19 Dec Maintaining your car during the winter months
There are many different issues that your car can face in the winter, and you could land yourself a hefty bill if you do not keep your car in good order, particularly when the weather gets colder. So don’t delay this and ensure that you have prepared your car properly for the upcoming cold, wintry months.
1. Get yourself a winter kit to keep in your car
Breaking down in the winter can be risky, so you should try and carry and emergency kit with you, in case you find yourself stuck on the roadside in adverse conditions. Keep a shovel, torch, blanket, hi-visibility vest, screen wash, rations, something to drink (on long journeys, pack a flask of something hot), ice scraper, snow grips for your shoes, de-icer, jump leads, spare fuses and bulbs, a strong rope should you need to be towed and a reflective warning triangle. On top of this, make sure you have a fully charged mobile phone.
2. Check your tyres
You should always ensure that your tyres are in good order, but particularly in the winter months. You need to ensure that your tyres are not worn and the tread is within the legal limit. Although legally, your tyres must be 1.6mm, when driving in winter, try to keep the tyre tread at least 3mm deep. This will give you more grip on the road, and more control of the car. As well as checking the thread, check for cracks and bulges, particularly if your tyres are older. You can be fined a lot of money if your tyres are not in working order, not to mention it being dangerous, so it is essential that you check them properly and replace them if required.
3. Check all your lights
Did you know that 35% of motorists are driving around with faulty and failing lights? They are an absolute essential part of your winter car maintenance and should be checked before you set off anywhere. Get someone to help you, and ensure that all your lights are working. This includes your headlights (and full beams), side lights, brake lights, reversing lights, fog lights, indicators, number plate lights and don’t forget your internal light, should you get stuck at the side of the road in the dark.
4. Check your brakes
Your brakes are one of, if not the most important thing in your car, and it is essential that these are serviced properly before you start any journey. After all, they will keep you safe. The easiest way to do this is to take your car to a quiet location, where you can test your brakes effectively. Listen for any squeaking or grinding noises, as this could indicate a problem. Use your gut instinct as well. If your brakes simply do not feel quite right, then take them to a garage and address this problem right away before you drive it anywhere else.
5. Examine your windscreen wipers
You never know when you might need your windscreen wipers, so it is important to ensure that they are in working order. An easy way to do this is to wash your windscreen and see how they clean, before running your fingers gently down the wiper blades to check for any nicks and tears. You can clean your blades with neat screen wash, and clean the inside of your windscreen with glass cleaner. Whilst you are doing this, have a look over your windscreen and check that there are no chips. These can get bigger in the colder weather, so ensure that these are fixed prior to making any journeys.
6. Top up your anti-freeze
Don’t underestimate the importance of anti-freeze. It will protect your engine in the cold temperatures. It will remove any excess heat from the engine on hot days and prevent it freezing up on colder days. Whilst you are topping this up, you can also benefit from ensuring that your screen wash is full. Do not let it become too diluted, as it will freeze in the pipes of your car and the bottle, which can cause significant damage.
7. Check your oil level
Oil is absolutely essential to keep your engine running as it should, and is often something that gets neglected, but it is so important that you check your oil levels prior to making any trips in the winter months. Ensure that your oil levels are between the maximum and minimum level on your dipstick at all times, and if not, make sure you top them up before you set off. Breaking down in adverse weather conditions can be a danger to your car and to you.
8. Keep your fuel tank topped up
Be aware that in winter months, weather conditions are likely to worsen, which can make driving slower, and can take its toll on your fuel tank. Before you set off on any journey, particularly if it is a long one, make sure your fuel tank is full, and always try and keep it above the halfway point. No one wants to be stuck at the side of the road in the freezing cold because they have run out of fuel.
9. Check your battery
Just like any battery, overtime they will need replacing and it is estimated that car batteries will last no longer than 5 years, and is one of the most common reasons for people requiring breakdown assistance in the winter. This is because you are using your heaters, lights and other electrical components more in the winter months which will put a strain on the battery. You can help this, by not using these features any more than you have to, for example, switching off your heater when the windscreen has cleared, and driving your car regularly. If your car has a regular charge running through it, it is far less likely to fail.
10. Keep your de-icer at hand
Many people make the mistake of keeping their de-icer in the car, which is all well and good until you get a particularly cold day, and your lock has frozen up, and you cannot get to your de-icer. If you can, get two bottles. One to keep in your car, and one to keep in your house so you can grab it on your way to the car. Remember, however tempting it is, do not pour boiling water straight from the kettle onto your windscreen, as you risk cracking it.