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Enjoy Driving: Top 10 winter tips for driving

by Navyatha Sandiri

The coldest months of the year will make driving more difficult. Here’s how you can enjoy a safe and relaxing trip during the winter season.

Winter in India is a misnomer: some areas of the country have good weather, but temperatures drop dramatically in other areas, and impact everyday life in many ways. This drastic change in climate means that you need to take a few precautions to secure your car. Some points should be remembered to get a safe and cosy drive this winter season.

Winter car care tips

The most important thing is for your vehicle to be well maintained. Take routine repairs and do not skimp on replacements for pieces that display an average wear and tear level. This decreases the probability of a malfunction of the car.

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Give it a thorough cleaning

To ensure clear vision use the lukewarm water to clean all glass, wing mirrors, all lights (headlights, taillights, fog lamps and others). Do not use hot water as glass can break due to the temperature difference. Remove the snow that can settle on the roof in places of frequent snowfall, so that they don’t slip on the windshield and impair the view while driving.

Give the electricals a check

Every light – both within and outside the vehicle – can continue to operate normally. The climate control system should work well to keep the cabin at an appropriate temperature. If required, the washer blades should be adjusted and the motor maintained such that the windscreen is snow or debris free. To keep your wipers running, you must also have a complete tank of the right water and cleaning fluid combination.

Inspect the engine

Cold weather will impact the output of the battery and trigger issues when engine startups. Substitute the battery, if it’s old, and search all cables and wires. The engine oil and coolant should also be tested and adjusted if possible, as fluids could gum up at lower temperatures.

Brakes require a once-over

In wet or snowy conditions stopping distances can be impaired, so the breaks are washed and serviced. If applicable, monitor and repair the brake pads and clean and grease the brake callipers if necessary.

Monitor the tyres

Apart from making sure the tyres are in decent shape (with sufficient tread, with no bubbles or cuts) make sure that they are properly inflated. An over-inflated tyre raises the chances of slipping, while an under-inflated one would not have much traction. Consider changing to winter tyres, or also using snow chains; fit these into the tyres, so you don’t have to flicker to try it when you actually have to use them.

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Cold weather driving basics

Driving in icy situations – which can be caused by frost, water, rubble or a crash – is tricky. One must continue to be careful with the accelerator, brake and steering such that sudden movements don’t result in a loss of control.

When the car goes wrong, you first have to stay cool to see where you want to go. Then steer in the direction of the skid, for instance, as the back end goes right, turn right to straighten the vehicle.

From standstill, slowly speed up to keep the engine from spinning in the lower gears as traction is lower than usual. You may also try beginning in a higher gear like a second if your car has a sufficient torque, but don’t hurt your clutch. There is a winter-snow mode for certain automatic gearboxes to start the car in a greater gear and thereby avoid spin on the wheel. In certain cars that restrict the torque, winter/snow motor modes are available.

Cold weather also produces fog and modifications are also required for driving. Reduce fog lighting and low light beams, as high beams have a lot of glare on the fog and can just tighten the eyes. Notice that you must create a good distance between you and your car, so that when unexpectedly you stop there is a buffer.

Some places of India also see ‘black ice’ formation which through melting and freezing water, is a thin layer of ice forming over the route. Although it is difficult to spot, watch for and avoid road surfaces that seem shiny or bright.

Driving downhill on a slippery road allows one to keep speed consistently steady. Do not use the brakes sparingly instead and use the motor brake to control the speed. In a manual it is possible to do this with a lower gear, and even in certain manually operated automation systems. Otherwise, modes are also available that prohibit upshifting of the auto gearbox. Breaking the brake pedal repeatedly or continuously will lead to overheating and malfunction of the system.

Emergency essentials for winter driving

There is no escape to avoid sometimes. Mother nature may be in bad mood, or a sudden collapse of your car due to an unexpected problem. It is also advised that some critical items be retained in the car in the event of the worst.

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Keep warm but get some fresh air too

In the event of a breakdown, a full fuel tank can help. You could operate the air conditioning system to keep your car warm while you wait for help. But try not to do this at all times in a cellar or in a garage/shed, or even outside. Maintaining an engine inoperative will lead to the introduction of dangerous and toxic gases in the cabin, such as carbon monoxide.

You won’t know that you are poisoned because it’s a colorless and odourless smoke. Hold any blankets or garments warm only in case of malfunction or if you can’t use the temperature control system.

Food and water

Any snacks and plenty of water will help when you are waiting for help. Cooler heads prevail with some food and the drink preserves you from dehydration.

Battery packs and chargers

If your car breaks down and your system runs out of fuel, you will be in a hurry. Hold your new battery, have a fully charged battery pack and a vehicle loader “www.autocarindia.com”.