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Thursday, 27 November 2014

Wheels in winter

Kiran Devgun from the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) shares her advice with motorists travelling in the frosty, icy weather. With temperatures near freezing, here are her top tips on how drivers can ensure they drive safely on icy roads.

Fight the frost

Don't drive off without cleaning your windows or side mirrors – visibility is everything! Ensure you use a good scraper and newly bought de-icer and switch on your internal heater settings to clear away mist and condensation. Whatever you do, do not pour hot water on to your windscreen as this is likely to freeze up straight away – water starts to freeze at 4oC.

Tread carefully

Another thing you should do before starting your journey is check your tyres. Your tyres should have a legal minimum tread of 1.6mm. You can use a tread depth gauge or the edge of a 10p coin to measure and check the tread surface. Avoid travelling with defective tyres as this will increase the likelihood of your car skidding on ice patches. Remember, tyres are the only point of contact your car has with the road, so this is a crucial safety factor.
On the road again

Set off gently in second gear, avoiding high revs. Setting off in second gear improves control when you're on the move and will avoid the risk of wheel spin. When you're on the road, it's important you get your speed right – if you're driving too fast for the conditions you risk losing control.

If you drive an automatic car, you should select '2' to travel on slippery and icy road conditions to limit gear changes and make you less reliant on using the brakes. Some modern cars will have a 'winter' mode that automatically locks out first gear to reduce the risk of wheel spin. If you're unsure, refer to your handbook for advice.

Stay in control

Stopping distance on ice increases by up to 10 times, so make sure you increase the distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you. Although you might think it is best to use your brakes to stop on ice, your brakes may not always do that for you. When you're approaching junctions or going down a slope the best thing you can do is reduce your speed early enough so you stay in control.

If you're travelling up a hill in icy weather, you should avoid stopping. Try and maintain a constant and steady speed, choosing the most suitable gear in advance to avoid having to change it when coming down the hill.

Get a grip

If your car does lose grip you should take your foot off the accelerator and point the front wheels in the direction you want to go. Front-wheel-drive vehicles are generally better in the frost or snow, but if your car is rear-wheel-drive, you should place heavy sandbags or luggage in the boot to add some weight to your car and give you more control.

Spot the ice

When frost thaws, ice tends to stay in areas that are shaded by trees and buildings. You should take extra care when travelling through these areas, because even if you think the conditions have improved they may still be icy. Consider micro climates such as bridges over motorways and exposed areas where wind-chill may bring temperatures down to below freezing.

Breakdown ready

A winter kit can be useful when your car breaks down in the cold weather. A shovel and some grit can help you pass through severe ice patches – so ensure you have these with you. You will also need to carry a fully charged mobile phone with you, with your breakdown service provider's number already installed.

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