Once again the UK has been taken aback by snow. Why does it always come as a surprise to us in our climate? The recent weather has produced the usual legion of experts and pundits to tell us what to do and how to drive. One person offered the sage advice that the people of the South should wrap up warm, take a flask of tea and possibly an emergency beacon or better still not go out at all. Meanwhile the people of the North were advised to take their big coat.
One thing is for sure; with snow comes car hassle and many drivers are still, despite all the contrary advice, going outside to let their car idle and ‘warm up’. Starting your day in this way is in fact not recommended just as starting it with no intention to use it to ‘stop it freezing up’ is not recommended. Don’t do it.
It is not a very good plan to repeatedly start up your car to warm it up to keep it from freezing. The correct solution to a quickly warm and defrosted car is to scrape all the windows and lights clear and remove loose snow from the bodywork. Then
start and drive away. For best engine management it is necessary to get it up to full operating temperature as soon as possible. This is best accomplished by driving the vehicle around.
Letting a car idle requires more time for the motor to warm up and allows excess fuel to get into the engine. This is not good for wear and tear. Also, engine oil is sluggish when cold and the faster it gets warm, the faster it will fully lubricate.
Even after a long drive, in cold weather it only takes a couple of hours for the engine to cool down. Also, repeatedly starting a car without running it long enough to recharge the battery can and will lower the battery's capacity over time. A flat battery is the best way to get caught out at the worst possible time.
So stop all this idle behaviour. Instead focus on full and correct antifreeze protection. This magic fluid prevents the engine coolant from freezing. Science says that when water or any liquid freezes, it expands, and, in the case of car engines, can create pressure that can crack engine blocks and that means journey’s end and a massive bill.
Although cold weather and snow are fairly common in the British Isles, only very rarely do the temperatures plummet to extremes. Thus, the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation for coolant/antifreeze mix will normally be sufficient to protect the engine. In olden times most drivers would undertake an annual draining of the radiator and cooling system to replenish the mix ready for winter. We don’t do that much these days as most cars have a sealed system which should do the job, barring radiator damage and the like. If in doubt, consult the handbook or a garage.
So stop idling about on your drive. Get going.
Other ways to smooth progress over unfriendly roads is to fit winter tyres. Seriously, they do work. It’s an extra expense certainly and not a small one but what price road safety, especially when you have just purchased one of our excellent value, one-owner used cars
. That’s an investment worth protecting.
Top 5 Winter Driving Tips
For more winter driving tips, watch our 'Top 5' video below.