Page last updated at 22:48 GMT, Thursday, 7 January 2010

Q&A: Car care in the cold snap

Cars in the snow in Edinburgh
The RAC advises basic checks before venturing out

As the winter weather continues and with temperatures in Scotland predicted to fall to -20C in the coming days, what can motorists do to maintain their cars and drive safely in the snow and ice?

The RAC has issued the following advice on what essentials to have in vehicles and what basic checks need to be done before heading out.


How can I keep my car's battery in good condition for the winter?

It is a good idea to purchase a good quality battery charger to keep it topped up - RAC have several suitable products that can be purchased easily from local stockists and will keep your battery in good condition all year round.

How can I prevent my washer bottle from freezing?

Use a suitable screenwash additive and top it up regularly. Also, keeping the vehicle in a garage, if you have one, will normally prevent it from freezing. If the washer bottle has already frozen, try pouring warm water in to help defrost it.

If I use my wipers to clear snow and ice from the windscreen, will it damage them?

It is advisable not to use the wipers to clear heavy snow and ice, as it may cause the fuse to blow. This is because the wipers may not be able to cope with the weight of the snow, or may be frozen to the glass.

If my locks freeze, what should I do?

Lock de-icers are available, but if you don't have any available, use warm water poured over the lock barrel area. Also, it's worth gently working the key in and out of the lock a few times to help free it off.

My handbrake sticks on in the winter, what should I do?

It's possible that the handbrake has frozen on. Remove the rear wheel trims - if fitted - and carefully pour hot water all over the wheel nut area. This may take a few attempts, but should help free off the handbrake.

What checks should I be doing on my vehicle for the winter?

There are several easy checks you can carry out yourself such as - tyre pressures - including the spare - tyre tread depths. Oil, washer fluid and anti freeze/coolant levels, and that the lights are all working correctly. Check front and rear wiper blades for wear or splitting.

What should I do to avoid skidding in the snow or ice?

When you know the roads are icy or covered in snow, try to avoid any heavy braking and use the gears to slow down. Make sure you drive in the highest gear possible to help keep control of the vehicle.

I know I can't use boiling water to de-ice my windows, but what should I use?

If no de-icer is available, use warm, tepid water and try to clear the screen quickly to prevent refreezing.

When should I use my front & rear fog lights?

Fog lights should only be used when visibility of the road ahead is less than 100 metres and switched off as soon as visibility improves.

What should I be carrying in the car for a winter journey?

A must-have list for your winter car kit should include: a torch, blankets, wellies, an ice scraper, de-icer, battery jump leads and a first aid kit are all worth keeping in the car all the time, but especially in the winter.

For long journeys, it's always worth having a flask of warm drink just in case the worst happens and you get stuck or break down. Make sure you have plenty of fuel before you start out, in case you get stuck in traffic.



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