Make your car and bike winter-ready

Preparation is key to overcoming winter mishaps on the roads. Image: Phil Wilkinson

Preparation is key to overcoming winter mishaps on the roads. Image: Phil Wilkinson

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LONG nights and cold weather can play havoc with your commute, but a few simple checks and adjustments can make sure you’re ready for the worst of the Scottish weather

ALTER YOUR DRIVING OR RIDING HABITS

One of the most effective things that you can do during winter driving is adjust the way that you drive or ride.

Police Scotland advises both riders and drivers to stay well back from road users ahead of them in wet, icy or snowy conditions, as stopping distances can be up to ten times greater on icy roads.

To get around on essential journeys during winter, use as high a gear as possible with gentle throttle, brake and steering inputs to minimise the chances of losing control of the car. Cyclists are also encouraged not to lean into corners and make sure that their frames and chains are well-oiled to cope with any road debris en route.

CHECK YOUR LIGHTS, WINDSCREEN, BRAKES AND TYRES

Winter riding is a cold, but possible, way of commuting. Photo: Ilan Kelman

Winter riding is a cold, but possible, way of commuting. Photo: Ilan Kelman

This advice applies to both drivers and riders, with inadequate lighting often due to failed bulbs or misaligned headlights. Partially-cleared or dirty windscreens are also prime causes of winter accidents, with the beginning of winter a good time to fit replacement wiper blades along with carrying spare bulbs.

In addition, cyclists and motorbike riders are more likely to find debris in their brakes thanks to their exposed position. Make sure to clean them out and keep them well-maintained for the best possible chance of stopping swiftly, while cyclists riding at night must have working white front and red rear lights.

Tyres on both motorbikes and cars have a minimum tread depth, which is 1.6mm for cars and 1mm for motorbikes across the central three-quarter breadth of the tyre. Police Scotland recommend that tyre pressures and tread be checked weekly, with illegal tyres meriting a maximum of 3 points on your licence and a fine of up to £2,500.

Winter tyres, while not compulsory, are a recommended accessory for your car in some of the coldest parts of Scotland.

Heavy snow brings traffic at a standstill on Edinburgh Road, Penicuik. Image: Alan Wilson

Heavy snow brings traffic at a standstill on Edinburgh Road, Penicuik. Image: Alan Wilson

PLAN YOUR ROUTE

There are dozens of ways of keeping up-to-date with incidents and advice across the roads of Scotland, with radio broadcasts by local and national providers for those driving or even via Traffic Scotland’s Twitter feed for passengers.

In addition, an offline or paper road map is a handy accessory if you find yourself in a rural area without mobile phone or internet reception, while cyclists should stick to well-travelled routes with bright reflective clothing as they are more likely to be better maintained.

SEASONAL SAFETY

During winter, it’s important to get the right concentration of screenwash right. Filling the tank with water will mean that it will freeze in sub-zero conditions, so make sure to add antifreeze instead.

Police Scotland also recommend that motorists carry jump leads, a torch, de-icer, shovel and a thick blanket during particularly snowy weather in case their car needs to be freed from the elements.

Finally, a car’s battery is the number one cause of winter breakdowns, according to the AA. Batteries over five years old may struggle during colder weather, so it is wise to get yours checked over by your local motoring specialist before the chill sets in.

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