Most of us are already preparing for harsher weather as we move into the colder months of the year. Winter brings its own challenges for motorists, both on and off the road. Lower temperatures and wet conditions can take their toll, with electrical faults and mechanical issues rearing their heads.
You can’t prevent every problem, of course, but you can take steps to reduce some of the risks. It’s a good idea to look after your vehicle anyway, but the last thing you want is a lengthy wait by the roadside until your breakdown service arrives – or the repair bill that comes afterwards.
You could take your car to a garage for a pre-winter check and service, but if you prefer to do it yourself, we’ve got you covered.
1. Change your oil
Generally, cars need a thinner oil in winter. Colder temperatures make oil thicker and more viscous, putting more strain on your engine when it first starts. Check your owner’s manual to see what the manufacturer recommends. It’s a good idea to replace the oil filter at the same time.
2. Test the battery
Engines need more power to start in colder weather, and batteries tend to drain quicker. You can buy a gadget to test it yourself or take it into a garage. For a simple home check, turn on your headlights and then start the engine. If the lights get brighter, it could be a sign your unit is failing. Make sure the cables are in good repair, too, and ask a mechanic to check the battery fluid.
3. Give it a once-over
Scratches on your paintwork or wheel rims are an opportunity for corrosion to set in, especially during winter. Examine your car from front to back and top to bottom, and rectify any damage. As well as being protected, your vehicle will look better, too.
4. Heat it up
You’ll rely on the heater and the demister/defroster for both comfort and safety, so make sure they work before you need them. It’s also worth checking for air leaks around your window and door seals; these can let in extra moisture and make it appear as though there’s a malfunction.
5. Check the tires
It’s vital your tires are in good condition and correctly inflated, especially when you’re driving in difficult conditions. Make sure they have enough tread and check the pressure regularly.
If you live in an area which gets its fair share of snow and ice, you might want to consider buying snow chains. Keep them in your car and learn how to fit them properly before there’s a chance you’ll need them.
6. Can you see clearly?
People often forget how much punishment windscreen wiper blades take. Heat causes them to deteriorate, as does constantly clearing away dirt and grime. You’ll need to use them frequently in winter, so it’s a good idea to replace them regularly. Use an anti-freeze screen wash solution in the reservoir, rather than a regular one.
7. What’s your ratio?
You’ll need a higher ratio of antifreeze (coolant) to water in your car radiator over winter. Typically, this will be 60:40, but check your owner’s manual or ask your mechanic if you’re unsure. It won’t happen immediately, but driving without the correct level of antifreeze can cause your car engine to overheat and cause extensive damage.
8. Extras to consider
While not essential, there are a couple of additional considerations that will make winter motoring safer and easier.
- Invest in good floor mats. They help protect carpeting from mud, rock salt and slush. If yours are looking worn, consider replacing them.
- Keep an eye on your fuel. It’s never a good idea to let the gas tank get to empty, but in winter it’s more likely condensation will form inside and drip to the bottom. It can then move into the fuel lines and freeze. Try and keep your tank at least a quarter full.
- Invest in de-icer. Car doors sometimes freeze shut in the winter; keep some de-icer handy so you can get it open quickly.
9. Prepare for the worst
An accident or breakdown can happen even to the most careful driver, so make sure you’re ready. Put together an emergency kit to keep in your car that includes first aid supplies, warm clothing, a blanket or two, sturdy boots or shoes, gloves, a torch and spare batteries, and a shovel. You should also carry a couple of bottles of water and some snacks in case you get stranded somewhere remote.
You might also like to read: