In winter, many drivers make mistakes out of ignorance, which in the end cost them safety and money.

Winter means an extreme situation for the car and its driver: the cold clogs the engine and battery, salt and ice attack the body and driving on snow and ice is no fun either. The problem: Many drivers make the already adverse conditions in winter even worse with their behavior. The receipt is then in the form of damage or fines.

1. Driving with the wrong tires

Driving with the wrong tires

One should actually think that the regulation on compulsory winter tires has now reached all motorists – but it is not: A survey has shown that around one in four drivers does not use winter tires. This is dangerous and can result in a fine.

By the way: Winter tires with too little profile are no less problematic than wrong tires: it should still be at least four millimetres, even if the legislator prescribes a minimum of 1.6 millimetres. The driving characteristics deteriorate significantly if the profile is less than four millimetres.

2. Use the wrong antifreeze

Use the wrong antifreeze

If the windscreen washer system freezes, the tank or the lines can be damaged, which can be expensive. But some drivers fill in the wrong antifreeze and cause problems for themselves: Diluted alcohol is particularly popular. A great frost protection, but on the window it ensures that the frost blooms again quickly after removal. In addition, it leaves streaks on the windshield that impair vision. Special additives in the windshield antifreeze prevent re-icing and leave no traces . Important: Pay attention to the correct ratio with concentrates. Too much concentrate in the washing water worsens the cleaning performance and is also bad for the environment.

What many do not know: Strictly speaking, a car with a frozen washer fluid system is not allowed to drive at all. Because dirty windows are a safety risk and you cannot react to dirt with frozen windscreen. If you are caught by the police with dirty windshields, a fine of ten euros can be levied. In the event of an accident, you are given complicity.

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3. Leave the air conditioning off

Leave the air conditioning off

If you have air conditioning, you should switch it on from time to time, even in winter . If it is not used for a long time, moisture, fungi and bacteria can build up. This creates an unpleasant odor. The operation also lubricates the seals and moving parts of the air conditioning system, which prevents damage. Plus: The air conditioning system removes moisture from the air , which quickly counteracts fogged windows. 

Important: In freezing temperatures, condensation water can freeze and damage the pipes. Modern cars have a temperature sensor for this, which switches off the compressor when the temperature drops below five degrees. Only with older models should drivers be attentive and leave the air conditioning switched off when the temperature is below zero.

4. Only use the heater to fight steamed windows

Only use the heater to fight steamed windows

The first reflex when the windows are fogged up in a car is to turn the heating on fully and direct the fan towards the windshield. In principle, this is also correct, but it does not help if air circulation is activated . Because then only the damp indoor air circulates. The cold air from outside is drier and can absorb significantly more moisture . If the interior is very cold, the windows also fog up due to the warm air you breathe, so it is best to open the window slightly when getting in so that the moist air can escape. And: switch on the air conditioning! This is even more effective than the heating.

To avoid moisture in the car, knock off your shoes and remove snow from your clothing before entering . Regular cleaning of the windows also helps, because clean windows do not fog up.

5. Reduce tire pressure for more traction

In order to have better traction on snow and ice, some drivers reduce their tire pressure. However, this trick stems from a time when bias tires were standard . This only applies to a limited extent to the radial tires commonly used today. If the tire pressure is too low, the grip on the road deteriorates and braking behavior becomes spongy. In addition , fuel consumption and wear and tear increase . Reduced tire pressure can only improve traction on very thick snow cover. However, the tire pressure should be a maximum of one third below the value recommended by the manufacturer and a speed of 50 km / h should not be exceeded. As soon as the car rolls back onto slush or asphalt, driving behavior becomes significantly less safe.The tire pressure must be checked regularly even in winter. This is especially true in the event of a drop in temperature. Because when the temperature drops, the air in the tire also cools down , causing the pressure to drop. The rule of thumb is 0.1 bar per ten degrees.

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6. Neglect the car battery

Neglect the car battery

The cold is an enormous burden on car batteries. The batteries lose a large part of their performance in cold temperatures, at the same time the engine needs more power when starting . If you then use the battery with consumers such as rear window heating, seat heating, etc., you risk losing it. The alternator often cannot keep up with charging, especially on shorter journeys. It is therefore advisable to regularly connect the car battery to a charger in winter . If possible, additional consumers such as an electric blanket for the child should be avoided completely, because this also brings the battery to its knees.
The loss of voltage not only leads to starting problems in the long run, it also ensures that sulfate crystals are deposited on the plates, which reduces the capacity and breaks the battery over time. If you want to counteract this, you can use a so-called battery pulser, which is supposed to smash the sulfate crystals with targeted voltage peaks.

7. Switch on the rear fog light too early

When a rear fog light can be switched on is clearly regulated by law. And this rule is not “in fog”. It must be very thick fog, the visibility must be less than 50 meters according to the road traffic regulations . In addition, the rear fog light can also be used in heavy rain, provided you cannot see further than 50 meters. Otherwise the following traffic will be blinded. If the visibility is less than 50 meters, a maximum speed of 50 km / h applies. Anyone who violates this must expect a fine of at least 20 euros. Incidentally, less strict rules apply to fog lights ; they can generally be used when visibility is poor. In general, the following applies to driving in poor visibility: adjust speed and distance, do not use high beam in the case of the next.

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8. Only take care of the cooling water when there is frost

Of course: In winter, adequate radiator antifreeze is particularly important. It is checked with a cooling water spindle. It should show at least minus 20 degrees , otherwise frost protection must be added. If you are traveling with insufficient frost protection, you run the risk of the cooling water freezing and destroying the cooling system. In addition, there is a risk of damage to the engine, water pump and toothed belt if you start the car with frozen cooling water. But: The control of the cooling water is not only important in winter. The agent protects the cooling water from premature boiling and also from deposits and corrosion . As a rule of thumb, check the cooling water level monthly, and frost protection every six months.

9. Rely on automatic light

Automatic lighting on the car is super convenient: during the day the car drives with daytime running lights, and when it gets darker, the dipped headlights switch on automatically. But especially in autumn and winter, when it often rains and is foggy, the automatic light does not work reliably. After all, in poor visibility conditions it can still be bright enough that the automatic light system does not recognize any reason to switch to low beam. And when the daytime running lights are activated, the taillights remain switched off . When visibility is poor, the traffic behind you can only be seen late. Therefore: in fog or rain, switch on the low beam yourself and do not rely on the automatic.

10. Don’t think about the assistance systems

Modern cars are equipped with all kinds of sensors and cameras. However, if these are covered in snow or contaminated by salt, they can sometimes report incorrect information . Parking beeps show the wrong distance, reversing cameras a cloudy picture. In the worst case, you risk a parking bump because you rely on the snowed-in assistants. Therefore, free the assistance systems from the snow before driving off and clean them if necessary. Radar-based assistants such as a distance cruise control are usually covered and protected against snow and dirt. If there are still impairments here, it usually leads to the assistance system failing. The system then issues an error message. After cleaning, everything should work properly again.

Important: The assistance systems should be used with caution in any case in snow . The distances in the distance cruise control are not designed for bad weather conditions and the resulting long braking distances. Lane departure warning systems cannot detect lane markings on snowy roads.

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