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Motorists risk safety by ignoring basic winter car checks

14th November 2012 Print

Millions of motorists will risk their safety this winter as they take to the roads without undertaking essential car maintenance like checking their tyres or carrying basic items like de-icer.

New research from Green Flag Breakdown Service reveals that 3.6 million (11 per cent) regular drivers in the UK do not plan to check their tyre tread at any point over the winter months unless a problem with their car arises. 9.4 million (28 per cent) say they won't bother to check their battery this winter unless a fault occurs and 3.6 million (11 per cent) will not check their oil unless something goes wrong with their car.
According to the findings, 9.8 million (30 per cent) regular drivers skidded due to wet or icy roads last year and 12 million (36 per cent) experienced frozen locks, wipers and washer fluid. Three million (10 per cent) drivers got stuck in snow and 3 million (10 per cent) also experienced a flat battery.

The research highlights that this winter, millions of motorists will set off on their journeys without carrying some of the most basic winter essentials: 8.7 million (26 per cent) will drive without carrying de-icer and 10.5 million (32 per cent) will take to the roads without a spare tyre. Around 16.2 million (49 per cent) motorists who drive regularly admit they will travel without carrying a torch and 19.5 million (59 per cent) will fail to carry a blanket.

Winter car essentials - % of regular drivers who do not carry these items during winter months

De-icer 26%    
Spare tyre 32%    
Torch 49%    
Blanket 59%    
Jump leads 68%    
Warning triangle 71%    
High visibility jacket 74%    
Drinks 75%    
Shovel 75%    
Food 87%    
Tyre Chains 97%    

Miranda Schunke, spokesperson for Green Flag, said: "Some of the simplest winter checks like inspecting the tread on your tyres and changing your oil can have a huge impact on the safety of your vehicle and the likelihood of a breakdown. The findings show that millions of drivers are ignoring these vital winter preparations and choosing not to keep basic winter driving essentials in their vehicles. As the evenings get darker and driving conditions deteriorate this is extremely risky.

"Winter weather is extremely unpredictable and breaking down in these conditions can be costly and dangerous. It's easy to take these things for granted or forget to check them at all, so before the winter weather really takes its toll, we're urging drivers to follow a few simple checks to ensure their vehicles are winter-ready."

Green Flag tips on preparing your car for winter:

The best place to start is under the bonnet.  Ensure that your vehicle's oil has the right viscosity and remember that oil tends to get thicker during colder months. The thicker the oil, the less effectively it will lubricate, so make sure you change it regularly and ensure the level is between the maximum and minimum marks on the dipstick.

Check your battery connections are secure and corrosion free. Batteries more than three years old hold charge less effectively so check the level in the cells or have your battery professionally tested.
Aim for a 50-50 mix of antifreeze and water in your radiator to ensure reliability. If in doubt, ask your local engineer to check it for you or purchase an antifreeze tester.

Low visibility is a major cause of road accidents in winter so replace your windscreen wiper blades with winter wipers if you're a frequent driver and always replace summer washer fluid with winter fluid that won't freeze.

While it may not be necessary to change to snow tyres, ensure that your tyre pressure is at an adequate level. Tyres that are properly inflated will help ensure the best possible traction, which can be compromised in wet and snowy conditions.

Finally, don't get caught out if something does go wrong - make sure you carry a seasonal survival kit in your car including a few snacks to eat. These are necessary in order to keep warm and safe while waiting for assistance in the event of a winter breakdown.