There is a definite chill in the air and with quite a few weekends on the road ahead of me I am already thinking about preparing my car for winter driving. Just this weekend I replaced my rear wiper and installed new LED headlights but that is not all the winter preparation that I need to do. ATS challenged me to conduct some research as part of the ATS Euromaster Winter Driving Myth Challenge. I asked friends and family to take a look at some common misconceptions regarding winter driving whether they thought some statements were true or false and I have to say I was pretty amazed at some of the responses.
Check your tyres
Did you know that the amount of road traffic accidents increases by 20% during the winter? One of the main reasons for this is due to tyre health. Driving on underinflated tyres or ones without enough grip can be very dangerous in icy or wet weather and mean that you can lose control of your car. Ensuring that you have tyres that are appropriate for the weather and that they have enough grip will make a huge difference. Winter tyres are ideal for snow and ice as they have an enhanced grip. One of the questions I asked was True or False, you can mix winter tyres with summer or all-season ones for the best effect. No one fell for that one and everyone marked it as False. It is definitely not a good idea. Another myth that is easily dispelled is the fact that you should add extra weight to improve traction. This is wrong, in fact in front-wheel-drive cars too much weight in the boot can have the opposite effect.
Be prepared to de-ice your car
Having everything you need to de-ice your car in your boot means that you will be prepared no matter where you are. I always keep a scraper and a bottle of de-icer in the car as well as a sponge to demist the windows if needed. One thing you should never do is use hot water to de-ice your car, this is a widely believed myth and it can cause your windscreen to crack, a lot of people still do this one and thought it was ok. Did you know that you can be fined for leaving the engine running while you’re defrosting your car? No, over 80% of the people I asked didn’t either and neither did I. You should never leave your engine running whilst stationary and if you get out of your car and it gets stolen whilst it is running your insurance probably won’t pay out either. You also don’t need to warm up your engine before you start driving in the cold which did catch out some of the older drivers who answered my questions. This is because modern cars are built so this is not required.
Plan for a winter breakdown
Ok, I know this may seem a little odd but believe me, you will be happy that you prepared in advance. Not only do you want to make sure you have suitable breakdown cover, but you should also pop a winter emergency kit in the car. Sadly, it is not a legal requirement to have one, but it will make a huge difference if you need it. This should include blankets, warm clothes, and waterproof coats, a small shovel, torch, phone charger, non-perishable snacks, and bottles of water. My kit also includes high visibility vests for us all and our tyre inflator just in case we get a slow puncture so I can get us to the nearest garage or services without having to wait in the cold by the side of the road. These kits are also really useful, especially when travelling as a family or if you end up stuck on the motorway due to an accident.
Check your car is ready for winter driving
There are some easy checks that you can do on your car that will make winter driving a lot easier. Topping up your windscreen wash, checking your oil levels, ensuring your windscreen wipers are in good working order and that all of your headlights are working are easy things to do at home that will help keep your car safe on the road. For me, headlights are really important especially in the winter when I am driving in the dark more frequently. The bulbs we had previously were not bright enough to make me feel safe when driving on an unlit motorway, yet I also didn’t want to dazzle oncoming drivers. Winter is also the time of fog and snow and knowing how to use your lights during these conditions is really important. One of the common winter driving misconceptions is that you should be driving with more lights on when it is snowing but that is false. Over 70% of the people I asked thought that high beams or fog lights would help when it is snowing. If you are driving when the visibility is reduced due to snow extra lights will not help and instead, you should use dipped headlights, drive at a slower steady speed and keep your distance from the car in front as braking distances will be greatly increased.
As someone who does a lot of winter driving, I was not caught out by the ATS Euromaster Winter Driving Myth Challenge although I was surprised that car crime decreases on Christmas day and Boxing day, although I suppose even car thieves like to celebrate Christmas. Are you ready for all the winter driving you have coming up?
This post is a collaboration with ATS Euromaster, but all thoughts and findings are my own