Winter Driving – Is your car ready?
With winter almost upon us, it’s worth spending time preparing your car for the potentially foggy, icy or snowy weather.
Here are ten essential items I recommend to have with you in case of a winter breakdown:
- Warning triangle
- First aid kit
- Boots and warm, reflective jacket
- Jump leads
- Tow rope and shovel
- Mobile phone (with sufficient battery life and credit)
- Breakdown-cover company contact number & membership details
- Your trusted, local garage contact number
- Food and a flask of warm drink
Here are some guidelines that can help you stay safe when driving in adverse winter conditions:
Winter tyres -I recommend that you fit winter tyres from October to March in Ireland when average temperatures are below 7 °C. Winter tyres have sophisticated tread designs to provide superior grip in snowy and icy conditions.
If you do venture out or are unexpectedly caught in a snowstorm and encounter problems, stay in your car and wait for help. You can run the car heater to stay warm for 10 minutes every hour, but make sure your exhaust pipe is clear of snow. There is a danger of carbon monoxide poisoning if snow blocks the pipe and enables the deadly gas to build up in your car. Open your window slightly to help prevent the buildup.
If you must travel during a snowstorm or in blizzard conditions, be sure to let a relative, friend or co-worker know where you are headed and your expected arrival time. Avoid the temptation to check or be on your phone while driving as all of your attention should be on arriving safely. Maintain at least a half tank of fuel during the winter season. This helps ensure you have a source of heat if you are stuck or stranded.
Remember that speed limits are meant for dry roads, not roads covered in snow and ice. You should reduce your speed and increase your following distance as road conditions and visibility worsen. Know how to brake on slippery surfaces. Vehicles with anti-lock brakes operate much differently from those that do not have anti-lock brakes. You should consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for instructions on how to brake properly if your vehicle should start to skid.
Avoid using cruise control in snowy or icy conditions. In adverse conditions, you want as much control of your car as possible. Monitor road and weather conditions by checking local news stations or Internet traffic and weather sites.
The most important thing to do when driving on wet, icy or snow-laden roads is to take care and to always expect the unexpected. The same applies in dense fog, which can be a common problem during the Irish winter too.