As the seasons change, so do road conditions and the considerations you should make both when your car is out on the roads and parked on the drive. From the effect icy conditions can have on your vehicle in winter to that of the heat and extra sunshine in summer, and everything in between, it’s essential you adapt your driving style and car maintenance tasks when necessary. Our guide details the most important driving and car care advice for all four seasons, so you and your car won’t suffer when the weather changes.
There are generally more damage accidents in winter, due to the higher chance of ice on the roads and more people driving in the dark. Department for Transport data shows that more pedestrians are killed in the winter months as well. The following winter driving tips can help ensure you, your car and others on the roads remain safe.
Winter driving tips
Poorer weather means journeys may take longer in winter, so it’s important to factor in extra time wherever you’re going. Checking local traffic and weather reports before setting off will help. When you’re actually driving, being extra careful is key, such as leaving a bigger space between you and the car in front as stopping distances are 10 times longer in snow and ice.
Avoid braking hard in icy conditions, as this can lead to skidding, instead drop down the gears and never use cruise control when it’s slippery. Where possible don’t come to a full stop on an ice-covered road if you can avoid it, as it may be more of a struggle and a higher chance of skidding when getting started again. And definitely try to avoid stopping on an uphill in ice or powering up them too quickly, as this will lead to wheel spinning in most cases.
- Battery: Drive at least twice a week to avoid your car battery dying in the cold weather. If these are only short journeys or you rarely drive your car, regularly use a trickle charger overnight to prevent it going flat.
- Coolant: Use the correct antifreeze concentration levels for your vehicle and check there are no engine leaks that could lead to your engine freezing.
- Lights: Check all lights are working and replace any failed bulbs. Regularly clean light lenses as they are likely to get dirtier in winter from the muckier roads, to help them shine at their brightest.
- Survival kit: Winter is when bad, cold weather is most likely to cause an unexpected delay so pack a survival kit at the start and leave it in your car. Include a blanket, shovel, ice scraper, torch, screen wash and snacks such as crisps and cereal bars.
As the weather warms up slightly it can impact upon your car and driving techniques as well.
Spring driving tips
Coming out of winter is the ideal time to give your car a good clean. With the cold and dark weather, it’s unlikely you’ll have done so recently but getting off all the mud and salt that’s built up is important to prevent rust and paint damage. Remember to give the inside a good spring clean too, as it can be hard to keep it dry throughout winter.
If you’ve been using winter tyres, then now is the time to switch back to your regular ones when the temperature rises above an average of seven degrees, as they’re at their best below this. There may be more pot holes about, as freeze-thaw cycles of water getting into cracks in a road’s surface, opens them up along with continuous pressure from passing traffic. Keep your eyes peeled for these, even on routes you know like the back of your hand, as they can damage your wheels.
- Tyres: If you’ve been driving with winter tyres, don’t whip them off straightaway. Wait until the average temperature reaches 7°C over a few days (usually in March) before doing so.
- Clean: Mud, salt and grime can cover your car in winter which will ruin the paint and lead to rust if it’s not cleaned off.
Thanks to the clearer visibility and longer days it can be a lot more enjoyable to drive in the warmer months, but the heat and sun does have an effect.
Summer driving tips
The sun’s glare can cause problems for drivers, so make sure you always have a pair of sunglasses to hand and that your windscreen is clean. While the warmer weather may seem nice at first, if it’s too hot in your car then there’s a risk of dehydration and drowsiness. Ensure the air-con is working, place a sun shield under the windscreen when not driving and have a bottle of water in the car too.
Driving around in a convertible such as a Vauxhall Cascada can provide a refreshing breeze, though it’s easiest to keep a constantly cool temperature with the air-con running in a car with the windows closed. If you’re heading off on holiday, aim to pack safely with the heaviest stuff at the bottom and not blocking your rear view. A roof rack can provide extra space, though check it still complies with your load limit.
- Tyres: The tread should always be above the legal minimum of 1.6mm, which can be checked by following our step-by-step guide. Worn, damaged or under-inflated tyres are more likely fail in hot temperatures.
- Clean the interior: For those who suffer from hay fever, regularly clean the cabin and air vents, while making sure any medication you take is non-drowsy.
- Wash: The sun can damage paintwork. Therefore, when cleaning the exterior, it’s advisable to finish with a wax, which will not only get it looking shiny and new but make it easier to clean next time as well.
Many of the same driving hazards as winter and summer combined are present as the leaves start to fall off the trees.
Autumn driving tips
As the sun sets earlier and is lower in the sky its glare will be at eye level more during peak driving times. Keeping a pair of sunglasses in your car and the windscreen clear (with frequent cleaning and topping up of washer fluid) is still essential. Though it can be foggy at any time of the year, it’s more likely in autumn (and spring), so check that your fog lights are in full working order and clean too.
More leaves on the roads means a greater chance of skidding on wet ones, while they can also hide potholes, speed bumps, road markings and dips. Drive carefully through them and much like with ice and water, avoid braking hard.
- Battery: Colder mornings can kill off a failing car battery and if it’s over five years old then it could be near the end. If your car sounds sluggish then it might be worth renewing it now rather than getting caught out with a flat battery on a cold winter morning.
- Antifreeze levels: Before the first frost arrives it’s worth going to a garage to check antifreeze levels in your engine’s cooling system are high before the real cold snap arrives.
- Tyres: Switching to winter tyres now in preparation for a harsh winter is a good idea, as they perform better when the temperature is below seven degrees. All season tyres offer a better, all-year-round alternative to regular tyres as well.
Whatever the season, ensuring your car is fully topped up with all the vital fluids, is clean and the lights are all working should see you remain safe on the roads throughout all seasons.
Image courtesy of iStock.