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Getting to Grips With Winter Driving

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Car tyres tend to be at the bottom of most of our shopping lists, especially after the excesses of the festive season, not to mention the countdown to the arrival of 2013's first wage slip. They are only thought of when we get a flat tyre or are about to put the car through its MOT.

Yet, those often forgotten four black pieces of rubber are the only part of our cars which come into contact with the ground - and even then at any one time the size of the area that touches the road on each tyre is that of a postcard.

So with plunging temperatures and bursts of sleet and snow working their way across the UK, making driving conditions at best unpredictable, and at worst, treacherous, tyres are more important than ever.

Standard tyres fail to get to grips with the change in conditions. What can be done to combat this and keep us all moving?

Well, there are several driving techniques that can be employed - all of which are helped by having the right sort of tyre to keep you on the road. Here's why...

When the temperature drops to 7c and below, our regular tyres begin to struggle. Rubber - which all tyres consist of - begins to harden. This change means the grip of the tyre is less than if the temperature is above the 7c, even on dry roads. This makes for a far more nervous vehicle as you drive along and reduces the ability to react quickly and safely to the obstacles on the daily commute - whether these are slopes, sharp bends or indeed other vehicles.

Like all premium manufacturers, Bridgestone makes tyres with motorists' safety in mind regardless of the conditions. Our winter tyres are made with more natural rubber - which doesn't harden in cold temperatures. Tread patterns designed with more biting edges also help to lock onto snowy or slushy roads. And for those not able to change tyres for the winter there are all-weather versions, which have been designed to withstand colder and wetter temperatures. And knowing our weather this could be as relevant and needed in May as it is in December!

Having the right tyre for the conditions - and your car - is key, but there are also some techniques that can help improve your car's handling in tough winter conditions. Here are my top three tips for your daily commute in snow, ice or slush.

1) Use engine braking

In snow and ice trying to slow down to a stop using the brakes can cause the car to skid and you to lose control. The best way to avoid this is when you need to slow, for a junction for example, leave the car in gear, take your foot off the accelerator and allow it to gradually slow, using the brakes only to bring about the final stop.

2) Dip the clutch

Should you find the car sliding on a slippy or icy surface, dipping the clutch helps to give you more control over the car. This move cancels all power to the accelerator.

3) Keep your gears high

When there is snow and ice on the road always use the highest practical gear, pulling away from stationary in second gear if possible, as this reduces the chance of wheel spin giving you greater control of the vehicle. Change up gears slightly earlier than you would ordinarily do and keep the changes as smooth as possible to ensure steady progress.

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