Top 21st century car autumn and winter driving tips

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It’s nearly the end of October and it’s almost an in-between road safety advice stage when it comes to making allowances for weather conditions.

With this in mind, Tim Shallcross, IAM RoadSmart’s head of technical policy, says that every motoring organisation and journal will be dusting off the “Prepare your car for winter” press release.

Advice that many of us may have heard before i.e. check the lights, inspect the tyres, test the antifreeze, but cars change and technology moves on. Assuming that you know the basics, here are some Top 21st century car autumn and winter driving tips from IAM RoadSmart.


Fill the washer reservoir with washer fluid and check the spray nozzles are clear – don’t forget the headlamp washers. If your car has Xenon lights (HID), there will be high pressure washers, usually located under a flap in the front bumper. These must be working to avoid dazzling other motorists when the lens gets dirty.

To check them, turn on the headlamps, operate the windscreen washers and get a friend to watch the lights or look for the spray which you’ll see over the front of the bonnet.

Light level switch

If you don’t have Xenon lamps, you will probably have a headlamp level switch, usually numbered 0 to 4. You’re supposed to turn the switch according to how the car is loaded. Many complaints about dazzling headlights are because people forget to adjust the level. 0 is usually just the driver and no luggage, 4 is for a full load, but to be sure, check the handbook for your car.


Leaves never used to hurt a car, but they can now! It is important to lift the bonnet, look in the engine bay around the area of the bonnet hinges. You’ll see a chamber on each side that collects water as it drains from the windscreen. These chambers have drain holes in the bottom to keep them dry, but leaves can block the drains.

If water stays in the chambers it can leak into the car, often soaking sensitive electronic bits, leading to very expensive repairs. Get any leaves or other debris out of the chambers and if water is present, root around until you find the drain holes and unblock them.

Steamy windows

Get some soapy water and kitchen roll or a clean microfibre cloth and clean the insides the windows. Getting them clean in this way will dramatically reduce glare from low autumn sun on morning and evening drives and it will make the windows much less likely to mist up in damp weather. It also means that you will waste less fuel because you won’t need to turn on heated windows and air conditioning to try and clear them.

Cabin air filter

Modern cars have a filter for the air entering the car through the heater. Often called the pollen filter, it can often get overlooked at a service and if it’s full of dirt, your heater will be much less efficient.

If it’s wet – which can happen if you don’t clear those leaves out of the chambers – your windows will constantly mist up as the heater pumps damp air into them. Changing the filter is usually a simple DIY job, so look in the owner’s handbook; the filters are quite cheap and widely available online.

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