Nov 092018
 

Driving in winter

While it’s a bit grim to think about winter when autumn has only just started, it’s important that you prepare your car (and yourself!) for the season. Just like we need coats, gloves and hats, our cars need maintenance to ensure they make it through the freezing temperatures and icy streets.

By following these 9 car maintenance tips, you’ll ensure your car sees you through the winter and beyond.

  1. Check Your Battery

It’s especially important that your battery is in top working condition from December-March as you’ll be putting it through the ringer with increased use of lights and heat. So, before the cold really sets in, make sure you have your battery tested with a volt test to make sure it’s working properly. If you’re having any problems, be sure to have it replaced. By putting it off, you risk being stranded in a car that won’t start!

  1. Top Up Your Antifreeze

Antifreeze, or coolant, is especially important during colder months because…well, it stops your engine from freezing. Do a quick check to see if you’re low and to see if there are any leaks that could allow coolant to drip out. We recommend visiting a mechanic to make sure you’re in good shape because, while coolant is inexpensive, a frozen cooling system could cause huge internal pressures and severe engine damage.

  1. Check Your Tyre Depth

Tyres are vital for both steering and braking, two functions you don’t want to malfunction any time of year, but especially during the winter when roads are icy.

For those who drive frequently during the winter, we recommend buying winter tyres with a stronger grip that’s perfect when temperatures drop. If you’re weary about investing in a set of tyres that are only effective during one season, don’t worry! Winter tyres work just fine during summer, spring and autumn, especially when the roads are wet.

If you don’t want to invest in new tyres, just make sure your tyres meet the minimum depth requirement (1.6 mm).

  1. Check for Chips

No, we don’t mean the kind you get as a side with your fish. Instead, look out for chips in your windscreen and in the bodywork of your car. As it gets colder, these chips can grow and salt deposits on the road will attack them, making a relatively small problem a big one.

  1. Clean Your Lights

Just like steering and braking are important, so is visibility. As the sun sets earlier, you’ll have less daylight making your lights more important than ever, especially if you commute home daily.

First, clean all lights, indicators and rear reflectors. Next, check for illumination. If a bulb is out, or if your headlights are foggy or yellow, be proactive and replace them before it gets too cold.

  1. Keep a Full Tank

While this might seem like common sense, it’s worth mentioning.

A full tank of gas will prevent water from accumulating and freezing inside your fuel pump. It’ll also help you in the case of a breakdown. At least you’ll be able to keep the engine running and stay warm!

  1. Test Your Window Defroster, Wipers and Screen Wash

Winter is wet. To keep your windshield clear, you’ll need wipers that are in good shape as well as a defroster that works properly and a screen wash bottle that’s full.

First check your wipers for tears and, if you haven’t replaced them in over 6 months, consider buying a new set. Your defrosting system relies on both your heater and blower. If it’s not working, your problem could simply be a bad fuse or a bad blower speed control. Either way, we recommend seeing a mechanic to make sure yours is working properly. Finally, check your screen wash bottle. It can be found under your bonnet and can be topped up easily.

  1. Get Your Survival Kit Together

Just in case, always have a Survival Kit in your boot or backseat. Essentials include: a blanket, jumper cables, a hi-vis vest, cell phone charger, shovel, de-icer spray and a torch.

  1. Have Your Car Serviced

As they say, prevention is better than cure.

While you certainly can go through this guide point-by-point, it might be easier and more effective to have your car serviced in early November. That way, you’re as prepared for winter has you possibly can be.

Unfortunately, no precautions can guarantee your car won’t break down. Why not get yourself a quote from Warranty Direct to see how we can help you in the event of unexpected vehicle failure?

Warranty Cover is arranged and administered by BNP Paribas Cardif Limited, trading as Warranty Direct. Warranty policies are underwritten by Pinnacle Insurance plc. BNP Paribas Cardif Limited is a company, registered in England and Wales No.3233010 at Pinnacle House, A1 Barnet Way, Borehamwood, Herts, WD6 2XX and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, Register No.309075

Nov 012018
 

UK motorway lit upDespite smart motorways existing for more than ten years in the UK, research by the Institute of Advanced Motorists showed 67% of drivers felt there has been no publicity surrounding their creation, meaning many don’t fully understand the concept of smart motorways or how they work.

If you’re in the majority, Warranty Direct has put together a guide to explain the changes, benefits and potential new fines smart motorways might bring in the future.

The basics

A smart motorway is a section of a motorway that uses traffic management methods to increase capacity and reduce congestion in, particularly busy areas.

These methods include using the hard shoulder as a running lane and applying variable speed limits to control the flow of traffic.

Smart motorways are an effective and cost efficient way of increasing space on our roads, cutting jams and speeding up journey times.

In fact, government predictions suggest journey times will be improved by ten per cent along the M1 and 15 per cent on the M3 once work to create Smart motorways along these routes is complete.

There are three types of schemes which are classed as smart motorways:

  • Controlled motorways use at least three lanes, with variable speed limits set accordingly along the stretch of road and a hard shoulder which should only be used in emergencies
  • Dynamic hard shoulder running schemes use variable speed limits and a hard shoulder that can be opened as a running lane at busy times. Illuminated overhead signs tell you when you may drive on the hard shoulder
  • All lane running schemes mean you will notice there is no hard shoulder. Instead, every lane is in use, with variable speed limits again being set as and when required. As a result of this design, motorists should do their utmost to stop at an emergency refuge area if they encounter a problem

Not so fast and furious

Of course, all normal road rules and laws apply to smart motorways, but there are a few points in particular worth highlighting.

The same laws apply for speeding on a smart motorway, but with more cameras and variable speed limits, motorists have a much higher chance of getting caught and fined for speeding.

Given the new speeding sentencing structures, offenders can be charged a maximum of £2,500 on a motorway or up to 175% of their weekly income. Fines are worked out on a sliding scale depending on the severity of the speeding offence. Motorists who break the rules leave themselves wide open to these more severe penalties.

New digital speed cameras are now widely used to enforce variable speed limits too. Though they are clearly signed, these are smaller and less visible than the more familiar ‘yellow box’ cameras. So, make sure you pay attention to road signage when driving and adjust your speed accordingly.

Don’t follow the red X

Earlier this year, Highways England found as many as 20% of vehicles were driving through the red X signs used on smart motorways.

On a smart motorway, the red X indicates a lane is closed, due to there not being the necessity to have it open, an accident or maintenance occurring.

It is an offence to drive in a lane with a red X on the gantry above it. Not only is it extremely dangerous, but there are also plans to introduce fixed penalty fines in the future instead of the manual enforcement currently in place. So it’s best to get into the habit of leaving a closed lane as soon as you can.

If you are still unsure about how to drive on a smart motorway, here are some more quick tips to give you clarity:

  • Keep to the speed limit shown on the gantries
  • A solid white line indicates the hard shoulder, so don’t drive in it unless directed
  • A broken white line indicates a normal running lane
  • If your vehicle experiences difficulties, exit the smart motorway as soon as possible
  • Use the refuge areas for emergencies if there’s no hard shoulder
  • Never drive in a lane closed by a red “X”
  • Put your hazard lights on if you break down