January 09, 2017

The van driver’s guide to winter driving

winter driving

Now that the trees are bare and the nights are cold, it’s time to make sure you’re ready for winter and all that comes with it. Winter weather can be harsh while driving conditions can change quickly when visibility is low and the roads are covered in snow and ice.

Here are some simple points for you to consider which will help you survive the winter weather without any accidents.

Your van

Before the weather changes it’s a good idea to get your van checked over. Regular servicing is essential anyway, but a pre-winter service is really important. Make sure that the battery, ignition, lights, brakes, tyres, exhaust, wipers are ok and all fluids are topped up.

Of particular importance are your tyres. They should be in good condition and have plenty of tread. Effective, well-maintained tyres can have a big effect on stopping distance on wet and slippery roads.

Don’t overlook your windscreen wipers. If they are leaving streaks or failing to fully clean your windscreen then consider changing them as visibility will only get worse during the winter months.

The weather

Nobody expects to see much of the sun during winter, but when it does decide to show its face it tends to sit very low in the sky. This will affect your visibility, especially on roads like motorways where low-lying sun can cause rapid deceleration in front of you. Be aware and prepared for sudden changes to your driving approach.

Rain, on the other hand, is a common winter occurrence. When the road is wet, it can double stopping distances so it makes logical sense to slow down when it’s raining. If your van does happen to aquaplane (loss of grip when travelling over surface water) take your foot off the accelerator. Braking or sudden steering changes is the worst thing you can do, as you won’t have control of either.

Always check the weather before you set off on any journey. Windy conditions require extra care as strong gusts of wind can blow a vehicle off course. Be mindful when travelling on open stretches of road, bridges or past high-sides vehicles.

It’s never a good idea to drive through water, as you could flood your engine. If there’s no other option, stick it in first gear and keep the van moving to avoid stalling. Keep your revs high and depress the clutch when required. Always test your brakes after passing through water – in a safe manner, of course!

When visibility is low, use dipped headlights so that other motorists can see you. If visibility is below 100m, switch on your fog lights. Remember to turn them off if and when visibility improves.

The journey

In adverse driving conditions, it’s always a good idea to tell someone about your journey, where you’re going and when you expect to arrive. Allow for extra travelling time if weather is poor – if it’s severe then maybe consider whether the journey is imperative. If not, then it may make more sense to delay your plans if possible.

The likelihood of hitting an animal increases during winter, so be aware, particularly when you are driving past wooded areas. Hitting even small animals can cause surprising levels of damage to your van.

Finally, when darkness falls it affect people in different ways. You could find yourself becoming tired quickly, so don’t pass on the chance to take a break if you feel it’s necessary. Tiredness kills, after all.