Motoring and emergency services are urging drivers to only go out if vital and to properly prepare themselves and their vehicles for particularly cold days and even colder nights.
The first intensely cold spell is expected to be felt in the east of the UK on monday but to gradually expand west and northwards by thursday.
With bitterly-cold temperatures affecting the whole of the UK and a risk of snow for some, it has been revealed that a majority of drivers do not carry out basic checks on their car such as oil level and tyre condition as often as they should – potentially increasing the chance of a freezing breakdown at the side of the road, or worse.
Research conducted by the RAC among 2,000 motorists found that more than a third (38%) said they check their car’s oil at best every two months with 7% saying they wait until a warning light comes on before they do anything – despite too little oil risking causing dangerous and expensive engine damage. Less than a quarter (24%) check their oil as often as the RAC recommends, which is at the least every two weeks and before long journeys.
|When it comes to tyres, a car’s only contact with the road, things are no better. Fifty-eight per cent check the condition of their vehicle’s tyres – including tread levels – at least once a month, with the RAC advising rubber is looked at least this often and possibly even more frequently in case of damage from potholes, and prior to long road trips. But 37% do it at best once every two months, and at worst less than once a year. Tyres that are damaged or are low on tread can make driving extremely unsafe, especially on icy and snowy roads.
It is a similar picture with tyre pressure – unless a car is fitted with a pressure monitoring system, tyres should be checked every fortnight and before long journeys. But only a third of respondents (32%) checked them that often, with a similar number (29%) doing it once a month and a fifth (18%) leaving it until at best every three months, and at worst less than once a year. Correctly inflated tyres can reduce the chance of a blow-out and significantly improves fuel efficiency.
Plan your week:
Check wether conditions along your route before you set out and consider if you must make the journey.
Tell people where you are going and time you expect to arrive but allow a lot more, possibly doubling the time taken.
Check your vehicle and fuel level, take extra clothing, hats, scarf, gloves, blankets, warm drinks and snacks, as well as a fully charged mobile and charger.
Pack de-icer, scraper, shovel, torch and spare batteries. Tyre grips or chains are useful in deeper snow but practice putting them on before you have to use them. A piece of old carpet can give useful traction over ice when pulling away.
Increase distance between vehicles, apply throttle and brake very gently and don’t expect grip technology to overcome nature. Allow room for others to make mistakes which may result in you being hit.
But it is the other form of rubber on vehicles – windscreen wipers – that appear to be most neglected despite the crucial job they do in keeping a driver’s view clear, especially when the weather is cold and roads much dirtier. While a third of respondents (33%) look at them at least monthly, a remarkable 30% said that they wait until the wipers stop clearing the windscreen properly before checking them. This represents a genuine road safety risk as drivers are unlikely to carry spare wiper blades in the car should one fail.
While the days are getting longer, it’s also vital drivers are visible in low light – especially with some significant snowfall due over the next few days in some places. Less than a third of drivers (30%) check their lights at the RAC’s suggested weekly interval, with a quarter (24%) doing it every three months at best.
The other vital thing to check under the bonnet is the level of engine coolant. Modern vehicles should not need topping up between services, but a drop in the level of coolant could indicate a problem and lead to engine overheating. Only 26% of drivers said they looked at the coolant level at the recommended interval of every two weeks, with 24% checking it every month and the remainder checking it less frequently or even waiting for a warning light to appear on the dashboard.
With very low temperatures forecast over the coming days, even during the daytime, the RAC is strongly recommending drivers take a small amount of time to ensure their car is prepared for winter and less likely to let them down.
|Basic tasks||RAC recommends||Who checked||Dangers|
|Check tyre condition, including tread depth||At least monthly (and before long journeys)||58%||Lack of grip and risk of a blow-out|
|Check windscreen wipers||Monthly (more frequently in winter)||33%||Wipers split and stop clearing the windscreen altogether, causing a hazard in times of inclement weather especially|
|Check tyre pressure||Every 2 weeks and before a long journey (no requirement if TPMS fitted but advisable to check before a long journey)||32%||Underinflated tyres increase rolling resistance, reducing fuel efficiency|
|Check lights||Weekly||30%||Less visible to other road users; poor view of the road ahead|
|Check oil level||Every 2 weeks and before a long journey||24%||Severe engine damage|
|Check coolant level||Every 2 weeks and before a long journey||26%||Engine overheating|