11 driving hacks to get you through the winter

- Hit TV show Game of Thrones warns that winter is coming, and as a new year begins we know changing weather systems are on the way too. With these hacks you can stay safe on the road in all conditions.

Now winter is upon us, drivers can expect dark early evenings and sometimes challenging weather conditions. Whether it’s slippery roads or frozen windows, this time of the year throws up plenty of challenges for car owners before they've even started the engine.

These hacks will help to protect your car and those travelling in it as cold weather hits the continent. Even better: many of the items you'll need for them can be found in your own kitchen cupboards.

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1. Never use boiling water to melt ice on your windows.

Using hot water can actually crack your windscreen. Keep de-icer in the car, or alternatively did you know that vinegar and water make a substitute? Mix three parts vinegar to one part water in a spray bottle. You can also prevent some freezing by spraying vinegar on your car windows the night before.

2. Invest in a good scraper.

Don’t use anything metal or glass to scrape the ice from your windows. Use a plastic scraper or you could end up with scratches all over your car and windscreen.

3. Make sure your lights are clean.

Winter means night sets in earlier, while rain, snow, sleet, and fog reduce visibility. Therefore you'll want your headlights to be as bright and clear as possible. You can buy a restoration kit from an auto store.

4. Unfreeze your lock.

Hand sanitiser can thaw a frozen key lock. Coat your car keys and let the alcohol in the liquid do its work on the ice. You can also try heating the key with a cigarette lighter or spraying a little de-icer on it.

5. Protect your wipers.

There’s a reason some weather can be described as “dirty”. In wet and windy conditions, grit, grime, and mud can end up on our windows, so we need our wipers in peak condition to combat rain, hail, and snow.

Many people recommend leaving your wipers upright when not driving to prevent sticking to the windscreen in freezing weather. Rub them down with alcohol, or keep them snug the night before with their own pair of socks. Seriously: they’re good for more than just toasty toes.

6. Check your tyres.

In ski season, the roads of Europe fill with eager athletes looking to hit the powder on the continent’s slopes. In some countries such as Germany and Austria, winter tyres are mandatory. Check if you’re going to be crossing borders. You should also check your tyre treads. Worn wheels and icy conditions don’t make good travel buddies. In snow you should aim for a minimum of 3mm tread depth.

7. Driving in snow - don’t fall flat.

It’s a common misconception that letting air out of your tyres improves grip in snowy conditions. Your tyres are designed to work optimally at a certain pressure. Changing that could be dangerous.

8. Mind the gap.

In wet conditions and poor visibility, allow more braking space to the car in front. Your vehicle will need more space to come to a full stop. Safety features such as Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) in Hyundai models alerts drivers to emergency situations, braking autonomously if required. But note, cruise control should not be used in slippery road conditions.

9. The icy sound of silence.

While driving along, if the sound of the road suddenly goes quiet, you could well be on ice. For cars with an anti-lock braking system (ABS), brake fully and allow the computer to do the rest. Without ABS, take your foot off the accelerator and point the wheels into the slide.

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10. Start from a higher place.

On snow, try setting off in a higher gear. This will reduce the amount of wheel rotation and therefore the chance of skidding. Move down through the gears to help you slow down, only applying the brakes intermittently.

11. Before undertaking a long journey, check the weather reports.

Finally, you should delay, or if possible cancel, your trip when especially bad weather is expected. Modern technology such as LIVE Services in many Hyundai models, relays important weather and traffic information to your car’s onboard computer system so you can stay in the know.