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Winter Driving Tips

How to get yourself out of trouble when the bad weather bites and things go wrong!

We all know the story... You go out to the car on a bitingly cold morning and can't get the key in the lock, and the can of de-icer is locked inside! You can reconsider that plan for next time, but for now try (carefully!) heating the key with a match or lighter, it usually works but may need several applications.

Forgot to buy the de-icer and the screen is frozen over? DO NOT pour on boiling water as it will probably crack the screen. Use a blunt scraper to remove as much ice as possible and then pour warm water on the screen to clear it completely. Don't forget to clear all of the other windows, inside and out, before moving off. How many people do we see each year peering through a tiny slit in an ice covered screen?

Always clear your full windscreen

Having got into the car you find it won't start, the starter motor barely able to turn over the engine. Don't carry on churning, it won't start and you'll only drain the battery.

If you have a charger, and are not in any hurry, take the battery out and put in on charge for half an hour as even such a brief time (it's like taking the car for a 30 minute journey) can make all the difference.

If you haven't the time for a recharge the options are a jump start - using those nice new leads you bought for this eventuality - or a push start. Both methods require the availability of a least one willing helper.

For a jump start park the doctor (working car) and the patient (not working) cars as close together as possible. Connect the leads to the patient car first, ensuring that they are the right way round- positive (+)  to the red lead and minus (-) to the black - and that good contacts are made. Then connect to the doctor car which should be held revving at about 2,000 rpm to avoid draining its battery, a trick which will not endear you to your neighbour!

*** Do ensure at all times that neither the leads or yourself can
become entangled in any of the car's moving parts. ***

After a few minutes, try to start your car ensuring that the gearbox is in neutral and that all other electrical appliances (headlights, radio, etc) are turned off. If it doesn't work after the first few turns, give it a few more minutes before trying again. Be patient!

If a jump start doesn't work a push start might, but it's unlikely. The technique is to get the car rolling as fast as possible before lifting the clutch gently with the gearbox in second gear. If the car doesn't start after the first 2 or 3 attempts it isn't likely to and now is the time to call out the rescue service.

Membership of the A.A., R.A.C. or a similar organization is the cheapest winter driving insurance you are going to find and is a very worthwhile investment, particularly if your car is a little past its prime.

So, at last you've got going, but this may well not be the end of your troubles. Many other faults can occur as you go along - or not, as the case may be!

The engine may be running, you may even be moving, but the fan belt is screaming. Problem is the radiator and/or the engine block are frozen, you obviously forgot the anti-freeze. Stop the car and lift the bonnet, very carefully remove the radiator cap with a rag wrapped around it and keeping it pointed away from you and see if there is ice in the top of the radiator. You may be able to thaw it with kettles of hot - not boiling - water poured over it.

You may well then find that the hoses have burst under the strain. Time to apply the repair bandage that you keep in the boot...don't you ? If the radiator is holed a proprietary compound like Radweld may temporarily gum it up but a new radiator and hoses are almost inevitable. It would have been easier and cheaper to top up the anti-freeze wouldn't it?

Next time - so you've got stuck , now what do you do ?

Winter Driving
WINTER DRIVING TIPS 3

Article © Graham Benge 2007

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