Winter is well and truly here. And with more ice, rain and snow it’s important to check your vehicle is in working order and to know a few tips for safe driving in potentially hazardous weather. Harsh winter conditions can arrive with little notice while you drive a long motorway or twisty country roads. Always check the weather before you leave for a long journey. Especially if it’s unfamiliar roads.
One of the biggest challenges to winter driving in Ireland is ice. There are many things drivers in Ireland should keep in mind when winter arrives.
De-icer is a must for all drivers. Getting into your car, blasting the heat to clear the ice on the windscreen is annoying. Driving with reduced visibility because there’s ice on your windscreen is far worse. Save yourself some trouble and grab a can of de-icer for all your windows and drive safer.
Ice problems goes further than just your windshield. When the temperature starts dropping you need to make sure your car is ready to handle the freeze. Check your engine oil level when the car is on level ground and cool. Make sure its comfortably between the min and max level, top it up if its low. If it is low add a small amount of oil, 200ml at a time if your not used to it, give it a minute and check again. Don’t add too much, adding too much oil can be as bad as too little.
While you’re at it ensure your coolant level is at the correct level. Its designed not to freeze in the cold so if it is low, don’t just add water, which may freeze. Get the correct mixture of antifreeze and add it to a cold engine if needed.
Windscreen & Wipers
Clean your windscreen both inside and out. The low setting sun in the winter can blind drivers especially through dirty glass. Check your wipers regularly to see if they need replacing. Dirty and old wiper leave streaks which reduce visibility even further. Always remember to check and fill up your windscreen washer fluid too so you can clean your windscreen as your driving.
Regularly walk around your car and check all the lights are working correctly. Turn your hazards on to check all indicators and check your fog and full beam lights too. If you can, have a friend stand behind your car as you press the brake pedal to make sure all your brake lights are working. If you can’t do this try reversing into a space with a shop window or your house window behind you and check the rear view mirror.
Your tyre are the only way your car contact the road, so they are essential. Even in good weather you should check your tyre tread depth and the tyre condition regularly, but this is especially important in the winter and easy to forget. Ensure you have no bulges or damage to the side walls of your tyres and that the tread depth is at least 3mm. Check the pressure in each tyre and inflate if necessary, you can often find the tyre pressures in the sill of the drivers or passenger door of your car. If not just check the manual to be sure.
If you’ve got an older car make sure your battery is relatively fresh heading into winter. Older batteries above a few years can struggle in the cold, especially as they pass 3 or 4 years old. If you have a car with stop/start technology make sure you replace the battery with one designed for stop/start, as other batteries aren’t designed to be cycled as many times. Keeping a set of jump leads in the car is a good idea, you can see a guide on how to use them here.
We’re firm believers that all cars should have emergency kits in them at all times. They should include a first aid kit, high-vis vest, flashlight or torch, car phone charger and a small fire extinguisher. Any or all of these items could become invaluable in the future. Even if it’s just to lend to someone else in need.