With the onset of winter and the end of mild autumn, many of us are starting to pull out our Ugg boots, winter woollies and an extra blanket or two. And just as the change in seasons signals the time to rug up and prepare for the cold weather, it’s also a time to ensure your car is ready for the road and you’re ready for any changes in road conditions.
As the colder months often bring rain, frost and dew — even snow for some in colder regions – it’s vital to ensure your tyres are up to the task of tackling winter roads. Checking your tyres takes just a few minutes and simply involves inspecting the inflation levels and tread. Tyres are your car’s second most important safety feature (after the brakes), so it’s something you shouldn’t overlook.
Tyres now have tread wear indicator bars moulded into them, making it easy to tell when it’s time for a new set of tyres. You can also check the tread depth by placing a ruler into the groove of the tyre and checking that it meets the minimum tread depth of 1.5mm. To determine the correct inflation levels for your tyres, refer to the owner’s manual.
Regardless of the weather or season, it’s vital to leave a safe braking distance between your car and the vehicle ahead — you never know what’s around the corner!
In usual circumstances, you should leave a minimum three-second gap. However, when driving in wet conditions, including frosty roads and foggy weather, extend this space to a four second-gap. You should also leave a larger gap if your vision ahead is impaired.
As the sun sets earlier and gloomy days start to outnumber bright and sunny ones, remember to switch on your headlights. This is especially important when visibility is impaired, such as driving at dusk or in heavy rain or foggy weather.
Many new-model cars now feature auto-headlights, but you may still need to adjust the sensitivity settings to ensure they engage when needed. Check the headlight icon on the dashboard to make sure that they’re on and manually engage the headlights if in doubt.
For those who live in rural areas or regularly drive in cold weather, fitting fog lights to your vehicle is an option that you may like to consider. Be aware, however, that fog lights should only be used in circumstances where visibility is impaired, like heavy rain or fog, otherwise, you can cop a fine.
With the COVID-19 social distancing measures in place, more of us are using our own vehicles over public transport when getting out and about. Prepare yourself and your car for the changes in road conditions and stay safe on the road as we head into winter.