Winter motoring

Motoring under adverse wintry conditions is often daunting, but there are a number of aids for your car – and tips on driving technique for you – which can make life considerably easier. Obviously it is important for your car to be in excellent mechanical order if it is to cope with the extra demands made upon it. Because of the generally poor road conditions, tyres should also be regularly checked – not only for correct pressure, but also for depth of tread, which should be well above the minimum lmm.

PROTECTION AGAINST FREEZING

If water in the car freezes, it can cause serious problems and it is vital you take the necessary precautions to prevent this happening. RADIATOR Freezing water can cause the radiator to 1 burst and anti-freeze should be added to the cooling system to prevent this. Drain the system and flush through with clean water. Pour more clean water into the radiator until it is half full and add the necessary amount of anti-freeze – about one litre to five litres of water should be sufficient – then top up with water. Replace the radiator cap, run the engine for a few minutes and top up if necessary. If you have to top up the radiator at a later date, remember to use the correct mixture; don’t use plain water or you will dilute the anti-freeze.

Some engines have sealed cooling systems and are usually filled with anti-freeze at the time of manufacture; topping up should be necessary only to make up for evaporation losses. Other engines 2 should have only certain types of anti-freeze added, so always consult your handbook to make sure you use the right type. WINDSCREEN WASHER BOTTLE A little methylated spirit or proprietary windscreen washer additive mixed with the water in the washer bottle should prevent it freezing in exceptionally severe conditions.

TEMPERATURE CONTROL

Even with an efficient thermostat, in really cold weather you will sometimes find the engine never reaches its normal running temperature. This means that not only does your fuel consumption rise, but also your heater is not as effective as it might be. You can solve this problem by wrapping aluminium foil over part of the radiator grille, 3 taping it in place if necessary; this will cut down the amount of cold air blowing through the radiator.

If you find your car is difficult to start on an icy morning, it may be worthwhile getting a small, flat paraffin heater; this is placed on the ground under the engine to prevent it getting really cold. It uses very little fuel and can save anxious moments the following morning trying to get your car to start.

USEFUL ACCESSORIES

There are several accessories on the market which aid winter motoring. Some protect various parts of the car from the elements, while others simply help you to keep going in really poor conditions.

FOG LAMPS These are a boon in really thick fog or snowstorms, since the beam they produce is wide and low to give the broadest field of vision. By law, in fog and snow you can use two fog lamps instead of the ordinary headlamps; if you have only one fog lamp, it must be used only in conjunction with the headlamps.

MUD FLAPS Although not essential, these will help to keep your windows and those of the car behind you clean. Most mud flaps fit all makes of car, but some are manufactured specifically for particular models; fixing is generally by self-tapping screws or pop rivets in the wheel arches.

PROTECTIVE COVERS Kits containing protective rubber covers for the coil, distributor and plug caps are available at a reasonable cost. They are worth fitting, particularly if you do a lot of motorway driving when spray constantly hits the car and can seep into parts of the engine. There are also protective sprays for the car electrics: some displace water while others form a seal against it. These are particularly valuable to ensure easy starting early in the morning when the weather is really cold. DEMISTERS Misting can be a problem in cars with poor ventilation, in which case a rear window neater will help. Otherwise there is a range of sprays, liquids, pastes and impregnated cloths to apply to the windows to keep them mist-free. It is best to avoid using these on the windscreen, since they can make vision worse rather than improve it. Just clean THE SCREEN thoroughly and rely on the demister vents inside the car to keep it clear. If your demister system is inefficient, rub the screen with a chamois leather; avoid touching the screen with greasy hands or you will leave smear marks. De-icers These are invaluable aids to winter motoring and are available in aerosol form to cope with frozen windows and door locks. Simply spray the glass, leave it for a few moments and remove the melting ice with a plastic scraper; on door fittings, spray into the barrel of the lock or around the push button of the handle.

TYRE CHAINS IF snow is heavy, you can fit chains to your tyres; it is usually only necessary to fit them to the driving wheels of the car. Remember, however, that as soon as you encounter clear roads again, you must remove the chains since when used on hard road surfaces they can damage the tyres. To fit the chains, lay them out on the ground and drive onto them; pull the chains round the tyres and couple the hooks on each end. If you do not have chains, you can use rope instead. Tic lengths of rope at intervals round the tyre, across the tread, by passing ii through the slots in the wheel. Cut off any loose ends.

If you do get stuck in deep snow, place something under the drive wheels that will give you grip, such as sacking or a piece of wood. To move the car. use low revs and delicate clutch control.

DRIVING TECHNIQUE

In bad conditions, particularly where black ice is suspected, braking must be cither extremely gentle or non-existent; rely on the gears to adjust speed. One suitable method of braking is to pump the pedal gently so the wheels never really have a chance to lock. Gentle acceleration and cornering are also essential if you want to avoid sliding.

In strong winds always drive with extreme care, since a gust of wind can make the car swerve into the path of another driver with astonishing speed. In fog or mist, don’t go so fast that you cannot stop within the distance you can see ahead of you – or to the vehicle in FRONT.

SKIDDING This is one of the most common problems you are likely to encounter on wet or icy roads. A skid occurs when the tyres stop rolling along in contact with the road and slide – usually sideways; it can also happen when the brakes are applied too hard. When this happens, you must get the wheels turning again and travelling in the same direction as they rotate. Turn the steering wheel so the front wheels point in the direction of the skid; the wheels will roll along the road, regain their grip and you can begin to steer out of trouble. It is important not to use the brakes during this period – and this is not easy to remember. If possible, find a skid pan where you CAN practise your technique; many offer tuition to the motorist for a reasonable fee. AQUAPLANING Basically this is caused by a build-up of water in front of the rolling tyre; this eventually lifts the tyre out of contact with the road surface so you are effectively riding on water. When this happens friction, steering, cornering and braking capabilities are drastically reduced. Good tyres are one of the best safeguards against this; but if you keep your speed down, the condition should not be too serious.

FLOODS Under such conditions it is vital to keep the car moving. Provided the flood is not deep enough to soak the car’s electrics, carry on driving through – slowly. Keep the car in bottom gear and use fairly high engine revs to stop the water blocking the exhaust pipes and so choking the engine.

WARNING

Always check your brakes after driving through water; if wet. they will not operate effectively. Pump them several times – until you feel them gripping – to help remove any water.

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