With the cold and wet weather well and truly kicking in, it’s a good idea to give your car a winter service to make sure it’s ready for the road.
Here’s some handy tips to help you stay safe.
Check the tyres
It’s imperative that your car tyres are in good condition at all times – but particularly if you’re driving on wet or icy roads. The law requires that they have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm in a continuous band around the central three quarters of the tyre, though to be extra safe, you can actually buy tyres specifically for winter. These are designed to deal with the cold, wet, icy and snowy weather better, as they’re made from a different mixture of material and a different design to standard tyres, giving them better grip. These tyres are fine for use in the summer too, so you wouldn’t have to fork out to replace them when the warm weather arrives. If you do decide to swap to winter tyres it’s a good idea to let your car insurance company know.
Your engine coolant should be a 50/50 mix of anti-freeze and water, and it’s a good idea to check the levels and top it up before you embark on a long journey so that the engine doesn’t over-heat.
You should also check your screen-wash levels and make sure it’s topped up with good quality screen-wash, which will help prevent it freezing in cold weather. It’s important to check your oil and water levels too.
Check the battery
According to the AA, a faulty battery is the most common cause of a winter breakdown. Batteries are over-worked in winter, not just from starting your car in the cold but also when you’ve got your heating pumping, your lights on and your heated windows defrosting the ice, so you really need to make sure yours is in a good condition. Your local garage will be able to use a voltmeter to check it’s up to scratch.
Give your lights a clean and make sure the bulbs are all in working order, including your fog and full beam lights. It’s also a good idea to give your mirrors and windows a wipe down – inside and out – to help prevent any glare from the sun or other car lights. Whilst you’re at it, give your windscreen wipers a wash, and check them for any damage. They’ll need replacing if you can feel any tears.
Snow and ice
If your car is covered in snow and ice when you set off, be sure to clean the front and rear screen and side windows properly before you depart. You really don’t want to be driving along without good visibility, or pull out at a junction without being able to check what’s coming. But avoid leaving your car running and unattended to defrost outside your house – an opportunistic thief could see that as a great opportunity!
Have a winter breakdown kit at the ready
In case your car breaks down, or even if you get stuck in a long traffic jam on the roads this winter, it’s a really good idea to keep a kit of essentials in your car in case you ever need it. Store a blanket, or extra coats in your boot, carry a shovel, de-icer, a scraper and a high-vis vest with you. It’s also handy to keep some bottles of water and some snacks in case you’re ever stuck for a long period.
Other things to consider
Before you set off on a journey, it’s always a good idea to check your route on the internet to see what the traffic is like on a website such as Google Maps and to find out if there are any delays.
It is important to drive carefully at all times of course, but when it’s wet, dark or icy (or all three) it makes sense to take additional care. Leave extra distance between you and the car in front and drive slower than usual. It really is better to take a bit longer on your journey, but arrive safely.