How to prepare your car for winter
As the days are getting shorter and the colder months are fast approaching, a few minutes spent making some basic checks on your car could save you a lot of hassle in winter weather. The number of breakdowns typically increases during the winter due to temperatures dropping and worsening driving conditions. Minor mechanical problems can be exacerbated in cold weather. Here are some simple things that you can do now to keep your car in tip top condition through to the spring.
1. Check the battery
Some of the most common issues that crop up in the winter are battery related. Not only is battery performance decreased in winter due to the colder temperatures, you’re asking more of it with increased use of functions like heaters and lights.
Unfortunately, batteries don’t last forever. If you’ve started to have problems with yours during the warmer months that could spell trouble for the winter. Best to get it checked out and replaced if necessary now rather than being unable to start the car on a freezing morning in the middle of winter. Pay particular attention to how it feels when you start the car. If it seems to be struggling, it might well be time for a new one.
2. Check the tyres
The worsening weather brings trickier road conditions with it. If you’re approaching the legal limit of 1.6mm, you may want to think about changing your tyres sooner rather than later. Road surfaces sleek with rain, snow or ice can have a huge impact on steering and braking so your tyres need to be in good condition to help keep you safe. If you live somewhere particularly prone to snow and ice, a good set of winter tyres would be a good investment. Check the pressure too as the colder temperatures can have an impact on this.
3. Check your lights
As the days get shorter, you will be relying increasingly on your lights, so make sure they are in good working order. Give them a clean as dirt and salt can build up quickly in winter and make sure that your headlights are working. Don’t forget to check your full beams and fog lights too. Test your indicators, brake lights and reverse lights. In dark, rainy or foggy conditions, staying visible to other road users is essential.
4. Top up your coolant and washer fluid
When topping up your engine coolant and washer fluid throughout the year, you may have just been using water. This means that the antifreeze will have been diluted so pay attention to this when you’re topping up now. If your engine overheats due to frozen engine coolant, you could be left with a hefty repair bill.
You’ll also be using your washer fluid much more than you would in the summer as the wet weather means that more dirt from the road will end up on your vehicle. If you buy a pre-mixed screen wash, it will have a lower freezing point so you don’t need to worry so much about frozen washer jets.
5. Check for any wear and tear
Take a good look at the exterior of your car for any signs of wear and tear. Chips in the windscreen, for example, can grow in cold weather so it’s worth getting these fixed before they become a real issue. If any of the bodywork is exposed due to chipped paint, this could be damaged by the salt spread on the roads in winter. Have a look at your windscreen wipers too and make sure there aren’t any tears along the blades that could have an impact on their effectiveness.
6. Be prepared
Plan ahead in poor weather, especially on longer journeys. Allow a bit of extra time so you don’t find yourself rushing on slippery roads and check for traffic disruptions and the forecast before you set off to determine the best route. Before you set off, make sure you scrape any ice or snow off your windows and that your visibility is good all around.
Keep your scraper and de-icer in the car so you have them to hand whenever you need them and invest in a winter breakdown kit. Stow a blanket, shovel, torch, warning triangle, high vis vest and antifreeze in your car just in case. It’s also a good idea to have some way of charging your phone in your car. Most new cars have USB slots so you can keep your battery topped up on the go, however, it’s a good idea to set off with a fully charged phone just in case you encounter car battery problems.
7. Don’t run too low on fuel
Try to make sure you always have a good amount of fuel in the tank as you’re more likely to be delayed in winter. Try not to go below a quarter of a tank before topping up so you won’t be worried about how far it is to the next service station when caught up in a traffic jam.
8. Is it time for a service?
If you’re due a service, get it done sooner rather than later. You may even find that your garage is running an offer on ‘winter car checks’ so you can be sure that the mechanics are all in order. They will be able to carry out checks you may not be confident with, like checking the brake fluid, pads and discs.
Even if you have got an expert to run winter checks for you to provide that extra peace of mind, these tips are worth following in addition to those checks as you can never predict what might happen in bad weather. A quick check of your tyres or remembering to pack your winter breakdown kit can go a long way in keeping you safe on the road.