On the 15th of November the use of winter equipment in traffic becomes obligatory. The first things that come to mind are the tyres. However, we can do many other things to improve the safety and comfort of winter driving.
You can read more about winter tyres in the second part of the article about storing tyres; also don’t forget about the chassis protection.
If you often drive on roads with poor winter conditions or roads that are poorly ploughed and salted, don’t forget to pack snow chains. There is a wide offer of snow chains, but avoid buying the cheapest ones (up to 30€), as they often break and that can lead to unpleasant consequences. Quality and strong chains can be bought for 50-60€, but don’t forget to check whether the size of the chains fits the size of your tyres. A new type of snow chain entered the market a while ago. They are made of fabric, are very simple to put on and the price starts at 60€. The chains perform admirably on snow and ice, you can clean them in a washing machine and they don’t take a lot of space. The only down side is that they can be used for just 2-3 seasons, depending on the amount of kilometres a vehicle travels. While you might think these ‘socks’ easily rip and that they can’t possibly have any traction, the results are surprisingly positive and the chains prove to be an excellent choice.
You also shouldn’t forget to pack a scraper and a small broom, because they are very useful if it starts snowing. A spray that defrosts frozen windows is a necessity (especially if your car stays outside during the night), as it melts the ice incredibly fast. Be careful – don’t defrost the windows with hot water, because the glass easily breaks; if you insist on defrosting with water, at least make sure the water is warm, not hot. A good choice for defrosting windows is a spray by Sonax; they also make smaller sprays for defrosting locks, which is great for anyone who doesn’t have remote keyless system. If you don’t have remote keyless system, you can also have it installed and get rid of the problem of frozen locks forever. Meta system offers a good product at a moderate price.
Another important item is a cleaning fluid for the washing system (Vitrex). Make sure you have enough of it in the car, as the situation can turn ugly if you run out. The ratio of water and cleaning fluid depends on the temperature and it is written on the label. A 50:50 ratio is adequate for the water tank, but not for the nozzles, which freeze in very low temperatures. You can also buy a nozzle heater for about 20€.
You should check the state and amount of the antifreeze and the amount of oil in the engine, because the engine can use up some oil in low temperatures. However, if a so-called sludge forms in the oil filler cap, it can be a sign of bigger problems. It can mean that your car has a broken or bent engine head or that water seeps into the oil. Water seepage in winter often happens because of water condensation, so don’t panic. Just wipe off the sludge and check in a few days’ time. But if sludge also appears in summer, you should take your car for a service.