It may seem like a bit boring but you can’t talk enough about the tricks of winter driving, nor about proper preparation. If you’re also getting trouble with the upcoming icy weather, this article is for you!
Winter. Some love it, some hate it, but you can’t skip this season. With proper preparation and attention, many inconveniences and accidents can be avoided. Roads are slippy and fog, snow, tinny rain often make your vision conditions converge most to zero - especially in the dark - and you stand there alone scratching your head about what to do now.
In our two-part series article, the head trainer of drivingcamp, László Csörgő, shares some very useful tips with us.
Basically, the most important factor in winter driving is prevention, and by doing so, I can not only help myself, but I can eliminate mistakes that may be made by others. There are two important factors: the prepared vehicle and the prepared driver. In the first part of our article series, we examine the first one.
Tires, tires, tires!
Winter is for winter tires. Many people buy an expensive car, but they don’t use winter tires anymore, and that’s a big mistake, especially when we use the vehicle every day. Driving with summer tires is a real extreme sport in winter circumstances, but four-season tires are not good for regular use either, as the tires have to stick in the cold, and winter tires have a different composition and articulation than their four-season counterparts. Before we look at what the criteria for a good winter tire are, let’s look at what happens to four-season tires.
The material structure and groove of the four-season tires are also such that they work on cold, slippery winter roads and hot asphalt. Nevertheless, their use is only recommended for cars that only are used not that much, say between 5-8 thousand km a year. Driving habits should also be considered, so if someone drives not that often, moderately, doesn’t try the limits of the car, gently takes turns, doesn’t take out the car in winter, then a premium quality four-season tire is acceptable.
On the other hand, anyone who uses the car on a daily basis, over 8,000 km, certainly needs a set of summer and winter tires as well. Keep in mind,that it's not just a hepp, our lives can depend on it! When buying winter tires, we need to consider not only the tread depth, but also it’s age because over time the quality of the tire deteriorates significantly. A cheaper set can be tempting, but before we hit the deal, let’s look at the DOT number on the tire, which is four digits, the first two characters indicate the week of manufacture and the second two the year of manufacture. We recommend that the winter tire should be a maximum of 5 years old, do not buy an older tire even if everything is fine with it. And if our own tires are over their fifth birthday, well, it’s time to replace it with a younger one.
Snow chain practice makes perfect
It is relatively rare in Hungary to need any snow chain, but you never know. However, in the mountains, in the wilderness and possibly in alpine skiing, the big snow can break off and the snow chain in the trunk is in vain, if we cannot put it on easily. So first step: get a snow chain. Step Two: Learn to put it on properly. Grab the clean spare wheel, take it into the living room, park it in the mall’s underground garage, and practice putting on the snow chain until it goes smoothly. Rather, take some time beforehand and learn to put it on with your eyes closed, rather than hugging the dirty, snowy rubber in the snow in the knee-length snow, simulating snow chaining.
Is the picture familiar: when the first frost comes and helpless car owners in the panel parking lot, standing with cable in their hands, waiting for someone to help them get the vehicle up and running? This can also be prevented by control. The battery loses its capacity in decreasing temperatures and does not start up in extreme cold. Take the car to a professional service where there is a special equipment for this to check the condition of the battery. If the technician recommends a replacement, replace it. Also check the adaptive systems: ABS, braking system, ESP. The technical condition of the car should be immaculate because not only is it dangerous to travel with a car in poor condition, but it is not a very pleasant experience to have a break down in the icy cold.
A separate antifreeze no longer really plays out in modern cars, as we use antifreeze all year round, which provides internal lubrication. However, it’s a good idea to check your coolant level regularly so you don’t run out at an unexpected moment.
The windscreen washer fluid must be antifreeze! The most optimal way to fill the windscreen washer tank is to refill it with 1-2 dl of antifreeze from the autumn, as the liquid starts to run out, so it mixes nicely, slowly, and finally becomes completely antifreeze in the windscreen washer tank. Prevention is our motto here too because if we delay the complete fluid change, while the first minuses come in and the fluid freezes in the tank, it will break out the fuse in the best case, but we will have to replace the windshield washer spray motor in the worst case.
Forget refilling with hot water! Not just here, but in every other case - it does more damage to our beloved car than we might think.
Must-have winter package
As winter approaches, it is worth preparing our small winter package, for which we will be grateful for every piece, if that is the case. Have a snowbrush, ice scraper and defrosting fluid in the car. In our pockets, bags, or the hallway closet, there should be an defrosting spray for locks as well, so that hot water is not the solution here either. Throw in 1-2 blankets as well, so that if you have to stop somewhere along the way for something, don’t freeze, kneel at during a wheel change, and so on. We boldly use our de-icing equipment and do not tear the frozen wiper blade out of reflex because it will break, be damaged, wipe streaked and become completely unusable. We monitor it in the fall - if the wiper squeaks in the rain, it will be replaced and there will be no problem in the winter. Nor is it a disadvantage to be able to view events through a perfectly clear window in the midst of already poor visibility.
To see and to be seen!
Let this be our motto, so we save ourselves and other drivers a lot of inconvenience. It’s important to keep our car clean, both inside and out because if I can’t see it, my headlights won’t be visible either, as it’s not cleaned. So if we stop scraping ice, it’s important to clean all the headlights both front and back! Not only will I see better with a cleaner lamp, but in foggy weather for example, the one behind me is also less likely to slip into me if you see my lamps properly.
Speaking of lamps: it is important to use light bulbs with the right brightness. Unfortunately, many people vote for crappy LED lights “because it looks good,” but with their disturbing, bright light, especially in winter, we completely blind the oncoming person who has to drive completely blind for several seconds, which is basically life-threatening, slippery roads and / or poor visibility. The fog lamp is also a very useful thing, in justified cases, with limited visibility, on a country road, because it has a range of 40-50 meters and can be used not only in fog, but also in dense snowfall. However, within the city or in a crowded line of cars, it is also completely unreasonable and confusing for the person behind me. The range of the reflector is 80-100 meters, however, we avoid it in fog or dense snowfall, because by using it in such conditions we suddenly create a virtual white wall in front of us and we will not see a thing.
Finally, a few words about a clean car that can also save lives. When scraping ice, scrape the entire window surface (forget the hot water here immediately), front, back and side to get around 360 degrees, don't be surprised in the first turn that I can't see through the 10x10 cm small hole and crash into John Does’ car with 35 km/h. We also scrape the snow off the top of the car, because if a large pile of snow or a large piece of ice on my roof falls on the one behind me while driving, it can certainly be a serious accident.
To sum up: prevention, attention, caution are the three keywords of winter driving.
In our next article, we will take a look at how we can prepare for extreme road conditions as a driver.