Sunday, 1 December 2013

winter car preparation

Winter car preparation

          With Jack Frost spreading his icy grip slowly across the country the inevitable "traffic chaos" caused by half a centimetre of snow wont be too far behind, usually caused by drivers going far too fast for the conditions and spinning off the road, I will be spouting the usual rhetoric within the lines of this blog as well as some observations I have made along with some ideas and equipment for if you do find yourself stuck on the side of the road.

Driving and road conditions

          Most of the time arrogance is the number one cause of accidents in these conditions, having a 4x4 or traction control or a powerful engine does not excuse poor driving and doing 70 mph on an icy ungritted dual carriageway overtaking everyone is just asking for trouble and this is coming from someone who has owned a 4x4 and done an off road driving course, with the mass of a 4x4 once it starts sliding it take a lot longer to stop (unless you`re going down a closed off farm track with absolutely no one else around then sliding sideways under control becomes a lot of fun!) rear wheel drive only cars such as BMW and Mercedes Benz are more or less useless in icy conditions as the back end tends to slide around as no weight is over the driving axle creating friction so if you do own a rear wheel drive car be very careful as you drive and those mysterious dials in front of you with numbers saying 20,30,40 mph that are normally ignored, difficult as it is try and keep the needle in those dials as low as possible and don`t overtake that way we wont be laughing at you as we pass you on the side of the road. If the phrase "I`ll be alright I have ABS" enters your mind, think again, I`ll write this in capitals to emphasis the point ABS DOES NOT WORK IN ICY CONDITIONS! This is due to the computer needing to sense forward movement from the wheels to release the brakes and if your wheels are sliding then there is no forward movement to sense. to prevent sliding when you first pull away keep the revs as low as possible and use as high a gear as you can, most manual cars can pull away in second gear but it may take some effort without reving the engine too high, another trick that works is pulling away using only the idling revs of the engine, this does take some skill but it can be done and naturally keeps the revs at there lowest, when you are driving along select the gear up from what you usually drive in, so if you usually use 3rd in a 30mph zone use 4th instead, the engine may not appreciate it but it will keep the revs low.
          When it comes to road conditions plan your route and allow extra time, so if it takes you half an hour to get to work leave an hour before your due in, sounds obvious but guaranteed someone wont do it and end up in trouble. planning your route also means trying to use roads that will be gritted even if this means going slightly out of your way to use them. there is only a limited amount of grit available straight away to the councils so they tend to prioritise roads and although they don`t tell us these roads its not hard to figure out, motorways are first, the responsibility of which is shared by the councils the motorway passes through, then dual carriageways, then A roads, bus and lorry routes and then if there is any grit left some of the more minor roads, even if the road you are using is gritted plan ahead and keep in mind some of the hazards you will encounter, one of the roads I regularly use not only goes down a steep hill but also has a sharp corner at the bottom before going back up hill (John de Bois hill/bridge) which last year lead to an almost unwritten rule of one car attempts it at a time.


          If the unfortunate does happen and you find yourself on the side of the road then you`ll need to have some equipment to try and get yourself out of the situation and some equipment if you can`t and need to wait for rescue, for all this equipment you`ll need a bag or box to store it in, 4 things you`ll need to get you out of the situation are a shovel, some salt, something to put under the wheels and a tow rope. The best shovel is a snow shovel these however tend to be on the big side so anything that fits into your car will do,
most people will recommend a bag of salt to melt the snow and ice which if you have space is fine, some people may not have the space to store this so a large pot of salt will suffice, you can buy commercial snow treads to put under tyres but you can also use burlap sacks or similar or even old carpet which will do the same job.

 the tow rope is to help pull you back on the road if someone comes along that can help and vise versa.

          If you can`t get the car back on the road you may end up spending some time in your car and this is when you really do need to have some equipment in the back of your car and be prepared to wait for help, if you intend to use the cars engine to keep you warm make sure that the exhaust pipe is clear at all times even if that means getting out every once in a while to clear it as a blockage may stop the engine.
3/4 season sleeping bag, the reason for this is because a car will intensify the cold weather and a 2 season may not be enough,
said I`d find a use for the Nanok

          Hat, gloves, thick socks and warm jumper.

          Ice grippers, to stop you slipping over when you are walking around I use Yaxtrax for preference.

          First Aid Kit, this should be in your car anyway.

          Wind up torch, why a wind up and not a battery powered one? because the cold will drain battery life quicker than normal (this goes for the car battery as well) and when you come to need the torch it may not work whereas with a wind up there is always power available at the turn of a handle.
          2litres of Water, this needs to be put somewhere near the centre of your equipment to prevent it from freezing.
          Stove, this needs careful consideration as there a number of things to think about, a gas stove might not be a good thing to have as gas becomes very inefficient and slow in cold conditions it also means carrying a gas canister around which could have an unfortunate affect in an accident, a petrol/diesel stove could be a better decision after all what does your car run on? however if you are not regularly going to use it can you really justify the cost? better than both of these are the Trekmates flameless kits or the self heating meal kits, these dont require gas or liquid fuel to run nor do they produce flames and are not susceptible to weather conditions.

          Food, If you choose to take your own food rather than rely on the self heating meal kits choose high calorific food to help you stay warm, warm drinks also need to be considered and this can be what you would normally drink however if you take milk or cream you probably will need to replace it everyday (obviously UHT and powered milk are the exception to this) for preferance I have Earl Grey tea, same as for all my expedition work, for the simple fact that no milk is required.
         Phone charger, although you can obviously get car chargers that run off the car battery this may end up draining your cars battery in the process, there are emergency chargers available on the market both rechargeable and battery powered and these are prefrable to in car ones      

         Book, yes seriously, keeps your mind occupied and helps pass the time while you wait for rescue.
         Another piece of equipment I would recomend is a 12 volt  tyre inflater, although it does have particular application and is required in one situation only, occasionally and ONLY IF you have spun off the road you can sometimes gain more traction by letting some of the air out of the tyres to get back on the road as soon as you have done this use the inflater to reinflate the tyres and when you are reinflating the tyres leave the engine running to avoid battery drain.

         One more piece of advise I would give is if you can, book some time on a skid pan this will give you the training to get you out of a spin should it happen.

Hopefully none of this will happen to you but if it does its obviously best to be prepared and if you follow the advise above it will make it easier for you and remember rescue services may be swamped with call outs so you might be waiting start on that book