With wintery weather around the corner, following these nine safety tips has never been more important.
As the nights are drawing in and we wake to find frost on our windscreens, it’s becoming glaringly obvious winter is on its way again. Whether you’re a lover of the cold season or you’re clinging on to the summer, it’s vital you’re prepared for whatever the winter weather has to throw at you, and nowhere more so than with your car.
From the low winter sun and icy roads to scraping your windscreen before work, winter certainly throws more challenging driving conditions at us than any other season. But, if you stick with us and follow these nine top tips for getting your car ready, then it should be plain sailing (or should that be driving?!).
1. Breakdown cover
While this is probably a good idea year-round, with the more dangerous driving conditions ahead there’s no better time than now to bite the bullet and set up some breakdown cover.
Having breakdown cover will give you peace of mind when setting off in less than ideal conditions, as you’ll have someone to call should you get stuck. Without it, you’ll have to contact a local garage and could well be on a long waiting list, leaving you on the hard shoulder really feeling the chill.
The cost of comprehensive breakdown cover can be as little as £30 a year compared to potential call out fees - which could be more than double this, and that’s not even accounting for repair costs.
2. Pack a winter kit
It’s a good idea to put together a box of things that’ll really save the day should you encounter difficulty in wintery weather.
We’ve all chanced it and nipped out to the shop or a friend’s house without a coat in near-freezing conditions, relying on our car heaters to keep us warm. But, should you break down on the roads, the safest place to be is out of your car and away from the road.
So, pop the following things in a box and shove it in your boot:
- Warm blankets
- Warning triangle
- Food and drink
- First aid kit
- Phone charger
- Warm footwear.
Hopefully you won’t need them, but they might end up saving your bacon!
3. Have your car serviced
If, like a lot of people, you skip your car servicing here and there, it might be a good idea to have it done before the winter to give you added confidence your car’s in the best running order it can be.
While you’re there, why not ask your mechanic to replace the anti-freeze in your radiator too, adding to your protection against the elements.
4. Wiper blades and screen wash
The low winter sun is one thing to contend with when it comes to winter driving, but visibility can be tarnished by a number of other seasonal factors too.
Take the grit on the roads for example. It sprays back onto your windscreen and means you need to clean it much more frequently than over the warmer months. The morning freeze is another element that means extra attention is needed when it comes to clearing your windscreen as well.
So, check and clean your wiper blades regularly, and if you’re not confident you know what you’re doing most garages will check them for you for free. Also, make sure your screen wash levels are topped up before every journey. And last but not least, don’t forget to always have a pair of sunglasses to hand in the car!
You don’t necessarily need to kit your car out with pricey snow tyres (although feel free to do so if you want!), but it’s important you check your tyres are up to the gruelling weather ahead. Look at the tread, and make sure it’s deep enough to grip the road in icy conditions.
Make sure you keep on top of your tyre pressure too, as this can change with dips in air temperature.
Cold and damp weather can put a strain on your car’s battery as it makes it harder for the engine to turn over, which can in turn impact the battery’s power. On top of this, your probably rely on your battery more heavily over the winter by regularly using your heater and electrical devices.
Most car batteries have between two and four years of reliable life, so if you think yours could be nearing the end of its life, think about replacing it in the run up to winter.
If your battery’s fairly new but you want an added layer of protection, then consider keeping jump leads in your boot.
Anti-freeze is designed to protect your engine in cold conditions, so it’s a good idea to check it’s topped up before the temperature drops.
If you’re confident looking under your bonnet, then top up the reservoir (no higher than the max level) yourself. If not, ask your local garage to help with checking and refilling.
The combination of shorter days and worse conditions means you use your lights more over the winter months. So, checking and cleaning your lights regularly will make driving over the winter safer, ensuring you’re visible to other road users whatever the weather.
In addition, you might want to consider carrying spare bulbs as an extra precaution - but be sure you know how to change them beforehand. Dark, cold and wet conditions certainly aren’t the ideal place to learn.
9. Winter car checks
If all the above information sounds great but you just haven’t got the time to see it through properly, or you’re simply not confident you know what you’re doing, then ask an expert for help.
Many garages or high street spare shops will do this for a fee, and some even offer free promotional winter car checks alongside servicing or MOTs.
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By Bryony Pearce