Winter is here! With a chill in the air and crunch of frost underfoot, there can be no doubting the harshest season of the year is upon us. When it comes to driving, Winter weather can lead to accidents and issues on the road, so here at Trust My Garage we’ve put together some advice for helping you to stay safe during the cold season.
Plan your travel
Before setting off, be sure to check ahead that your route is clear of accidents and other issues that can cause delays, and that the roads haven’t been shut due to poor conditions.
Check your tyres
If you have the opportunity and need, winter tyres could be a viable option for your vehicle. If you use your normal tyres, ensure they are inflated to the recommended pressure and have a minimum tread depth of 3mm across the width and circumference of the tyre in order to cope with the slippery and wet conditions.
Check for faults
If you notice a fault with your vehicle, such as a cracked windscreen, dim headlight, or poorly charged battery, it’s important to get it sorted before undertaking any winter driving. If you feel there is a fault but aren’t sure how to proceed, you can always take your vehicle to a local garage to have it looked at by a professional – you can even use the TMG Find a Garage map to locate your nearest Trust My Garage member.
Check the dashboard
If your car is displaying a warning light on the dashboard it’s important to get it checked – the systems are there to keep you safe! If your vehicle isn’t performing at its best it could lead to breakdowns or accidents, so be sure to keep it in the best possible condition. If you aren’t sure what the lights on your dashboard mean you can take a look at our Getting to know your vehicle’s dashboard blog post to give you a breakdown of what you need to know.
Even though most of us have the luxury of heating in our vehicles, if we break down or have an accident we can often be at the mercy of the Winter chill. By dressing warmly and layering up you can keep warm – and you could even save money on your fuel consumption!
Keep supplies in your car
In the case of a real emergency it’s important to keep supplies in your vehicle. Items such as a torch, blanket, biscuits, water, a hot drink, a hat, scarf and gloves, and a mobile phone charger or battery pack are always helpful to keep you safe and warm. You should also keep something to put under your tyres if you get stuck, and a shovel to clear any snow.
Control your speed
The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) recommends:
“When driving in snow, get your speed right – not too fast so that you risk losing control, but not so slow that you risk losing momentum when you need it – and brake, steer and accelerate as smoothly as possible. Start gently in second gear, avoiding high revs. Stay in a higher gear for better control. Only use the brake if you cannot steer out of trouble.”
Your stopping distances also increase tenfold on ice, so be sure to leave ample room between any surrounding vehicles to stay safe on the road.
Read road signs
While you may use familiar roads while driving, any changes to the surface or temporary problems should be highlighted by road signs – so keep an eye out for any updates. Signs will also post any road closures or other issues, so be sure to look around for any information possible.
If you’re driving on unfamiliar roads then it’s even more important to check road signs – nobody wants to get lost in the snow and ice! By employing careful, steady driving, you can give yourself enough time to read and process any information you need to know.
Know when not to drive
If conditions are too dangerous, the safest option is simply to not drive. Although it will delay you, it’s the safest option – and no drive is worth injury, no matter how small. It’s important to keep an eye on weather forecasts, so you don’t plan a journey when the weather is going to be particularly bad. Driving safe means that you can drive happy.
If you’re looking to embark on some winter travels, you can take your vehicle to your local Trust My Garage member. Whether it’s for a check-up, service or repair, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved code of conduct that our members use mean that you and you motor both get the best possible service – no matter the weather!
In the news lately, there has been a great deal of coverage surrounding mobile phone use at the wheel. Although illegal, many motorists are still opting to use their hand-held devices whilst driving, despite the damaging implications this could have. It has now been proposed that the punishment for being caught with a mobile whilst in the driver’s seat is set to rise, with offenders receiving tougher penalties and larger fines. Although many still have a seemingly brazen attitude towards this illegal act, despite the implications it can have, there are some more common habits that many motorists are guilty of that could also potentially land you in a great deal of trouble too.
Remember, in the eyes of the law, ignorance is no defence, so it’s best to clue yourself up on these motoring illegalities, before you find yourself in trouble.
- Driving whilst on prescription drugs
It probably goes without saying that driving under the influence of drugs and hallucinogens are completely unlawful. But, we bet you didn’t know that your over-the-counter prescription drugs could lead you onto the wrong side of the law too. Some household medications come with cautionary notes suggesting that the drug could cause the user to feel drowsy and thus affect their ability to drive or operate heavy machinery. In this case, getting behind the wheel is strongly advised against and ignoring such caution could lead to a one year driving ban, an unlimited fine, up to six months in prison, and a criminal record. Always remember to read the advisory leaflet that comes alongside your medication, to keep you from having a run in with the law.
