WITH winter fast approaching, motoring safety is to the fore. Road users should be fully prepared for the adverse weather of the Highlands, especially when planning long journeys over the festive period. The Highways Agency recommends checking a vehicle before winter weather hits, including making sure the tread depth on tyres is safe, brakes work properly and the heating is fully functioning. Although the minimum tread depth on tyres required by law is 1.6mm, the AA recommends that motorists have no less than 2mm, and preferably 3mm, for winter driving.
Tyre pressures are also important. It is recommended that you check these at least once a week during the winter, ensuring that they reach the manufacturer’s recommended levels. These can be found in the vehicle handbook or on a sticker on the inside the driver’s door.
Regularly check that a vehicle’s antifreeze levels are between the maximum and minimum. This will help avoid potential damage to the engine or radiators, which will be much more expensive to fix than the couple of pounds it would cost to buy antifreeze. Keep an eye on oil levels with weekly checks. Low oil levels can cause significant damage to an engine, as oil is basically the blood that passes through the car’s system. Bear in mind that most car manufacturers fill modern vehicles with longer lasting antifreeze, which should not be mixed with traditional solutions. If unsure about what fluid to put into a vehicle, it is recommended that vehicle owners consult their local dealership or a qualified mechanic. Flat batteries are one of the most common reasons for motorists to require breakdown assistance in the winter, making up about one-third of the total callouts.
The additional use of heaters, lights and other electrical components on the car all add to the strain placed on batteries during this period. Car batteries generally last no longer than five years, so if a battery is coming to the end of its life as winter approaches, it might be worthwhile changing it in order to avoid the inconvenience of a breakdown. The Highways Agency also suggests that drivers put together a winter emergency kit for their car, with crucial items such as warm clothing, a torch, de-icer, ice scrapers, shovel and boots.
Check the latest traffic information and weather forecasts before setting out and be prepared to alter plans if weather conditions are particularly bad.
It may be a case of leaving earlier or leaving a little later or simply planning the best places for rest stops along the way.
A winter service for vehicles is a must and should be done at least a week before any long journey.
The better prepared a vehicle is, the smoother all the winter journeys.