It’s virtually a given that during Winter there will be some severe weather warnings. It’s wise to ensure your car is prepped and ready to cope with whatever Mother Nature decides to throw at it. Fortunately for all of us, Uswitch’s Ben Smithson has perfectly timed his guide on how to do this best.
By pure coincidence, as I sit here compiling Ben’s thoughts into a feature, it has started to snow outside here in Lancashire. If ever there was a right time to share how you should be preparing your car, it’s now!
Ben Smithson, the car insurance expert at Uswitch.com, says: “With weather warnings issued across the UK and temperatures set to drop down to low single figures, drivers need to be mindful of how the change in conditions can impact their driving.
“Snow, frost and ice can all be cause for concern and make for unpredictable driving conditions. Changes in the weather often happen suddenly, so it’s vital to adjust driving habits to cope with potentially treacherous conditions.
“Many drivers feel more anxious on the roads during winter, so it’s important to take precautions when it comes to safety. Take your time and assess the situation to avoid any mishaps.
“Simple things such as clearing snow or ice from your windscreen have to be done safely. Drivers can be tempted by a quick fix, but that can be costly.
“If not done properly, you could inflict damage to your windows, causing scratches or cracks which will need to be fixed and will have your car off the road during the busy festive season.”
Here are Ben’s top tips to ensure your vehicle is ready for the severest winter weather:
De-ice windows safely
Do not use hot water to dissolve ice as this could cause cracks to develop. It’s tempting to use a credit card but avoid doing so as not only could it snap but you could scratch the glass, which would need to be repaired. Always keep de-icer and appropriate de-icing tools in your car to remove any snow or ice at any moment.
If the damage on a windscreen is 40mm or bigger, your car will fail its MOT. It’s also illegal to drive your car if it has a crack in the windscreen, meaning you could face up to three penalty points and a fine – or worse if you’re involved in an accident. You must remove snow from your lights, mirrors, roof and windows as the Highway Code states ‘you MUST be able to see, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows’. Police have the right to stop and fine you £60 if any of your vision is obstructed.
Do not leave your engine running while unattended
Although warming the car may take a while, you should never leave your engine running and the vehicle unattended. If you do and your car is stolen, your insurers may not payout.
If you leave your engine running on a public road, you could be slapped with a fine. This act breaks rule 123 of the Highway Code and are an offence under regulations 98 and 107 of the Road Vehicles Regulations 1986. Motorists could be charged with a £20 fine, and those who refuse to turn the engine off will see it doubled to £40.
Use winter tyres (if possible)
Although not essential, winter tyres are a safer option for harsh weather conditions. Most UK insurance providers are signed up to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), Winter Tyres Motor Insurance Commitment which means you don’t have to notify your insurer of your winter tyres. However, a select few insurers may class this as a ‘modification’ which needs to be noted on your policy, so you should ask your provider if unsure.
Keep your registration plates visible
Remove snow from your registration plates when defrosting your car. If you don’t you could face a fine of £1,000 if both your front and back plates are not visible as it stops your vehicle from being registered by cameras and police, who use your reg to check if you’re taxed, insured, and have a valid MOT.
Check tyres and fluid levels
Check tyre pressure and make sure your tread depths are at least 3mm to be safe for winter conditions. Top up screenwash, antifreeze and oil levels if they’re low.
Pack an emergency kit in the back of the car with essentials, such as an ice scraper, de-icer spray, torch, first-aid kit, warm blankets, jump leads, and even a small shovel.
Read more motoring-focused, articles, guides and reviews in our dedicated section here.