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What to do when… Driving in Winter

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Dress appropriately

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!

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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.

snow hazard sign

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!tmg_ctsi_long

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The clocks are falling back – so make sure your car can spring forward with Trust My Garage

The time of year is once again upon us where dark nights are drawing in and you’re considering putting the heating on to keep your toes warm. The change in seasons can also herald a change in driving habits for many motorists, and at Trust My Garage we want to keep you and your vehicle running smoothly 365 days of the year.

The clocks go back in the early hours of October 29th, meaning it’s going to be dark even earlier – but never fear! To help you ensure you stay at your best we’ve complied some handy tips for both driving and keeping your car running at its best.

Look after your car battery

The average car battery can last up to 5 years (source), but there are many reasons that require it to be changed sooner than this.

Heading into colder weather can cause strain on your battery, as can short repetitive journeys – these use up your battery’s power without giving it enough time to recharge fully. Taking your car out for a longer drive at the weekend can be a key factor in combating battery drain – as can recharging your battery at home or at a local garage.

Check your tyres

Your tyres are the key element in keeping your vehicle rolling, so make sure they’re up to scratch, especially in the slippery weather that comes with Autumn and Winter. The minimum legal tread depth in the UK is 1.6mm in a continuous band around the central three quarters of the tyre, with no tears, bulges or bald spots on any part of the tyre (source). However, most motoring organisations recommend changing at 2mm and the majority of tyre manufacturers recommend changing at 3mm (source).

You should also try to ensure your tyres are inflated correctly to the specifications of your car. Details of the correct pressure can be found in the owner’s manual and/or inside the door frame on the driver or front passenger side doors, and you can check your tyre pressure at most local petrol stations and garages.

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Check your engine coolant levels

With cold weather comes the possibility of ice, so it’s important to ensure the fluids in your car don’t freeze. By keeping your engine coolant levels topped up you’ll stay safer in poor conditions, and keep your car’s internal systems running healthily.

If you aren’t sure what type of coolant your car needs, a local garage or aftermarket sales shop will be able to check what kind you require and point you in the right direction. If you’re stuck for where under the bonnet to check your engine coolant, it has a specific cap under the bonnet, circled below:

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As long as your coolant is between the ‘MAX’ and ‘LOW’ level markers on the side of the reservoir it should stop any freezing happening.

Take a look at this video below for a guide on how to check your engine coolant:

REMEMBER: Don’t check your coolant levels when the engine is hot as it affects the pressure in the engine and can cause damage to your vehicle. 

Here comes the sun

The sun is still a factor, even with poorer weather. Low winter sun can affect your vision when driving by causing blindness, so be sure to wear sunglasses or put down your sun visor to protect both your eyes and your driving.

As well as problems from the direct sun, drivers can also suffer when sunlight reflects off the road surface and causes glare, which can have the same adverse effects as the low sun itself. Again, wearing sunglasses or using the sun visor combats this issue, but if you still find your vision impaired it may be best to drive slowly or pull over until later on when the sun has moved.

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Slow down for nature!

Around 74,000 deer are hit by cars every year (source). The risk of hitting one is highest in spring when young deer are starting to venture out , but the autumn is also a time to be wary as stags are often out rutting.

Due to the prevalence of deer across the British countryside it can become difficult in rural areas to avoid deer at this time of year, so if you’re going to an area with a known deer population plan a little extra time for your journey and drive carefully – in some areas it can be an offence to hit a deer!

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Watch out for leaves

Fallen leaves aren’t just a problem on your lawn: hitting a patch of wet leaves on the road can be almost as bad as hitting black ice, so take care on country lanes and keep your speed down when you are forced to drive through them.

If your journey is achievable using main roads, try and stick to them as much as possible as they are more likely to be cleared due to high volumes of traffic and keeping motorists safe.

If you live on a street with many trees, you might want to try doing your bit and tidying up you driveway to stop leaves being blown into the road and causing a potential problem for drivers.

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Remember, if you want to take your car for a check-up to get ready for autumn and winter driving, you can use Trust My Garage’s handy Find a Garage map to locate a reputable, Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved independent garage in your area to get the best possible service for both you and your vehicle.

Trust My Garage truly is the independent scheme for independent garages in the UK. They have no hidden agenda or commercial influences, which means they really do exist to ensure that independent garage standards are continuing to improve.

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Get a grip driving in icy conditions

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.

Driving in snow and ice4. 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.