Coachlines - January 2024

30.01.24 Liveryman Adrian Smith

Are you ready for winter driving?

It’s that time of year again – a time of low temperatures. I recall, as a child growing up in north east Scotland, there were snow depths which came up past an adult’s knees and further. One had to be dug out of the house to get to school!

Driving in those conditions proved a challenge, because the cars were not as capable as those of today. Traction control and electronic stability programme systems in the 70s were the things which Lady Penelope probably had fitted to her Rolls Royce – FAB 1 – (I’m into car number plates) in Thunderbirds, in the foretelling of the 21st century.

Fast forward to now, and whilst the weather may not be so severe in terms of snow fall, the temperatures still drop to levels which cause challenges for motorists. There are a few pieces of advice which I have picked up over the years for driving in winter and I thought I’d share the most pertinent of those with you here. Having been driven by Monte Carlo rally winner Erik Carlsson, sadly no longer with us, round a frozen lake in the 1980s and 90s in northern Sweden, at 90+mph, with an outside temperature of -26C, I’ve seen how to keep cars optimal for winter conditions. Further, as it is -5C outside right now in January 2024, and snowing up here in Scotland, I think you will find some of these comments apposite.

These items are in no particular order, but please ensure you address them, or at least consider them, before winter driving – garaged car or not.


Tyre pressures are a given – make sure they are as they should be. Winter tyres are an option in the UK – mandatory in some countries, for good reason in my view. Below 7C (46F) winter tyres have a rubber compound and tread which behaves appropriately in cold conditions. So if you have those for winter times, good for you – but please read on.


Concentrating on 12V systems, the battery in your car hates cold weather. Making sure it is in tip top condition in the summer means it will be healthy as the cold weather advances. A trickle charger (as I use) is a great way of making sure the battery is always in good condition. Please do not underestimate the effect of temperature on your car’s battery.


This applies to the hardy vehicles outside in the weather. Please do this before anything else. Remove any snow around all the wiper blades – front and rear. Then carefully remove them from the frost binding them to the screen. Switching on wipers whilst stuck to the screen is potentially a problem – or nightmare.

Screen wash

Screen wash, whatever brand, must be used to a level and concentration which will always be fluid despite the ambient temperature. Not easy to achieve in very low temperatures, but there are products out there. It makes a huge difference with screen and headlamp washes.


This does not apply to covered vehicles, but for those outside, there are various options. Start it up and wait until operating temperature is reached – enjoy the heated seat if you have one.

Clear the snow covering

I said these items were not in a particular order, but this one has the ability to cause the most legal problems. Please clear more than a letterbox to look out of the windscreen. In fact, make sure all the glass on your vehicle is cleared for visibility. Snow on the roof can come down over the windscreen (we’ve all had that!) and the snow on the roof can be challenging to vehicles following. This is one of the most important items in my advice here.


Please make sure your sensors are at maximum. Winter driving means bizarre braking distances – and ABS brake pedals kicking back more than you have felt in the middle of the year. Ensure you have more distance than usual to the car in front, and just take care.


As I said, number plates intrigue me. Let’s look at FAB 1 – Lady Penelope’s car. Virgin Atlantic had a Boeing 747-400 called Lady Penelope. Now scrapped, but its registration was G-VFAB – right up my street.

Take care in the winter months please.