Later this week the clocks will be going back (Sunday, 29 October) and that means the driving conditions that you’ve become accustomed to in recent months will change. The nights will start to draw in and the roads will inevitably become more dangerous.
To combat the early nights, bright mornings and unfavourable road conditions Cambridgeshire Constabulary Casualty Reduction Officer Jon Morris has compiled a list of checks you should carry out as soon as possible in order to ensure your vehicle is prepared for the cold winter months.
Tyres are arguably the most important factor when it comes to your vehicle moving. The legal minimum tread depth in the UK is 1.6mm across the centre three quarters of the tyre.
Tyre treads are designed to give good grip on wet roads but this decreases as a tyre wears down or as the depth of water increases. Drivers should take this into consideration and reduce their speed accordingly in wet conditions
A quick and easy way to see if your tyre tread exceeds the minimum legal tread depth is to take the 20p test. Simply place a 20p coin into the main tread grooves of your tyre. If the outer band of the 20p coin is obscured when it is inserted, then your tread is above the legal limit. If the outer band of the coin is visible, then your tyres may be illegal and unsafe and should be checked immediately by a qualified tyre professional.
Making sure your tyres have the optimum air pressure within them is crucial. Check the required pressure of the tyres, which can vary according to load carried by the vehicle too. This should be done when the vehicle has been standing for some time. Warm tyres can cause tyre pressures to become elevated and manufactures quote the pressures of cold tyres.
To find the specifications for your tyres check your manual or inside your vehicle door. Check and adjust your pressure at your local garage or filling station.
With cold weather comes the possibility of ice, not only on the roads but inside your engine too.
Keep your engine topped up with enough coolant of the correct strength to keep it running to the best of its ability in poor conditions.
Ensure your washer bottle is topped up and add a washer fluid to prevent the water freezing as temperatures drop.
If you’re unsure of what coolant you need to suit your vehicle go to your local garage or vehicle shop and they will be able to advise you. If you’re unsure of where the coolant goes, open your bonnet and check for the cap that has the thermometer in a squiggly line. Pour the coolant into the reservoir until it’s between the ‘max’ and ‘low’ marks. Never remove this cap when the engine is hot as scalding water can be ejected.
Checking your lights work is something that you should do regularly. Check your headlights, brake lights, indicators and reverse lights so other road users will be aware of what you’re doing and where you want to go at all times. This will reduce the risk of an accident.
In the morning the sun will be lower and in the evening it will be darker. Set aside an extra five minutes or so to ensure your vehicle is fully defrosted and your vision is as good as it can be before setting off. It is a good idea to keep a pair of sunglasses in your vehicle to reduce the glare from the sun. On rainy days it can reflect off wet roads.
Don’t be tempted to leave your engine running to clear windows when your vehicle is unattended: you may come outside to find an opportunist thief has made off with your vehicle.
Keep some de-icer and a window scraper handy but ensure the whole window is clear of ice. Don’t be tempted to just clear a small patch. Window covers can be fitted to keep frost off your windscreen.
Driving to the conditions
Cold and wet roads can make for more dangerous manoeuvres so ensure your speed matches the conditions of the road, particularly on corners where turning can become treacherous on slippery surfaces.
I cannot stress how important these checks are in making sure that your journey, of whatever length, is as safe as possible for both you and other road users.