Getting Ready for Autumn & Winter Driving

The papers and news outlets have gone into overdrive with reports of another ‘Beast from the East’ and the coldest winter in 30 years. At the time of writing it’s the middle of September and the first signs of Autumn are just starting to show. Now there has been no official word from the Met Office on the Winter 2019/20 long-range weather. We’ve put together a few tips and tricks we use in getting ready for Autumn and Winter driving… yeah we use them all year round,

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Tyres

If you have the means and the space, we would always suggest a second set of wheels for the winter months, and we would even go as far as saying a set of steelies shod with proper winter tyres is the ideal option. 

Autumn & Winter Driving. MK2 Golf winter steel wheels
Photo by Martin Katler

Q: Wheels, why run a second set and why steelies? 

A: Alloys look great and set the car off, but the finish can be severely impacted by road salt in the winter months. Generally they’ll be a wider wheel with a summer or all season tyre fitted, which is great in the warmer months and rainy conditions but rubbish in cold and snowy conditions.

Steelies come in narrower fitments which can give increased grip in snowy conditions. The weight of the car is passed through a smaller surface area and contact patch allowing the tyre to dig into the firmer surface below, wider wheels and tyres float on top of the slush and snow, giving reduced grip and causing the wheels to spin. We know steelies aren’t pretty but they withstand road salt better and they are cheaper to buy, as well as being stronger than alloys if you happen to slide into a curb in snowy / icy conditions.

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Q: Why winter tyres 

A: All season and Summer tyres have a working range, where the compound in the tyre is malleable and flexible. All Season tyres are a fit all, they’re designed to be good in dry, warm conditions, good in the rain, and provide the least amount of road noise possible, they’re a good all around choice, but this doesn’t make them great.

Summer tyres are basically what it says on the tin, tyres which work best in summer, warmer conditions with less rain. The tread patterns on summer tyres are less aggressive for water disbursement and more focus to providing dry grip, the compound of the tyre is designed to work and be malleable and sticky in the warmer temperature.

Summer vs Winter tyres

Winter Tyres, are designed to work in colder harsher temperatures, as the mercury drops below 7°c the compound that makes up the rubber in winter tyres turns on. The tread blocks in winter tyres are aggressive, designed for grip and digging through slush and snow, moving water and providing grip. 

For these blocks to work and grip  they need to able to move around, and be ‘malleable’ – the compound in All Season and Summer Tyres stiffens up and doesn’t move around, whereas the compound in Winter tyres moves and stays flexible giving grip.

Winter tyres are full of grooves and mouldings within the tread to provide as much grip as possible, they don’t need to solely used in snowy / icy conditions either, the way the tyre is designed they provide excellent water disbursement, so a tyre that works well below 7°c and moves a lot of water away from the contact patch is prefect for a British Winter, they only downside depending on the manufacture and design they can be a little nosey. 

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Lights

Depending on the age and model of your car, you’ll either have conventional Halogen Bulbs or the new HID/Laser style headlights which are amazing in the dark rainy nights. Being a bunch of retro-car owners, we mostly have halogen bulbs and need all the help we can get. In the lifespan of a halogen filament bulb, the filament degrades over time from the turning off and on of the lights weakening it slowly over time giving a dimmer light output. Just swapping to a new set of bulbs you’ll see massive improvements instantly without even upgrading to a better bulb

Autumn & Winter Driving. Head Light bulbs

You can upgrade the bulbs to the likes of the Osram Night Breakers, these give out over 70% more light than a standard bulb and produce a whiter light too, aesthetically this whiter light can your car look newer.

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Yellow Bulbs

Something we’ve been looking more closely at recently, and after playing around with some tint film something we’ll pursue, Is the fitment of yellow bulbs in foglights.

Yellow foglight bulbs Autumn & Winter Driving.

Yellow light produces a longer wavelength than white light and in theory is able to cut through fog better which in turn helps you see better, the yellower light is less dazzling to other drivers, and yellow fogs just look cool. 

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Screen wash

Just like the coolant in the radiator and expansion tank, neat water in the screen wash bottle can freeze. Its advised to mix screen wash to a 50:50 concentration using a concentrate instead of a premixed solution, premixed solution generally stay liquid to about -5°c which can quickly freeze in the pipes and nozzles and can cause damage or burst a pipe. 50:50 concentration will protect to below -15°c and the stronger solution will be able to clean more grime and salt off the windscreen

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Coolant

Coolant; the mixture of Water and AntiFreeze should be able to protect your engine and cooling system from freezing to a temperature of -30°c. This may seem extreme but Braemar in Scotland regularly sees low figures and the record of -27.2°c for the UK. Always top up coolant with the same colour that’s currently in your system, red or blue – and if you’re unsure seek advice from an expert. 

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Battery

The cold weather, creeps up and kills batteries, especially if your car isn’t being used as a daily. It’s always worth investing in a smart charger like a C-Tek which will condition the battery and keep it in tip-top condition and ready for those crisp winter morning drives. 

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Locks and Hinges

Give the barrels of your exterior locks a quick squirt of WD40 or GT85; this will lubricate, and clean the mechanisms and protect them from freezing up. The winter months and road salt are brutal on cars, we’re going to cover cleaning, and protecting your car in the next post but in the meantime make sure you give all your hinges a quick squirt of white grease to keep the grime and salt away from the moving parts.