As we hurtle along into the cold winter months, it is essential that we make sure our cars are ready. Good winter car maintenance will not only help to keep you (and other road users) safe, but will also help to avoid unnecessary extra costs from winter damage.
We recommend that you carry out the following checks and action points as soon as possible to make sure that you are ready, preparation for the cold snap is the key…not waiting for it to get here!
Winter Driving Essentials Checklist:
Check your Antifreeze:
- How: Make sure that the level is full and that you keep on check regularly. In winter it is recommended that you use a 50/50 mix with water.
- Why: Antifreeze lowers the freezing point of of the water in your engine’s cooling system. This should stop it freezing in the cold winter weather. If you don’t add it, you could find yourself with a frozen pump or radiator. Both of which can be costly to repair if the freezing causes damage.
- Top Tip: Many cars manufactured after 1998 require silicate free antifreeze that uses Organic Acid (OAT) Technology.
Check your Tyres:
- How: Make sure that your tyres all have a 3mm minimum tread for winter months. Whilst this is above the legal requirement, in icy conditions you will need the extra grip! You also need to check that your tyres have the required air pressure, as determined by the manufacture of your vehicle. Check this every fortnight.
- Why: It is so important that your tyres have suitable tread and air pressure, it improves grip and helps you stick to the road which is even more difficult in the wet, icy and snowy weather of the winter months.
- Top Tip: Consider changing to winter tyres which have a higher silica content. This prevents hardening at lower temperatures and gives better grip in cold weather conditions. If you live in an area that is likely to get heavy snow, which is unlikely to be cleared, then you should consider getting snow chains for your tyres.
Check your Battery:
- How: If you’re confident with car mechanics you can check your battery yourself, if not, then you are best taking your car to a mechanic for a quick battery check. As a rule of thumb, a car battery lasts for about 5 years, so if you know your battery is nearing the end of its life, replace it now before the cold weather kicks in.
- Why: You don’t need us to tell you how frustrating it can be when a car battery dies, throw in the harsh elements of winter and you could find yourself having a long, cold wait for roadside assistance…
- Top Top: Avoid running electrics any longer than usual (for example, turn the heater fan down once the car has warmed up and the screen is clear). Also, make sure that all non-essential electrics (lights, for example) are turned off when turning over the engine – make sure that all power is being used to get the engine going!
Look After your Windscreen:
- How: Clean the glass regularly and keep your windscreen fluid topped up. You should also add a suitable solution to your windscreen fluid to prevent it freezing (NOT antifreeze!!).
- Why: A clean screen will improve your visibility – aside from the obvious, the dazzling effect of the winter sun and, at night, the street lamps and cars, can be made even worse by grime on your windscreen.
- Top Tip: Air conditioning can clear a steamed up windscreen quicker than the heater fan.
Look After your Wipers:
- How: Replace old and/or damaged wipers
- Why: Old and/or damaged wipers not only struggle to clear the screen (which is especially important considering the wet and snowy weather that the winter months bring), but they are also more likely to suffer further damage in the cold conditions.
- Top Tip: Make sure that your wiper blades are in the down position when you park your car. If you stop the engine with them half way up the screen, they could freeze to the screen, which could damage the blade or wiper motor when trying to get them going again.
Look After your Locks & Doors:
- How: Apply a thin coat of Vaseline to rubber door seals, and spray some WD40 into your locks
- Why: The Vaseline will help to prevent your doors freezing shut and the WD40 will do the same for your locks.
- Top Tip: If you can, invest in a car cover. Not only will it help prevent your doors & locks freezing, but you shouldn’t need to scrape the windscreen every morning too!
Check your Lights:
- How: Regularly check that all your lights are working, and replace any bulbs that aren’t. Also, give your lights a regular clean.
- Why: To make sure that you can see, and can be seen, clearly.
- Top Tip: Whilst you are cleaning your lights, give your number plate a clean too – in winter conditions a number plate can quickly become obscured by dirt, which could result in a fine coming your way.
If you follow all of these checks now, then you should be ready to go once the cold weather conditions kick in.
Is there anything you think we should add to this list? Or do you have any other top tips? If so, share them with us in the comments below!