer, where cars turn too much or too little due to decreased grip in front or rear tyres on slippery surfaces.
How to handle understeer:
The car is not turning as much as you would like, because the front tyres have lost grip. Don’t increase your steering angle or hit the brakes, as this will only make it worse. Instead, take your foot off the accelerator and stay off the brake. The weight of your car will now shift forward. Carefully decrease the steering angle. You should be able to gently steer your car back to the desired path.
How to handle oversteer:
The car is turning more than you want it to, because the rear tyres have lost grip. Take the following actions, while paying close attention to the response of the car. Gently accelerate and the weight of your car will shift back to the rear wheels. At the same time, steer in the same direction in which the rear end is sliding. Look in the direction you want the car to go. That way, you’ll be ready to adjust the car’s path as soon as it starts to respond to your corrections.
Check your tyres
During the colder months we would ideally all fit winter tyres to our cars. However, most of us don’t want the extra expense of tyres that are designed purely for very cold weather.
Therefore, it’s vital that the tyres we do use are in tip-top shape. Check the pressures are what’s recommended by your car’s user manual.
Also inspect the tread depth. The legal minimum is 1.6mm. However, tyre companies and safety experts recommend tyres are changed at 3mm. This is because tests prove that stopping distances are significantly reduced as tread wears down.
Check your fluids
Everyone knows that water freezes when temperatures dip. That’s why cars have anti freeze mixed in with their coolant. It’s also why windscreen washer fluid has an anti-freeze component. Top up your windscreen washer bottle so there’s enough to keep your screen clean. And make sure you’ve mixed in sufficient screen wash to ensure the water doesn’t freeze.
If you haven’t had your car serviced recently, now’s the time to book it in.
Alternatively, pop into your garage and ask them to check the concentration of antifreeze in your car’s system.
Give yourself plenty of time to stop and use your gears
A cold, damp road surface means your car will need longer to stop. Regular tyres don’t have as much grip at very low temperatures. Take this into account and allow more space between you and the car in front.
Braking distances can increase by up to 10 times in snow and icy conditions. Don’t just rely on brakes to bring you to a stop – make sure to decrease through your gears too to slow down safely.
Be careful over bridges or passes
They are well known locations for icy patches so slow down when going over them.
Don’t ‘pump’ your brakes
If you have anti-lock brakes, keep a steady pressure on the brake pedal so that your ABS system can bring your car to a halt quickly and safely. You’ll have more time to steer the car out of danger, and this could prevent you from skidding further.
Pull away in a higher gear – don’t spin those wheels in first
If you’re stuck in snow, spinning your wheels quickly can push your car deeper into it. Instead, use a higher gear, as that has less torque and spin, so you’ll have a better chance of pulling away from snow or mud.
It’s a good idea to have a cold weather kit in your car. This should contain a reflective jacket, a folding shovel if snow is forecast, a tow rope, a torch, and even a blanket and some water if it’s very cold and you’re concerned your journey may be disrupted. And be ready not to travel at all if the weather forecast is really bad.