As the UK enters a cold snap, SEAT has drawn up its advice and recommendations for greater comfort and safety when driving in cold weather.
Getting it wrong is all too easy. According to the Barcelona-based vehicle manufacturer, drivers who set an interior car temperature of 35°C will have reaction times comparable to someone nearing the drink drive limit in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Another common mistake is drivers who fail to use the car’s air conditioning system to de-fog the windows.
María García, an engineer in SEAT’s Development and Aerodynamics Department, provides her tips on how to stay safe in the car throughout winter:
The ideal travelling temperature
21.5 °C has been dubbed the ‘comfort temperature’. The climate control’s Auto setting automatically regulates the interior temperature of your car. “It provides a balanced heat distribution: half of the warm air comes out at around 40 °C near your feet and cools by the time it reaches your upper body and head, keeping you more alert at the wheel”, explains García. In fact, driving when the upper part of the body is extremely warm can cause drowsiness: “Driving with an interior temperature of 35°C is similar to having a blood alcohol level of 0.5 g/l”, she warns. This matches the Scottish drink drive limit and is very close to the limit of 0.8g/l in England, Ireland and Wales.
How to de-mist the windows
The contrast between the low temperature on the exterior and a warmer car interior makes the windows fog up. “When faced with this situation, you should turn the air conditioning all the way up and point the vents towards the windows and windscreen”, says García.
Try not to wear full winter garb at the wheel
Gloves, coats and scarves tend to limit your freedom of movement, and therefore are a safety risk. “Wearing gloves is only recommended in exceptional cases when low temperatures can cause a loss of feeling in the hands at the wheel”, María points out.
Heated seats to help the driver warm up quickly
Heated seats are the most effective way to get warm in the least time possible. This system provides even warmth in just three minutes. “They should be activated as soon as you get in the car and gradually regulated as you feel warmer. You should also avoid using them at high temperature for long periods”, advises García.
Heat at no extra cost
Heating does not consume any extra fuel or water. The reason is, as García explains: “hot water generated by the motor is used for heating and it returns to the engine at a much lower temperature, so it actually benefits the engine radiator.”