Five ways to make your car ready for winter

The cold months of winter can play havoc with your car. Here are five checks to do now so you don’t get caught in a storm

By Ernie Richardson

We all know the hazards of winter driving: ice and rain, sleet and snow, fog and floods. And as much as they can make it hard to get from A to B, most of us don’t have the choice of avoiding journeys and staying tucked up warm at home.

    ...if conditions are really treacherous thanks to snow, ice, fog or flooding, only travel if you absolutely have to.  

So it is wise to make sure your car is ready for the rigours of winter motoring. Follow our five steps and you’ll be able to confront bad weather conditions head-on, secure in the knowledge that your car is set up for the challenge of the coolest time of year.

Remember, though: if conditions are really treacherous thanks to snow, ice, fog or flooding, only travel if you absolutely have to. Pregnant wife or girlfriend at 8cm dilated? Fine, get going. A pint of milk and a Mars Bar from the Esso? Probably worth waiting until the weather clears.

1. Top up screenwash, and keep a spare bottle in the boot

We’ve all been there. Careering along the motorway on a chilly winter’s morning. Salt spray squirting around us, leaving white streaks across our windscreen and making it even harder to see the road ahead.

Then we squeeze the windscreen washers and nothing happens. Zilch. Nada. Not even a trickle. Which means we’re condemned to ever-declining visibility until we can find a petrol station or services at which to pay over the odds for some screen wash.

To avoid such a fate, keep your washer reservoir topped up every few days, and keep a bottle of pre-mixed wash in your boot. You can buy a five-litre bottle of screen wash online for less than three quid. That way, if and when you do run out, you’ll just need to find a safe place to pull over and fill up.

2. Have a winter battery check

Few winter breakdowns are more irritating than a flat battery. It can leave you stranded for hours while you await the breakdown truck. Then within a few minutes of arriving, they jump-start the engine and you’re back on your way, feeling silly for such a trivial failure.

But it needn’t be like this. Take your car to a garage or motor factor for a winter battery check. They’ll plug it in and check charging levels, cranking and charge retention.

If it seems weak, you can buy a replacement, thereby obviating the risk of a flat battery and ensuring you won’t spend a chilly winter’s evening stranded in a car park.

3. Check your tyres

It is well worth checking your tyre tread depth before the winter weather sets in. The legal minimum depth is 1.6mm, but experts like the RAC suggest 3mm is a healthy lower limit. Stopping distances increase dramatically below this depth, especially on wet or icy roads.

You can check your tyres yourself, using a ruler or depth gauge (prices from around £2 online). The depth needs to be consistent across the middle three-quarters of the tyre. If there’s uneven wear, it could point to a tracking fault, impairing handling and putting you at greater risk of an accident.

If in doubt, head to your local tyre specialist and get them to check for you. Better to be safe than sorry, especially at this time of year.

    Enlist the help of a friend or colleague to walk around your car with you behind the steering wheel, turning lights on and off...  

4. Check light bulbs

Car light bulbs have a twofold function: they help you see and be seen. And given that most commuters travel to and from work in the dark during winter, it’s important to make sure yours are all working.

Enlist the help of a friend or colleague to walk around your car with you behind the steering wheel, turning lights on and off so they can check everything’s illuminating as it should. Check sidelights, headlights on dipped and full beam, taillights, brake lights, fog lights (front and rear), indicators and reversing lights.

If any bulbs are blown, replace them immediately. Remember – you can get a fixed penalty notice with a fine of up to £200 for a faulty brake light.

More important than that, though, you’ll be putting yourself and other motorists at risk. Which makes a few moments of inconvenience while you check and replace any faulty bulbs well worth the effort.

5. Check fluid levels

Oil, brake fluid, coolant. All of these can have a detrimental impact on a car’s smooth running if they’re not topped up. So grab your car’s handbook and check your levels.

It’s a good opportunity to work out what’s going on beneath your motor’s bonnet, making it more likely you can remedy any faults in future. It will also ensure optimum efficiency and reliability once the winter weather sets in.

If you’re really not confident checking your car over, take it to a garage. Many perform free winter safety checks while you wait, meaning you can rely on expert advice about your car’s suitability for winter driving.

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

Published: 10 December 2019

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