Simple tips to stay safe on the road this winter

Simple tips to stay safe on the road this winter
Photo credit: Getty

Navigating our roads can be tricky at the best of times but throw in a good dose of wintry weather and conditions can be treacherous.

Driving on snow and ice presents all sorts of challenges. Speeds, stopping, starting and turning can be adversely affected.

"The change in weather can be perilous to car's systems," says Phil Jackson, National Training Manager for Carter's Tyres.

"Freezing temperatures, salted roads and wintry precipitation can gang up on your car."

Check your tyres

Tyres should always have at least the 1.5mm Warrant of Fitness required tread depth, but in winter it's even more important to make sure the tread isn't worn out.

You can check it out at home by putting a match upside down into the tread. If the match head is visible, the tyres are too worn.

"The last line of defence between you and the pine tree on the side of the road are your tyres," says Mr Jackson.

If you've ever seen a helium balloon look a little deflated in colder weather, the same thing happens to the air in your tyres. To make sure your tyres are full, open the driver door and check the manufacturer's placard which has the right amount of pounds for the vehicle, or visit Carter's Tyres for a free tyre pressure check.

"Most of the pressure readings at the garages aren’t particularly accurate. They could be five to six pounds off."

Keep up your car's fluids

During the colder season, the antifreeze or 'engine coolant' in your car is even more important. As the name would suggest, it's there to regulate the temperature of the car, and make sure the car starts without trouble in extreme climates.

"It's the green stuff that goes in your radiator, and an essential part of your car's winter protection," says Mr Jackson.

If it's looking low, you’re aiming for a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze, and topping it up to be full. If you want to check the mixture levels, most service stations and repair centres are happy to do this for free.

If you're topping up your antifreeze at home, make sure to keep pets and small children away - antifreeze has a delicious sweet smell, but ingesting small doses can be lethal.

While you're under the hood, also check the levels in your washer fluid reservoir - the plastic tank with the window and water symbol on the cap. Refill it if it's looking low, but make sure to use washer fluid, as using water only can freeze and burst the reservoir and piping.

Change your wipers

Your windscreen wipers also get quite the workout in the icy months, and if you notice streaking, smearing, or a noise when you use them, it's time to change the wiper blades.

Use lights and snow chains

In adverse weather conditions, drive with your lights on so that you're visible to others on the road.

When driving in snow following distances must be increased and speed dramatically reduced.

Always select a lower gear or, if your vehicle has an additional snow or ice setting, make sure this is activated. 

Keep snow chains in the car as well and make sure you practice putting them on. If in doubt, go to a garage and ask for help.

Don't drive through a flood

When faced with a flooded road,  never risk driving through it. It is very difficult to judge how deep the water is and, if the water is moving fast, what's being carried along in its flow.

Carry a safety kit

Warm clothing, a bottle of water, quality, protected jumper cables and a fully charged cell phone should all be essential items in your car.  

Preventative maintenance is key to keeping safe on the roads in any season, but if anything feels or sounds off while driving, make sure to get it checked out.

This article was created for Carter's Tyres. Visit your nearest store to get your vehicle checked out and pick up a few tips to stay safe on the roads this winter.