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Top winter driving tips from the experts

A car driving on a snowy roadDarker nights, frosty mornings and icy roads can make driving in winter a challenge for even the most experienced motorist.

So what should you change about your driving habits?

We asked motoring experts for their top winter driving tips.

Before you get going

Make sure you've got a clear, unobscured view of the world.

"Don’t set off like a tank commander with a tiny hole cleared in your windscreen," says Andy Smith, AA Patrolman of the Year.

"Make sure you clear your screen and windows properly with a scraper and de-icer."

Check your wipers too, as if the blades are in poor shape they won't clean your screen properly.

Also check your lights and replace any blown bulbs.

More tread on your tyres

It's important to check your tyres in winter.

The minimum legal limit for tyre tread is 1.6mm but Smith recommends at least 3mm of tread for winter driving.

He says: "Consider changing to winter tyres as these have a higher silica content in the tread which gives you better grip in cold and wet conditions."

Prevent frozen doors

Don't resort to grabbing the kettle and pouring boiling water on your car for a quick fix. 

To prevent frozen car doors, Simon Williams from the RAC recommends spraying furniture polish on a cloth and wiping it around the rubber seals for an added film of protection. 

If you do need some extra elbow grease, use lukewarm water to de-ice your car.

Driving in ice & snow

Stopping distances can be 10 times longer in ice and snow so careful manoeuvres are the key to safe driving.

Smith says motorists should always make a conscious effort to increase the space between their vehicle and the one in front. 

And Selwyn Fernandes from LV=car insurance advises pullingaway in a higher gear "as this can prevent you doing a wheel spin and use your gears to slow down as this helps you keep control of your car".

He adds: "If you do skid steer in the direction of the skid and try not to brake or accelerate until you’re back in control."

Hills can cause added problems when the roads are slippery so try to avoid stopping part way up by waiting until the road ahead is clear and try to keep a constant speed to avoid changing gear on the hill.

Check your screen wash

Cheaper brands may not be concentrated enough to protect against low temperatures. 

Williams says: "Look for brands that protect to minus 35 degrees Celsius and dilute according to the manufacturer's instructions."

Motoring manual publisher Haynes advises using a screen wash additive with antifreeze properties (not engine antifreeze) as if the liquid in the washer bottle freezes it may split the reservoir or damage the pump.

Brush up your driving skills

If there’s an aspect of driving that worries you, such as driving in the dark or on motorways, consider taking a refresher lesson.

Ask at your local driving school or there's also the AA's free Drive Confident course. This is for qualified drivers who lack confidence in some area of driving or want refresher training.

Run by the AA Charitable Trust, the two-hour course is available across England, Scotland and Wales. You can apply online here.

Car firm Mercedes Benz runs a winter driving course at its centre in Weybridge, Surrey. 

It's a one hour course and costs £99, with the chance to get expert advice and try out its purpose-built black ice facility.

Basic car maintenance

We're here to help! Watch our short video guide on basic car maintenance to help you keep your vehicle in tip-top condition this winter.

What do you think?

If you have any winter driving tips you'd care to share you can do so on our message board below.

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Sue Hayward

Carl Chambers

Sue Hayward is a personal finance broadcaster, journalist and author. Sue talks and writes on money matters including chatting on BBC Radio & TV as well as contributing to magazines, websites and newspapers. Sue's also written two books; the latest of which is 'How To Get The Best Deal'.

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