Just a little preparation can greatly reduce your risk of a breakdown or having an accident during the winter, ensuring you and your family stay safe on the roads.
You’re twice as likely to have a breakdown during winter as at any other time of the year. So get your car winter-ready for harsh, cold weather and difficult driving conditions by making sure you carry out the following simple checks:
1. Get Serviced
Get your car serviced before winter hits. Going for a service can be a pain, and one we keep putting off, but getting it out of the way before the darker nights set in will help you in the long run.
Cold weather can be problematic for cars, and issues can arise that could have been easily identified and resolved with a regular service.
Plenty of garages and service centres offer a discounted “Winter Check”, so take advantage of one of these offers, especially if they include checks such as brake pads, brake discs, and brake fluid.
2. Check the Battery
Your car battery does not like the cold and damp weather. Winter temperatures reduce your battery’s output, and the increased use of lights, the heater, and blower, place it under additional strain.
Most batteries have an effective life of around 5 years, so if your car starts having problems, get the battery checked, and if necessary, replaced.
3. Make Sure You’re Covered
If you were to have a breakdown and end up stranded right now, what would you do? Do you have a plan in place if it happens in the middle of the night?
Comprehensive breakdown cover is crucial at all times, but especially during winter – get peace of mind knowing you won’t end up stranded in the freezing cold, and ensure you have the appropriate policy in place.
Don’t forget to put the contact phone number on your mobile, and keep a copy of it in a safe place (like your glove box) in case you’re stuck with a phone with a dead battery.
4. Top-up Antifreeze
Your engine coolant should be a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze. Remember to top-up your antifreeze, as it becomes diluted over time, especially as people make the mistake of topping up their water over the course of the year without topping up their antifreeze too. This can often result in the engine overheating, which causes a headache and results in significant repair costs.
5. Tyre Condition
The condition of your tyres play a key role in your ability to steer and brake effectively and safely, so it is essential that they are in good condition.
Check their pressure and tread depth – forget about whether they meet the legal minimum requirement, in winter a minimum depth of 3mm is recommended.
6. Check All Lights
Winter months tend to be wetter leading to increased dirt on your vehicle. It’s important to check all of your lights, reflectors, and indicators are clean and in good working condition, including full beam and fog lights. It’s also recommended that you carry spare bulbs. Broken lights aren’t only illegal, but can put you and other road users at risk due to decreased visibility.
7. Fuel Up
In winter, it’s smart to make sure you always have at least a quarter tank of fuel in case of unexpected delays or emergencies.
8. Wipers and Windscreens
Shorter days and bad weather significantly reduce visibility on the road, and the wetter weather usually means you’ll be using your screen wash more often to clear dirt and grime.
Ensure your windscreen washer bottle is kept topped up, and don’t forget to use screen wash – not just water – to prevent it freezing in winter.
9. Be a Bright Spark
In the winter months, it’s a good idea to give your spark plugs a good clean. With lower temperatures, it’s harder for a spark plug operating below par to start your car. Look out for a damaged plug, corroded wires, and faulty connections, and get them replaced as soon as possible if needs be.
10. Preparation is Key
Before embarking on longer journeys check the weather forecast, travel news, and safest routes. Allow extra time to avoid having to rush, and clear all windows of snow and ice before taking off.
Most importantly – slow down, stay alert, and stay in control.