If the papers and forecasters are to be believed, temperatures are about to drop from what has been a relatively mild start to winter.
As the weather gets colder, it’s important to ensure that your car is ready for the winter weather if you’re to avoid the frustrations of not being able to start your car, breaking down or even accidents in icy conditions.
We take you through a list of things you can do to make winter easier on you and your car.
Get your antifreeze strength checked
Antifreeze is crucial to the smooth running of your car engine, especially in the winter. Cold temperatures can cause the water in your engine to freeze, which will seize your engine. Antifreeze prevents the water from freezing but over time it can lose its strength, especially if it hasn’t been changed in over a year or in 20,000 miles.
If you’re feeling confident, you can buy a kit that tests the strength of your antifreeze. The decision to change your antifreeze can be affected by things like how often you use your air conditioning, the temperatures you live in, how much water you’ve put into the engine and the quality of the liquid already in the system.
If you’re not feeling confident and want to be sure it’s done right, there are many local garages that will test your antifreeze and do a top-up as part of an overall winter health check on your car.
Check your battery and charge rate
Remember that sinking feeling (usually when you’re running late) when you go to start your car and it dies on you, or worse, nothing happens?
Chances are your battery doesn’t contain enough power and in the cold weather it needs every bit of oomph it can get to start reliably.
If you’re the type of person who likes to get under the bonnet of a car, you can use a voltmeter to check the strength of your car battery.
However, chances are you prefer to leave these things to the professionals so again, as part of a winter health check, your local garage can check whether your battery is fully charged and how well it is holding its charge and then advise on a replacement where necessary.
Check your tyre condition and pressure
Looking after your tyres is all about yours and others’ safety and so they’re not something to be overlooked when you could find yourself contending with icy or snowy conditions.
Don’t assume that because your tyre pressures were correct during the summer, that they are still correct since cold weather causes your tyre pressure to drop significantly. This can reduce your car’s fuel consumption and increase tyre wear as well as resulting in poor or dangerous handling.
Another thing to check is the depth of your tyre tread. The legal limit for minimum depth of the tread on your tyres is 1.6 millimetres.
Correct tyre tread ensures that your tyres can do their job correctly, helping to remove water between your tyres and the road surface so that your car can brake, steer and accelerate properly.
Not only is this important for your safety but if you get caught by the police with illegal tyres, you risk a fine of up to £2,500 and three penalty points for each illegal tyre. Fail to comply and you could find yourself without a licence!
Check your lights
During the winter months you’ll be spending more time driving in the dark, making you and those around you more reliant on well maintained and working lights.
What’s more, it’s a legal offence if obligatory lights are not working. These include your side and tail lights, headlamps (main and dipped beams), direction indicators, stop lights and a rear number-plate light.
If you have them fitted, you should also check your reversing lights, fog lights (front and rear), long-range driving lights and hazard warning lights.
Have a thorough check over and replace any dead bulbs or arrange repair of any faulty or broken lights. Also make sure you keep your lights clean of the extra dirt, sludge and salt that gets kicked up off the road in winter.
Check your windscreen
If you’ve been ignoring that small chip on your windscreen all summer, now’s the time to get it sorted.
According to a study done by the Motor Industry Research Association, once the temperature drops below freezing, cracks and chips are 60% more likely to spread. This is because windshields get more concave when it’s cold and even a little bit of added curvature will make cracks and chips spread in a horizontal pattern.
Remember that a chip will cost a lot less to repair than an entire windscreen so get it sorted before it gets worse!
Top up your screen wash
There’s nothing worse than driving down the motorway and running out of screen wash on the way. Not only is it annoying but it’s also dangerous.
You’ll be using your screen wash much more throughout the winter so make sure you’re topped up with a mix that won’t freeze when temperatures drop.
Check your wipers
Are your windscreen wipers streaking, squeaking or moving irregularly? They probably need replacing.
Worn wipers can damage your windscreen and damage in the line of vision of the driver can lead to an MOT failure.
Wiper blades are quick and easy to replace so there’s no excuse!
Cold-temperature lubricate your locks and hinges
If things are going to seize up, it’ll be during cold, icy weather – it’s true of humans and it’s true of cars!
If your car is older, it may benefit from having cold-temperature lubricants put into all of the locks and hinges.
You can do this yourself but most garages do this as part of their winter health check, and will use the correct types and grade of lubricant.
Get a professional Winter Health Check done
If all of this just sounds like a lot of hassle, why not get a professional Winter Health Check done at your local garage?
Everything we’ve covered is usually covered in this service, they’re not very expensive (anywhere between free and £20 for the check, with repairs and replacements in addition) and at least you know it has been done correctly by someone who knows what they’re doing.
Good luck and stay safe this winter!