Car Care: Winter has its own challenges
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As winter cements its hold over the country, many of us are preparing to hit the slopes, but we first have to avoid hitting anything else while driving there.
Wet, icy conditions are the stuff of Kiwi winters, so increasing your following distances and reducing your speed often become a must. It's in these conditions that the friction on your tyres diminishes suddenly and easy tasks such as driving around corners, braking and accelerating need extra care.
Avoid jabbing the brakes, sharp cornering and harsh acceleration. Instead, be sure to do everything progressively.
Damp conditions combined with greasy screens -- usually caused by people rubbing the screen clear with dirty hands -- can often cause foggy windscreens.
The last thing you want when the weather is packing in is to be squinting through a sliver of clean screen.
Detergent or a spirit gets rid of any grease on your screens and windows. If you don't have any detergents, using a household glass cleaner and newspaper works well, too.
While you're at it, replace those smeary, noisy wiper blades before you head off. It's a small price to pay, and makes a world of difference.
When it comes to driving while it's snowing, our advice is to avoid it if you can, particularly if the snowfall is heavy and if your car isn't designed to handle those conditions. Generally, if your vehicle isn't equipped with a four-wheel-drive system, it's recommended you avoid driving in the snow.
For those with a well-equipped vehicle, always select a lower gear while driving. If your vehicle has an additional snow or ice setting, make sure this is activated.
If the lighting conditions deteriorate, ensure your lights are on so you're visible to other cars on the road.
Driving on roads that have experienced particularly heavy snowfall may require you to use snow chains, so carry a set with you -- and practise fitting them before you start your journey.
There are a few different types available, from chains to Kevlar-type "Autosocks". If in doubt, ask your local workshop or parts supplier to help with suitability and explain the fitting process.
It's also important to consider winter car maintenance.
Make sure you get your car serviced and tyres and antifreeze checked. In the cold, wet weather, the battery tends to be pushed to its limits too, which can cause it to fail.
If you have any doubts about your battery's performance, it's a good idea to get it checked out and replaced if necessary. It's also worth keeping a set of quality surge-protected battery jumper cables in case of a breakdown. They could save you from being stranded in the cold.