Car and driver preparing for winter. How to put on chains?

Car and driver preparing for winter. How to put on chains?

ŠKODA WORLD

Winter is around the corner with its gloom, slush and snow. How do cars and drivers need to prepare for the different road conditions? Check out this advice from the experts at ŠKODA.

4. 11. 2021

The days are getting shorter, drivers leave home in the morning half-light and often return after dark. Cloudy skies often don’t provide much light during the day. And on top of that we have morning mists and fog to contend with.

“These are pitfalls that must be prepared for and reckoned with. Drivers should change their mindset for the new season and be more alert. We need to anticipate more: we have to consciously expect various hazards, such as stretches of road with fallen leaves that can be particularly slippery on bends. Winds are often stronger and gusts can be dangerous. The night and morning frosts need to be dealt with, and we have to take into account that bridges in particular may be frozen. We need to adapt our driving style and speed to all this,” says Petr Krásný, a vehicle safety development specialist who, as a member of the ŠKODA traffic safety research team, is dedicated to analysing traffic accidents.

Petr Krásný
Vehicle Safety Development Specialist

Our cars also need to be prepared for a more demanding season. There are some things we should always keep in mind and never neglect. What are they?

Winter tyres

Putting on winter tyres should go without saying. These are essential from autumn to spring – even if there isn’t snow on the ground for the whole time. The summer compound does not work effectively on cold and icy roads: it’s too hard and lacks grip, so braking distances are longer. The experts recommend not waiting until the last minute to change tyres – companies tend to be very busy, so you may have to wait up to two weeks for them to change your tyres.” And don’t forget the minimum tread depth requirement, which varies from country to country. In the Czech Republic it’s four millimetres, which is more than you may expect, and some people can get caught out.”

READ MORE: Why aren’t all-weather tyres sufficient in winter, and why can’t we keep using worn winter tyres in summer?

Good visibility and working lights

How well can you see through the windscreen? It’s worth wiping the dusty and greasy insides of your windows with suitable products or paper tissues to prevent unwanted glare from the headlights of cars around you, for example. Also wipe all three rear-view mirrors – the one above the dashboard is likely to have smudges on it from when you adjust it. “We recommend replacing the wiper blades, at least the front ones, once a year. And it’s important to keep them in the best possible condition when winter is approaching. There are motorists who switch between the same two sets of wiper blades for several years – in summer we use the windscreen spray a lot less and the rubber blades don’t like being in the sun, so they age faster; the motorists then have a better set available for the winter. When refuelling, take advantage of the provided buckets of water to wash the windscreen and, at the same time, the front side windows, headlights, rear-view mirrors, rear lights and the registration plate,” says another member of the road safety research team, Robert Šťastný.

Robert Šťastný
Member of the Traffic Safety Research team at ŠKODA

READ MORE: Read our experts’ tips and remarks on wipers and washers.

Check your car’s lights and replace any bulbs that aren’t working. Check the replacement bulb box to make sure it’s full. If not, buy whichever bulbs are missing. What condition is the ventilation system’s pollen filter in? If it gets too dirty it becomes inefficient and, in addition, allows moisture to accumulate inside the car. This sometimes results in a considerable increase in the time it takes to defog the windows.

Practise putting snow chains on

“Check the coolant level, and ideally you should measure its freezing point, or get an expert to do it. Incidentally, it’s not a bad idea to go to a garage before winter and put the car through a thorough check-up, including, for example, the state of the air conditioning system. But even the vagaries of autumn weather can catch us out – you can go from the still pleasantly warm lowlands to the mountains for the weekend and wake up to a temperature of minus seven,” says Krásný, drawing attention to a situation that often catches drivers by surprise.

In many mountainous areas winter equipment is compulsory, including chains. That’s why it’s a good idea not simply to toss them in the boot, but rather to have a practice run beforehand. Each set will contain instructions on the right way to fit the chains, but practice makes perfect.

Winter compound for all hoses

With freezing temperatures on the way, it’s time to change your washer fluid. Finish off the summer one and replace it with a winter fluid, preferably undiluted. It’s important to spray all the windows long enough for the winter fluid to get into all the hoses – including the full length of the hose leading to the rear washer. “In my experience, when the fluid in the hoses freezes, the car becomes almost unusable when there’s slush on the road. Every now and then an oncoming truck will splash dirty water onto your windscreen, and the wipers merely spread the dirt over the glass. You can no longer see out and you’re in trouble,” warns Šťastný.

And he adds another tip: replace fabric mats with rubber ones for the winter. In winter we bring a lot more water inside the car on our shoes, which soaks into the fabric and can cause the rug to go mouldy. A rubber or plastic “tray” for the bottom of the boot is also practical.

Scraper, chains, cables, shovel...

The last piece of expert advice concerns winter equipment for your car. “Check you haven’t lost your ice scraper. Starter cables are useful too – with these, make sure you know where the various connectors go, because in modern cars this may be different to what you were used to. If you often head into the mountains, chains are a must, and a shovel or bag of sand won’t hurt either. To prevent your doors from freezing shut, it’s a good idea to treat their rubber seals with glycerine oil, for example. And windscreen film works wonderfully, as it prevents the windscreen from freezing, there is no need to scrape it and the driver can see out the whole window area,” concludes Krásný.

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