As soon as the clocks went back and the nights started to get longer, the temperature also started to drop which means that the big winter coat came out of the cupboard with the essential hat, scarf and gloves. You wouldn't dress the same in winter as you do in summer, and the same thought process should be applied to your car. Obviously we don't mean that you dress your car up, but it needs to be prepared for icy cold mornings and slippery road surfaces rather than scorching summer days and roads in perfect condition.
To help you out, we have provided a comprehensive winter check list for your car so that you can be confident it is capable of dealing with whatever inclement weather is thrown at it this winter.
It is important to keep your car in a good condition throughout the year, but of all the seasons, winter is the one that requires the most care and maintenance to ensure that you and your family stay safe on the roads. Essentially, a winter car check isn't too dissimilar to normal maintenance procedures you perform; however, there are a few things you should pay particular attention to:
Batteries are the most common cause of winter breakdowns with cold and damp weather being a deadly battery killer. One that is more than five years old may struggle in this weather and if it is showing signs of struggling to start your car, it is more than likely that it is on its way out. You should get it checked, which you can do yourself if you have the correct equipment, but it is easier to ask a specialist.
If your battery does need replacing you should do it as a matter of urgency to reduce the risk of any battery-related breakdowns. It is always handy to keep a set of jump leads in the boot of your car, just in case your battery needs a jolt to get started so that you can drive your car to the nearest garage.
As its name suggest, antifreeze is a fluid that stops the water in your engine's cooling system from freezing. You should regularly check your coolant level when you check the oil level of your car. If necessary, top up your coolant with a mixture of water and the correct type of antifreeze to ensure cold temperature protection for your engine.
Similar to antifreeze, you should ensure that your car is always topped up to screen wash, especially in winter when you are more likely to be using your windscreen wipers. Without screen wash to clean the windscreen, there is a high risk of your wipers smearing grime across the windscreen decreasing your visibility of the road and other drivers. Screen wash has a lower freezing temperature than water alone so you shouldn't end up with frozen washer jets.
With longer nights it is important that all of your exterior lights are in working order, not least because it is a legal requirement. The easiest way to stay safe on the road is to be a visible as possible. You should ensure that your headlights, brake lights, tail lights, indicators and reverse lights are all in working order.
Checking and cleaning them regularly will keep you visible on the road. It is also important to check that your fog lights are working with fog more likely to occur during the winter months. It is advisable to carry spare bulbs in case of a failure while you are on the road.
Special winter tyres have been developed for people frequently driving in wintery conditions. They offer exceptional grip on the road when the temperature drops below seven degrees and in snow and ice.
However, winter tyres are not cheap, and if you don't want to take the plunge of investing in them you should at least make sure that your regular tyres have 3mm of tread for winter motoring; even though the legal limit is 1.6mm, having more can dramatically improve your steering and braking. You should also check your tyre pressures regularly to make sure they are offering optimum performance levels.
You should always be prepared for a breakdown with a Car Survival Kit that includes food and water supplies, a first aid kit and phone charger / spare mobile phone among other things.
As well as the items that you should be carrying on every journey regardless of the weather, throughout winter you should also keep essentials such as a blanket or sleeping bag, warm clothing (including coat, hat and scarf) a torch with spare batteries, extra antifreeze, a set of jump leads and a car scraper in the boot. Hopefully you won't need it if your car is regularly checked and prepared for winter, but you will be glad it's there if you do need it.