At the last of Summer disappears from memory and we find ourselves deep into the colourful season of falling leaves and with Winter firmly on the horizon, it’s time once again to think about winter motoring and the challenging driving conditions the dark days bring.
The View Out
As the darkness descends the need for a clear view from the driver’s seat is paramount. Make sure that the windscreen is squeaky clean and that the washer bottle is topped up with a quality screen wash solution. The washer bottle will need filling again during Winter so familiarise yourself as to its location under the bonnet.
At the same time, check the windscreen for cracks or chips. Even slight damage can weaken the glass, so make sure any such are repaired by a visiting car windscreen concession or have it checked by the local car servicing garage to be on the safe side. Check the operation and sweep of the wipers while you’re at it to ensure a clean and judder-free operation. If in doubt have the blades changed because a car can fail the MOT test on that alone. Unsure? Ask your garage to check. It is not expensive and is a simple operation.
Interior damp is the driver’s enemy. Warm bodies in damp clothes will quickly fog the glass so make sure the air-con is working as it should; climate control is not just for Summer. Breath, greasy kebabs and cigarette smoke don’t help either. Damp, smeary glass can make visibility difficult and will also create specular highlights from on-coming traffic headlights, adding to the difficulties of seeing.
The low Winter sun, although not warm, can be blinding. Again, the clean screen rules apply but also remember to use the sun visor and sunglasses where appropriate and make more use of headlights in bad weather. Remember too, that with the low sun behind the car the view out of rear-facing mirrors can be dazzled, perhaps hiding cyclists coming up on the inside for example so ensure wing mirrors are clean and properly set.
On The Road
Autumn and winter road conditions can be treacherous. Be mindful of your driving style and watch out for accumulations of wet leaves and puddles that may mask nasty potholes, given the state of our roads today. Although the British climate is generally benign, we can get ice and snow and as has happened so often, we are rarely prepared for it. Soaking roads can cause aquaplaning and we all know the perils of black ice. The simple answer is to slow down in bad conditions.
Consider consulting your local professional servicing garage about a pre-Winter check-up. Call it a personal mini-MOT if you like. For example, even old batteries work well enough in the warm weather but when the mercury drops it is a different story. Cold weather will find out a dodgy battery in short order. That sluggish turnover or the deadly ‘click of doom’, may well signal the end of battery life. If your car battery age is five years or older then a change makes sense. A battery can die on you at any time. They are not that expensive, but remember, some of the latest cars have special batteries; ask your technician to make sure.
The same goes for car light bulbs. These days they last a long time but in due course, fail they will. As owners, we can never know when this will happen but we can at least make sure by way of a weekly check, that they are all working. Get a friend or relative to watch as the brakes and indicators are applied.
If the car’s tyres are looking a bit tired (sorry) and worn and the tread depth is getting near the minimum of 3mm, replace them before wetter, more slippery conditions set in. Do a physical or ask your garage to assess them.
With modern cars and sealed systems we tend to forget this aspect and it’s is not the issue it used to be. But systems can get worn or damaged so always ask at service time for a through check-over by your automotive technician as part of routine maintenance.
You And Yours
Things to keep in the car for Autumn and Winter includes some de-icer (Never de-ice a windscreen with hot water!), a good quality scraper and a torch. Maybe a blanket and some water and a snack or two wouldn’t go amiss either. You will probably have some form of navigation either built-in or as an accessory, so make sure they are working. Many drivers today use their smartphone for map services so make sure there’s a charging cable that fits into a powerbank or a 12v socket always on hand.
Every year motorists get warned about our unpredictable weather and ill-prepared cars and yet still they get caught out. Don’t be that person. Get ready.