With the winter’s cold snap looming, driving conditions always take a turn for the worse in the colder months. Snow, sleet and ice can be a treacherous mix, so it’s essential that your vehicle is ready for whatever the season throws your way. If your car has any developing problems, then the winter weather will only serve to make things worse. And if they go unchecked, they’ll end up turning into major faults.
Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to ensure you and your car are prepared for the drop in temperature. Avoid taking the risk this winter, and optimise your vehicle’s condition with these six handy steps.
If you’re serious about forward planning, don’t wait for it to start snowing before you change your tyres. At 7°C tyres begin to lose their effectiveness and there’s a chance that the tread of your existing ones could have become a bit worn down.
We’ve already talked about checking your tyre tread to see if they’re road legal. But for extra peace of mind, you might consider changing them to winter tyres. They’re made of a softer rubber compound, which keeps them flexible at lower temperatures. Aim to swap them in November, just as the weather starts to get colder – look for the graphic of a mountain with a snowflake on these particular wheels if you’re thinking of swapping them.
Likewise, make sure whatever tyres you’re driving on aren’t overinflated, as this leaves them susceptible to slipping and sliding. The correct tyre pressure should either be in your owner’s manual or be printed on the door jamb; make sure you’re adhering to whatever pressure is mentioned.
It’s important to keep coolant/antifreeze levels topped up so it does its job. A 50-50 mix of antifreeze and water is OK for normal temperatures, but in the winter we’d recommend changing this to 70-30 in favour of antifreeze – just to be on the safe side.
Test the effectiveness of your current coolant/antifreeze with an antifreeze tester; they’re around £5 and look a little like a turkey baster. Unscrew the coolant reservoir cap under the bonnet when the engine is cooled, lower the tube into the coolant and squeeze the rubber bulb on the end. After drawing some of the liquid out, you can read the freezing point of the antifreeze using the tester’s scale. Put the antifreeze back in the car’s system and screw the cap back on. The scale will show how far below zero degrees the coolant will work.
Screen wash is another thing you’ll need to check. Since wintry roads tend to be damp, you’ll be using your windscreen wipers a lot. Low levels of screen wash mean you could end up smearing grime across the windscreen. Remember, too, that you can fail your MOT and receive a police fine if you don’t have screen wash.
Keep your levels topped up with a stronger screen wash. The lower freezing temperature of such liquids compared to water means you shouldn’t end up with frozen washer jets during the winter months. Invest in screen wash with a freeze rating down to a minimum of -10°C.
The dreaded snowstorm jump start is the last thing you want to do this winter, so make sure you’ve tested your battery before the cold kicks in. Check to see that the connections haven’t corroded around the terminals; a car battery’s lifespan is about four years, so if you’re near this number, take it in to get tested.
If the car is taking longer than usual to start, you might need a new battery. If you’re up to it and have the correct equipment you can check the condition yourself, but it may be wiser to ask a specialist at your local garage or car battery retailer. If you do plan on changing it yourself, it’s imperative that you know the right battery for your car, as there are loads of combinations. Make sure you’ve read the owner’s manual, and handle lead-acid car batteries with care, as they can be heavier than you might think.
The car’s electrics are another important thing to consider. Give things a once over, making sure that not only your car’s lights are working, but that they’re free from dirt and grime too – as the winter months can chuck up a large amount of muck and mud at them.
When checking to see if they work, be sure to operate headlights in their sidelight, dipped and main beam functions, and make sure both your front fog lights are functioning properly too if you have them. Rear lights are trickier, and you may need a friend to lend a hand. Taillights, brake lights and reversing lights should all be fully functioning to ensure optimal performance.
If any of your lights aren’t working, then you’ve probably got a faulty bulb.
Chances are, it’ll be the usual British winter of rain and lashings of it, so your windscreen wipers need to be in top condition. If they’re old or the rubber on them has perished, then you’ll run into problems with visibility. Any smearing or issues clearing your windscreen means they’ll need replacing. Luckily, it’s pretty straightforward, you just need to make sure you have the right ones. Most wiper blade packaging makes note of compatible cars, but if you’re unsure, then speak to your car’s main dealer.
There are certain things you can’t plan for, so it’s always good to have an emergency driving kit in your car just in case. Whether you buy one from a shop or put one together yourself, they can get you out of a scrape. Wiper fluid, an ice scraper and antifreeze are all invaluable if you run into snow and ice, while booster cables, traction mats and even small spades can help if your car gets stuck.
Road flares and a reflective vest are also essential, just in case you get stuck on the road. To avoid draining your vehicle’s battery, matches and a survival candle can help keep your hands warm, while even an emergency food pack with water and non-perishable items can save your bacon if you get peckish.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this article. Looking for more from Brindley Garages? Head here to check out more news from the motoring world, or whether you’re in the market for a new car, see how we can help at our homepage.