- Using phone whilst supervising learner driver
Now, we know that the law dictates against drivers using handheld devices behind the wheel, but did you know this rule also applies to driving instructors too? Anyone supervising a learner driver is considered to be in primary control of the vehicle and thus is required to give the roads their full attention. Being caught on a phone in these circumstances could lead to fines of up to £300, and up to 6 points on the supervisor’s licence. Subsequently, any driving related convictions and charges could further lead to loss of work for offenders who instruct for a living. Quite like the laws regarding drivers using their mobiles, this law does come with one exception; this illegality is only considered acceptable if the driver/instructor needs to call 999 and is not able to pull over in safe place.
- Using your horn
When you find yourself driving behind a slow motorist, it may be tempting to sound your horn by way of prompting the driver to speed up. Not only is this considered aggressive driving – it is also punishable. Actually, the rules regarding horn use are considerably refined.
Whilst in a moving vehicle, the horn should only be sounded if you need to warn other road users of your presence, such as on a blind bend. The horn should not be sounded whilst the car is stationary on the roads, or when driving in a built up area between 11.30pm and 7.00am except for extenuating circumstances, such as another road user posing a danger. Doing so could lead to a fixed penalty notice and a fine.
In more severe cases, the council may choose to take action, and charge a horn offender under the noise pollution law. If this is the case, hefty fines may be issued with up to £5000 being fined on domestic land, or up to £20,000 on commercial premises. Given this, it’s probably better to resist the temptation!
- Having a dirty number plate
We know how it can get in winter. Over the summer months, you spend hours on end, preening and presenting your motor so that it gleams in the summer sun. When it comes to winter, however, the misery and chill can make this process a little more tedious. Nobody likes having to stand out in the cold and rain; so sometimes, the car washing, waxing and cleaning process can occur very few and far between. However, such understandable neglect could see you being penalised if it affects the visibility of your number plate.
According to legislation, your number plate must be readable at all times and not covered in dirt. Failing this, you could end up with up to a £1000 fine. It is also a requirement that the number plate is fixed to the vehicle; is of the correct size, colour, font and spacing; and follows the British standard including the trademark of the plate supplier.
- Driving too slowly
With all the extensive laws regarding driving currently in place, it may be tempting to err on the edge of caution and drive a little more guardedly. However, where your intentions may be good, in this scenario, such excessive consideration could actually land you in a spot of bother. Not only is driving too slowly likely to wind up fellow road users, which could subsequently encourage potentially dangerous aggressive driving on their behalf, it could also land you with three to nine points on your licence and a potential disqualification. Why? Because holding up traffic can be considered to be driving without reasonable consideration for other road users. So, if you find yourself with a queue building up behind you, and you’re not yet at the speed limit, it may be worth speeding up a little, to avoid such punishment.
- Driving with fog lights on
Of course, this only refers to situations when it is not foggy. Sometimes, you may see other road users with their fog lights on during clear conditions – it seems it may have become a bit of a cool trend to keep them on. However, the Highway Code dictates that this is in fact not allowed. Headlights and fog lights may only be used when visibility is seriously reduced, and you generally can’t see for more than 100 meters. Should you regain a clear vision field, it is important you turn your lights off immediately. Failing to do so could dazzle other road users which could lead to further problems or fatalities, which certainly isn’t cool.
- Driving the wrong way on a one-way street
It can sometimes be a really easy mistake to make, driving the wrong way down a one-way street. Sometimes, the no-entry sign just isn’t clear enough and you find yourself driving in the opposite direction to parked up vehicles. You may think that this simple mistake is forgivable; that you could just do a quick turn-in-the-road and you’ll be fine; but actually, should you be caught by an officer, you could face a penalty or charge for driving without due care or attention. Be sure to stay extra attentive to road markings and signs to dodge such penalisation.
- Not clearing snow off the car roof
In the height of winter, when snow is all around, the last thing you want to do is stand out in the cold for longer than necessary. When it comes to setting out on a journey, you may be tempted to try and get away with just giving a section of your windscreen a quick scrape to remove any ice and condensation from your direct eyeshot. However, such a botched job could lead you into trouble with the police.
Not only are you required to completely clear all of your windows of snow and ice, but it is also imperative you remove any snow from your roof and bonnet too. Snow on the roof could slip forward onto your windscreen and obstruct your vision of the road, which could be incredibly dangerous. Not only this, but the falling snow could also cause problems for other road users too.
