The chilly weather has definitely sunk in and the change of seasons has become clear, along with shorter days and longer nights. There’s no denying that winter is here! And while we might have already brought out the winter jackets, we often overlook ensuring that our vehicles are prepped and ready for winter too.
Some parts of South Africa experience snowfall, flooding, as well as heavy and hail. Before you set off and something like this does happen, there are some critical things that need to be checked to ensure your car behaves on the road for winter, and for a safe drive.
Keep your windscreen clean – Visibility is key when driving in winter conditions. And the easiest way to achieve this is to keep your windscreen, windows, and mirrors clean and free of dust. In turn this makes demisting easier as well. Your wipers should always be in a working condition, and topping up your windscreen washer with a good winter addictive can stop your windscreen from freezing.
Make sure your bonnet, roof, and exhaust pipe are clean – If you’re in a snowy area, or an area where snow and icy conditions can occur, it’s best to check that your bonnet, roof and exhaust pipe are all clear of snow. If snow blows off your roof onto a car behind you, it can be incredible dangerous to other drivers on the road. If your exhaust is blocked, it can cause carbon monoxide to leak into your car while you’re driving or while the engine is running.
Tyre thread and pressure – Having good tyre pressure and having your tyres properly inflated are essential when it comes to staying in control of the road, especially during slippery conditions. Your tyres should retain plenty of tread grove depth as well, this helps disperse water on the road. If you drive in winter conditions often, investing in snow tyres might be an option.
Use an authorised dealership – Over and above doing your own regular checks, it doesn’t hurt taking your vehicle to an authorised and professional dealership to ensure your vehicle is in tip-top condition. A professional inspection of your wipers, defrosters, battery, lights and safety system will ensure you are safe on the road, as well as ensuring your oil and anti-freeze are at the correct levels.
Plan your journey – Before you set off, check the weather, listen to traffic announcements, and make sure you know about any roadworks or road closures to plan an alternative route well in advance. Leave extra time to get to your destination, as travelling during winter does take longer.
Be prepared – Small things make a difference. Make sure your petrol tank is full. You don’t want to be stuck in a delay and run out of petrol before your closest petrol station. Make sure you have jumper leads, a torch, and a first aid kit. Have the number of your breakdown provider in your phone for added safety.
Beware of ice – With winter conditions, there are added dangers on the road like snow, rain, flooding, and cold temperatures. But one of the most threatening is black ice. Ice can stop your tyres from getting a good grip and in turn make steering and stopping extremely difficult. Black ice is a layer of ice on the road, but instead of looking icy, it looks like the road is just wet. It tends to form at night and in the early hours of the morning.
Adjust your speed and braking distance – Always make sure you leave enough space for you and the car ahead of you. It takes up to 10 times more distance to stop on ice than on dry tar! This is especially important when you’re behind trucks or other large vehicles.
Don’t brake abruptly – Sudden braking in winter conditions can lead to a loss of traction, so try not to slam on your brakes unless absolutely necessary. If you do feel your tyres starting to slip, take your foot off the accelerator and gradually steer in the opposite direction of where are you skidding.
See and be seen – Keep your lights on low when driving in snowy conditions and look ahead for robots, stop signs or curves to give yourself enough time to react. Make sure you have a hi-visibility best for people to see you in case of an accident or a breakdown.