How to prepare a car for snow

By Richard Bolton
05-11-2018
The first frost of the year has struck most of the UK with more bad weather and freezing temperatures expected before Christmas and early into the following year, the government and met office have released a checklist to help you prepare for whatever Winter 2018 throws at us.

Frost on cars is inevitable, with plenty of wives tales about how to prevent windscreens from frosting over to the horror stories of cracked windscreens from hot water. The most obvious advice we would give is to top up your anti-freeze screen wash, many retailers including supermarkets now offer windscreen fluid suitable down to -10 degrees with premium brands boasting up to -15 or -20. Using a stronger strength fluid will prevent it freezing in the pipes or the reservoir which could damage components such as pumps, or even blow fuses on your lease vehicles.

Winter Tyres

Tyre care on any car is important and before snow or ice is an ideal time to change tyres if they are required, here is an article on wheel and tyre care. Although tyres are covered under all of our finance companies maintenance packages, changing from summer or all-weather tyres to winter tyres is not. Check they trend depth of your tyres, if below 2mm across the central three quarters of the tread you can have your tyre replaced under the maintenance agreement, if you do not have a maintenance agreement, you may want to consider changing tyres so that you have the most tread depth to deal with adverse weather and road conditions such as snow and ice.Winter tyres

Winter packs

Not all winter packs are the same and some are designed for weather only seen in the Scottish highlands or Alaska. Most city drivers will not need snow chains or a shovel, drivers in more rural areas may benefit from these items. Items that should be included in every breakdown kit for winter preparation should include, a car charger for your phone, plenty warm clothing or blankets, emergency food or drink rations and some form of high visibility clothing or a hazard triangle the suggested distance for placing a hazard triangle is 45 metres from the breakdown or accident.

Inspections

Some mechanics and garage chains offer a winter check for free that will check your tyres, brakes, bulbs, battery and fluids for you. Alternatively, you can check yourself that your car’s battery is holding and charge. Also, ensure that any of the fluids in your vehicle are at the appropriate levels. Plan your journey before you leave, it is easy to assume that the weather where you are is the same as your destination, however, journeys as little as 10 miles from a town or city can see significant changes in temperature and road condition depending on how well gritted or travelled the road is.

Windscreen Wipers

Windscreen wipers are vital in bad weather, worn wipers can be dangerous smearing water across the window rather than removing it. Wiper blades can also be damaged by trying to wipe ice before it has had a chance to defrost.

To help protect your windscreen wipers and prevent damage to the windscreen you can use de-icer to melt the ice, gently warming the windscreen with the car heater ensuring to use the air conditioning to prevent condensation in the cabin. Water can also be used to melt ice and snow, but it is worth remembering that rapid changes in temperature can cause stone chips to crack and the water will quickly cool and if left could freeze causing the same problem you started with.

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In the event of heavy snow drifts, it is important to clear the roof of your car as well as the windscreen, while many get away with this minor motoring violation others are prosecuted. Earlier in 2018 during snowdrift drivers were blinded under harsh braking when the snow from their roof slid covering the windshield blinding the driver temporarily. Other drivers were required to take evasive action when the snow from a vehicle's roof lifted and flew through the air as a solid mass and hit following drivers.

Breakdowns and traffic are common all year round but winter adds the risk of dark nights and bad weather, you should regularly check your spare tyre or puncture repair kit and know how to use them. Having a set of jump leads or a booster pack to start your car will help to prevent you waiting hours for a breakdown recovery vehicle. Apart from punctures and flat batteries, another common breakdown issue is running out of fuel, what can make this worse is not having an empty fuel can, to go and get fuel.

Snow chains

Popular Winter Car Myths

Window blankets

Popular myths for preparing your car or lease vehicle for winter include a dry or wet blanket across your rear window or windscreen trapped in the jams to prevent it from blowing away. This technique can prevent snow building up but will not prevent windscreen frost because it will absorb moister from the air (if dry) or rain and freeze, a wet blanket, is more likely to cause cooling by evaporation.

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Hot water will smash your window

A myth that was once true when cars used single pane glass rapid changes in temperature can cause the glass to expand and cool fast enough to smash, although this myth is not so true today, with the use of laminated glass in car windscreens it is more likely to crack than smash. Warm water is perfectly safe to use if the glass has no imperfections or weak spots, while most will use the water left in the kettle from their morning coffee, lukewarm water is usually enough to melt ice and run off the car before freezing.

Extra weight for traction

Although this was a popular winter ritual before traction control was standard in even the cheapest cars available new today, adding weight particularly to rear wheel drive vehicles gave marginally more stability in ice and snow or on slippery surfaces.