Prepare for autumn driving
Some see autumn as the sad end of summer, but
the gentler warmth in the sun, the changing of nature’s colours and the excuse
to light the fire in the evenings all hold their appeal.
Each time of year brings different driving
conditions too. So along with the seasonal mists and mellow fruitfulness, we
should consider the weather’s impact on driving and those necessary checks on
What should I check on my car?
With wetter weather and trees dropping their
leaves, roads can become extremely slippery so you should check there is
sufficient tread on your car’s tyres. The legal minimum is 1.6mm across three
quarters of the tyre’s width although we recommend no less than 3mm. Also check
your tyres have the correct pressures - these can usually be found on a sticker
on the back of the petrol flap or door shut panel. And of course look at the
condition of your tyres, checking for cracks, cuts and bulges.
The colder the weather, the greater the load on
the battery to start a car. Batteries won’t last for ever; if they are showing
signs that they are struggling in autumn - not turning the engine over quickly
enough or becoming flat after driving a few short distances - it’s worth
changing them before the winter when the demand is even higher.
If your car has been serviced correctly, the
antifreeze in the coolant water - which helps stop corrosion and prevent
freezing - should have been checked. If you are unsure, a garage can check it
has the right levels. Many garages offer free winter checks.
Check your bulbs before you need to drive at
night. During the summer months, unless driving late into the evening, we can
go weeks or months without using our headlamps. So as the nights draw in, we
often discover a bulb has failed.
With the sun lower in the sky, it is easier to
be dazzled so it is worth cleaning all the car’s windows - inside and out - to
help reduce glare. It also makes sense to check you are carrying sunglasses in
the car. Remember to use your headlights in low sun conditions to help other
road users see you.
Autumn is often a time of mists and fog,
especially over flatter parts of the country and near water. Use dipped
headlights - plus fog lights when visibility is less than 100 metres.
Toward the end of autumn, temperatures can drop
considerably in the night time and this poses the risk of ice. It means you’ll
hear the dawn chorus of drivers scraping windscreens. Some cars - notably Fords
- have heated windscreen options which clear the ice quickly. For the rest of
us, it means starting the engine and using a scraper to clear the ice.
- Don't use a kettle-full of boiling water - the rapid temperature change can crack windscreens.
- Don't leave your car with the engine running unattended - it will be easy for a thief to drive off and because the keys are in the ignition, the theft probably won't be covered by your insurance company.
- Do wait until the screen is fully defrosted before driving - any area still covered by ice or condensation could obscure your view of pedestrians and other road users.
Of course ice will be found on some roads too.
Do check the weather forecast, do check the outside temperature if your car
displays this and do drive with care, especially on shady sections of roads
where the ice can take longer to thaw.
About the Author
Andrew is a freelance motoring journalist with a background in IT and the vehicle leasing industry. With a lifetime’s passion for all things automotive, he can be found behind the wheel of everything from vans to supercars. In addition to reviewing the latest vehicles and technology, Andrew also runs a couple of classic British motors. He lives at the edge of the Peak District with his son and cat.
Andrew Wright @theMotorWriter