Anything that can fall from your car is considered a hazard which could lead to a £60 fine and three penalty points – in more serious cases, you can be charged with offences of careless or inconsiderate driving. So, it’s probably worth spending a few more minutes scraping in the morning, and investing in a good de-icer and scraper
- Driving with hazard lights on
Based on the rules dictated in the Highway Code, hazard lights should only be switched on:
- To warn others that your stationary vehicle may temporarily obstruct traffic
- Whilst on a motorway or unrestricted dual carriageway and you need to warn drivers behind you of a hazard or obstruction ahead
In both cases, it is recommended that motorists switch off the hazard lights once they have been observed by other motorists.
However, it is becoming increasingly common for road users to opt for hazard lights in other circumstances too. In many cases, motorists are using their hazard lights whilst parked in a place they shouldn’t be, under the assumption that the hazard lights will subsidise their illegal parking. Of course, this is not the case, and will be penalised. Not only that, though; aside from the aforementioned circumstances, driving with hazard lights on can cause confusion amongst other drivers and pedestrians, which could lead to potential hazards and conflicts, and thus is worthy of a penalty.
Avoid the risk of your motor becoming a hazard to other road users by keeping up to date with your car services and MOTs. Remember, there are over 2,100 Trust My Garage members around the country, all qualified and willing to conduct these necessary checks. Be sure to find your nearest trusted garage on the Trust My Garage website.
- Leaving the engine running while the car is left unattended
During the wintery weather, it may be tempting to leave your car running to warm up before you head out on your morning commute to work. However, unless you’re doing so on a private driveway or garage, this is actually a punishable offence. It is recommended that motorists do not leave their vehicles unattended with the engine on, as such actions could lead to theft or damage; both of which could further lead to subsequent danger or injury.
- Sleeping in a car whilst drunk
After a heavy night out, you can sometimes find yourself waking up in a variety of unexpected places. If, for some reason, you find yourself locked out of your own home, it may be tempting to have a kip in your car instead. It may seem like a perfectly reasonable solution; it’s warm and cushioned, and can keep you safe like a protective bubble. But, it could also see you being penalised.
If you fall asleep in a car whilst under the influence of alcohol, you can face punishments not too dissimilar than those linked to drink driving. Although you may be curled up in the back seat with the engine off, you are still considered in control of a vehicle. Even if you have no intention of driving the vehicle whilst under the influence, simply being inside it whilst drunk could land you in trouble.
In many cases, penalisation for these cases are at the discretion of any officer present. If they consider you to be out of control of your vehicle, or posing a potential danger or hazard to other road users, they are well within their rights to issue fines, penalties and points. For the safety of yourself and other motorists, it is important to take extra consideration whilst driving, and we recommend staying extra attentive! Which of these habits didn’t you know about?
It’s that time of year again. The nights draw in earlier with each passing day, you wake up in darkness and going outside without your big coat is tantamount to ordering your own death wish. This is the time of year when you appreciate you car the most, because let’s face it, can you imagine having to queue up at a rainy bus stop on a bitterly cold morning? No, thought not.
Whilst your levels of affection towards your car may raise, they definitely don’t feel the same love from nature, with the cold weather finding various ways to inflict damage on them. Whilst we’re all aware that regular checks are vital, very few of us actually carry them out.
In fact, there are statistics to back that statement up. A Trust My Garage survey carried out earlier this year found that a whopping 84% of motorists neglect to carry out basic, regular checks on their vehicles.
Admittedly it’s tough; you’ve come back from a long hard day of work, it’s pitch black outside and all you want to do is sit in front of the TV and hibernate until the morning. However, by failing to carry out basic checks, like oil and engine coolant levels, you’re putting your car massively a risk, resulting in costly repairs or even the inconvenience of having no car at all, and that’ll mean having to get that bus to and from work (shudder).
Don’t worry though, because simply by following our simple advice you can ensure you keep your car WARM this winter.
So what does WARM mean? Well you’ve noticed it’s capitalised and therefore it must be an acronym, and as with the very best acronyms it reads as a word that’s relevant, like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). WARM is an incredibly simple acronym that will help you give your car all the required love it desperately yearns for during the winter months.
W is for WIPERS
We all know the importance of windscreen wipers as without them your visibility can often be reduced to zero, especially during those drives where the rain stubbornly refuses to pass. Your wipers take a lot of flack in order for you to be able to see the road in front of you, with the cold weather causing them to crack and split, so you regularly need to make sure that they’re in good condition.
If you notice your wipers aren’t clearing the rain away properly or if they’re leaving smears then you need to start thinking about replacing them. Reduced visibility in bad weather will seriously jeopardise your safety – and for just a few pounds you can get them easily and quickly replaced.
A is for ANTIFREEZE
Antifreeze is a component of most, but not all, engine coolants. If you want your engine to work properly then you need to have the right concentration of coolant. Coolant levels should be regularly checked. If you have ever topped up the system with plain water then the anti freeze will have become diluted.
