How to Overcome Winter Car Struggles
Winter can be a struggle. Our days are shorter, daylight is more limited, and it’s much more of an effort getting out of bed. It makes your morning and afternoon commute a bit more painful than usual – and sometimes more time consuming. Especially, if like me, you spend a great deal of your morning trying to defrost your car, and yourself, before you even leave the house.
Then, to make our lives even more of a struggle, winter also introduces new driving hazards which can lead to dangerous driving conditions. Also making us really consider if we should have gotten out of bed. Some common troubles the cooler months can bring about include the following.
Animals on road
According to RACQ, among the 10,000 insurance claims lodged in 2018 relating to animal collision, the winter months had a significantly higher rate of incidents. The average number of accidents for June, July and August was 1125, compared to 687 for December, January and February. This high number of collisions is attributed to the lack of grass from winter. As grass begins to wither and die, to find food, animals venture outside their usual perimetres. These animals often wander a little too far and end up on our roads.
Nobody wants to have a collision, least of all with little skippy. To prevent accidentally running over animals this winter, remember to slow down and look out for signs indicating wildlife may enter roads. Dusk and dawn are the most common times for animals to forage for food, so drive safely during these times.
Difficulties adjusting the heating
We all know that driving while using a mobile phone is dangerous, but that isn’t the only form of distraction that can occur in our cars. Taking your eyes off the road to adjust your car temperature can also be a massive distraction. For every two seconds that you’re eyes are off the road, your car travels 33 metres (if you’re driving at 60 kilometres/ hour). On top of that, our average reaction speed is 1.8 seconds. So when you’re looking away for those couple of seconds it takes to locate and crank the heater, you’re car is travelling practically unguided. If something were to occur, it would still take you roughly another couple of seconds to react to an unforeseen obstacle. That’s 66 metres of road you’ve potentially covered. Imagine the damage you can do in 66 metres. So, the heater can wait at least until the next set of lights, especially if you don’t want to become one of the 25 people killed each year by distraction.
In Queensland, there are strict policies in place when it comes to car windscreens. According to QLD Police, drivers must have an unobstructed view of the road ahead at all times, otherwise a fine may be incurred. Further, cars intended to be bought or sold in Queensland need to pass rigorous inspections which check all aspects of a car, including the windscreens. Features such as filtering and glazing are reviewed, to make sure the car windscreen has a clear view of the landscape ahead under a normal range of climatic conditions. The inspection manual also outlines strict regulations surrounding cars with windscreens that are chipped, cracked, or damaged in anyway.
An obstructed view can result from many things outside of just chips and glazes, including a dirty windscreen, an incorrectly placed GPS, or condensation. Winter can take a toll on windscreens from exposure to dust, dirt, condensation and frost, which cause your windscreen to become unclear. When windscreens become unclear or damaged, safety is compromised. To prevent damage to your windscreen, remember to keep it clean and it optimal condition using the right products to clean your windscreen, and by fixing any chips of cracks when they emerge.
Along with these winter woes, there are also other problems which drivers face in winter that are less dangerous, but extremely annoying. The main grievances Aussie drivers will face in winter times involve the dreaded morning fog and frost. To help get your morning and evening running smoother this winter, we’ve compiled a guide to help you tackle these common winter car issues.
Foggy window in the morning
The dreaded morning foggy window. Where does it come from? Why is it so difficult to get rid of? Do you blast the A/C? Or the heat? Is it on the inside of the windscreen, or the outside?
If you’ve become accustomed to spending a large portion of your winter mornings sitting in your car blasting yourself with heat, then cold (when heat doesn’t seem to work) in an attempt to clear up your windows, then this one’s for you.
The reason why your windscreen is fogging up has to do with humid air that gets trapped in your car. Warm, humid air tends to condense onto cooler surfaces. Have you ever opened a dishwasher with glasses on? Nightmare. Same thing happens inside your car. The air in your car is warmer and more humid than the air outside, either because its been warmed up by the sun, or because you’re inside the car. Nothing steams up a window like warm morning breath. When this warm air hits the surface of your windscreen, the water vapour in the air collects and creates a fog, or technically, condensation.
So, how do we fix this?
The immediate fix involves getting your squeegee. Although, this doesn’t last long if the disparity between the inside and outside air temperature and water content doesn’t balance out.
The next option is to try and dry your car air out. This may just be the option you are least inclined to try, but it really helps. To dry out the moisture in your car, you will need to use the air conditioner. So that you aren’t directly blasted with the freezing winds of antarctica, adjust the air flow to only run through the vents pointed at your windscreen, then blast the cold air.
Alternatively, you can run your window defogger. You know those lines that run through your back window? They heat up. Yes, they’re not just there to look kind of bad. Though, for most cars, this feature is only available for the back window. Your defogger works in a similar way to your air conditioner in that it helps the water vapour covering your windscreen evaporate.
We’re pretty lucky in Australia. We don’t have many extreme cold weather events during our winter months. Our winters are mind, and most of us would say we prefer it that way. Sure, we don’t have the picturesque snow you see in movies, but we don’t have blizzards either. Despite not having these extreme snow storms, some of those who live in regional areas have to suffer the brunt of winter with frost-covered cars. I know, how do they manage?
Frost forms when the water vapour that collects on surfaces cools past the point becoming dew. When frost forms on cars, it can affect the car’s structure. Overall, the frame of the car, as well as the windscreen and windows are the most susceptible. Metal shrinks in the cold and glass is sensitive to extreme cold and heat; in the long term, years of exposure can have detrimental effects on a car.
To rid your car of frost, the first method involves using de-icer fluid. As we typically don’t encounter too much trouble from ice, it’s a bit tricky to find retailers that stock this spray in Australia. However, it is incredibly simple to make your own! In combination with using your de-icer spray, find some kind of sturdy instrument with a strong edge (like a squeegee) to help you scrape off the ice as well.
Again, your defogger is also another great option, although this might only sort out your rear view window. Again, using an implement of your choice, scrape the melting ice off your window. For the front windscreen, you might like to use wiper fluid to assist you.
To prevent frost, you could also consider getting a car cover. This is especially a good idea if you don’t use your car regularly. They’re great for protecting your car from all kinds of environmental conditions – rain, hail, wind, sun – so getting one is a real investment. In the meantime, however, a blanket or old doona will do the job just fine. It’s best to cover your front, back and front side windows to maintain optimal clarity in the most important windows.
Something we might forget about, particularly in becoming distracted by our frustrations with impossibly foggy or frosty windscreens, is our car tires. Car tires are also susceptible to the strains of winter. As air molecules tend to expand or contract upon being cooled or heated, it makes sense for the pressure in our tires to become affected by this. Therefore, it is important to check and maintain the air pressure in our tires as the temperature begins to drop.