Let’s face it, while there’s never a good time for our cars to break down or need repairs, it always seems worse when it happens in winter. Cold, wet weather makes being stuck by the roadside or having to rely on public transport that much worse.
To minimize the chances of it happening, there are a few simple tasks you can do. As well as preventing some problems before they happen, they’ll help you spot other potential issues so you can get them resolved quickly.
Keep an eye on your windscreen
Inspect your windscreen, other windows and lights regularly to make sure there are no cracks. If you spot any, get the glass fixed or replaced as soon as possible. Moisture can get trapped even in small cracks and, as it freezes, it expands – making the damage worse.
Refill your screen wash reservoir
We tend to use more screen wash in winter as we’re driving on wet and dirty roads more often, or on highways that have been treated with rock salt. It’s easy to forget to check how much is left – often, we only realize the reservoir is empty when it’s too late. Driving with an obscured view is both difficult and dangerous, especially if conditions are bad.
Make a note to check reservoir levels at least once a week and top up as necessary. Choose a concentrated solution that won’t freeze in sub-zero temperatures and follow dilution instructions carefully. Not all screen wash is the same, as this guide shows.
Watch those wipers
Still on the subject of windscreens, wiper blades usually need changing every six to 12 months. If yours haven’t been replaced for a while, look them over every couple of weeks for signs of damage. If they’re not clearing the screen properly or are ‘chattering’ across the glass, these are also indications they are worn out.
Make sure your antifreeze is topped up
It’s a good idea to keep a spare bottle of it in your vehicle in winter, but don’t forget to make sure your coolant is a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze during colder weather. Most of us will top up our radiators with water without thinking, diluting the ratio. If it freezes during icy weather, your engine could overheat – leaving you with a large bill.
Take care of your tires
Checking tire pressure frequently should be part of any motorist’s routine all year round. Over-inflated tires can cause you to lose traction on slippery surfaces. Soft tires can drag and overheat as a result of the increased friction, leading to harsher wear and tear and a greater risk of blowouts.
As well as ensuring your tires are inflated correctly, you should also check the tread. Worn tires will affect your vehicle’s braking and steering, as well as being more prone to blowouts, which could be catastrophic in icy conditions.
Check your engine oil
Keeping an eye on your engine oil is another task that should be part of regular car maintenance, but in winter you should bear the outside temperature in mind as this can affect your readings. In cold weather, warm your car up first, either by driving it a few kilometers or letting it idle on the road for a few minutes.
Protect your battery
It’s no coincidence that your vehicle’s battery gives up during the colder weather – low temperatures mean it has to work harder. If the terminals are corroded, that doesn’t help either. Disconnect them and clean thoroughly with a wire brush before reconnecting and smearing them with petroleum jelly. This will form a protective barrier and help ensure your battery keeps going through the winter.
Use window covers
While using snow covers on your car isn’t strictly maintenance, it will save you time in the mornings as you won’t need to clear your windscreen. It also means you won’t be tempted to use warm water, which could cause cracks if it’s too hot, to melt ice from the glass. You can also get covers for your side mirrors, other windows, or even your entire car.
Don’t start and go
During the cold weather, run your engine for a couple of minutes after turning on the ignition. Driving away immediately can damage your engine – it needs to warm up a little, in the same way we do before we exercise.
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