Make sure that once week you have a quick check of the water coolant reservoir to ensure the liquid inside is at maximum level. If you notice it drop then there could be a leak in the system, something you really want to avoid.
Because all cars are different make sure you use the right type of antifreeze by checking your handbook or consulting your local Trust My Garage member.
R is for RUBBER
There are two important things to keep in mind regarding your tyres: whether they have the right amount of tread and whether they’re correctly inflated.
Driving on wet and icy roads is challenging even for a seasoned driver. Over or under-inflation can affect steering and braking, and if the tread on your tyres isn’t at least 1.6mm-the legal requirement for cars and light vans- then they’re going to struggle and put you and other drivers at risk. Having sufficient tread will help prevent skidding and dreaded aquaplaning, when your car loses traction and is lifted by the water on the road. Sound scary? It is, terrifyingly so, so check your tyres!
For more information on checking your tyres and the things you can do yourself, visit the Tyresafe website here.
M is for MAINTENANCE
Cars are not only expensive pieces of equipment but yours most likely holds an important place in your heart, like a metallic member of your extended family. Therefore it makes sense to look after it by carrying out a few basic checks every week and regularly getting it serviced at your trusted dealer. Whilst it may be a bit of a chore, these easy tips will not only keep you safe, but also increase the longevity of your motor, saving you money in the long run.
How else can I keep my car WARM?
A simple service from a local Trust My Garage (TMG) member can ensure that your vehicle is safe and fit for driving. TMG members have access to technical information and expertise to ensure your car remains roadworthy in the harsh winter wonderland that will soon envelope us.
Where is my local Trust My Garage Member?
To locate your nearest Trust My Garage member and take advantage of quality service at an affordable price, simply log onto www.trustmygarage.co.uk and type in your postcode to see a list of Trust My Garage members in your area. Members of Trust My Garage are true professionals – local independent businesses which are part of your community. Trust My Garage is the truly independent scheme for independent garages.
Winter is well and truly upon us, and as the early nights draw in so does the weather, which never seems to fail to grind the UK’s roads to a halt.
Snow, rain and freezing temperatures combine to make getting from A to B about as challenging as taking part in a World Rally Championship race.
This winter is expected to break records for snowfall, with forecasters claiming it’s likely to be the worst winter for more than 100 years. And in the light of this grim news, we’re offering our five top tips to stay safe on the roads when driving in snowy and icy conditions.
5. Check your tyres. You need to make sure your tread depth and tyre pressures are right for winter motoring. At least 3mm of tread is correct for winter driving and certainly nothing less than 2mm. Reducing tyre pressures to get more grip on the road doesn’t work, and in fact reduces stability. If grip is a problem, you might want to consider using winter tyres. They have a higher silica content in the tread which prevents them from hardening at lower temperatures; providing you with greater grip on the roads. For more information about checking tyres and the things you can do yourself, visit the Tyresafe website here.
4. What is your vision like? Make sure your windscreen and roof are completely clear of snow as you will need as much visibility as you can get with driving conditions becoming darker over winter. Make sure all your bulbs are working correctly and that the lenses are clean. Remember that your number plates need to be legible too – you risk a heavy fine if they can’t be seen by other motorists and pedestrians.
3. Energise battery levels. Lights, heaters and wipers put high demands on your car battery. Batteries rarely last longer than five years anyway, but their life will be shortened if you use your car mainly for dark rush-hour trips. Avoid running electrical systems longer than necessary, turn off non-essential electrical loads like heaters and wipers when you don’t need them.
2. Stay calm. Winter driving conditions can be treacherous. Reduce your speed when it is icy and prepare for your journey well in advance. Remain calm in your car and stay alert for signs of danger, which could cause you to slow down or brake. Make sure you are wearing comfortable, dry shoes for driving, and try to stick to main roads as much as you can as side roads won’t always have been gritted in icy weather.
1. Get your car serviced at a Trust My Garage member. The best way to make sure your car is prepared for winter conditions is with a winter service at a Trust My Garage member. There are things you can do yourself but to be sure we always recommend you take your car to your nearest trusted independent garage and let the experts have a look over it. Braking in particular can become a real issue when roads are icy or snow-covered so it is imperative you have your brakes looked at by a professional, and whilst you can roughly gauge your tyre tread depth yourself with the old coin trick, it is far safer to trust a professional.
For the ultimate peace of mind when driving this winter, find a garage you can trust for an honest and professional winter service. Just put your postcode in our garage finder and we will show you where your nearest Trust My Garage members can be found.