Get your car ready for winter

There is a very old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and this is especially true when it comes to looking after your car as the cold weather approaches. A few minutes’ maintenance now really could make a difference. Just follow our handy checklist to ensure you – and your car – are prepared for the worst the weather has to offer:

  1. Check your battery

Winter really puts a strain on your battery. Not only is the output reduced by the cold temperatures, but we put more demand on them as we increasingly use our lights, heater and wipers. Check now to make sure your battery can see you through winter.

  1. Check your antifreeze

This is essential for when temperatures plummet below freezing, but make sure you get the mix right; you need a 50-50 mix of antifreeze and water. This will protect your engine even if the temperature drops to -34C. What’s more, it only costs a few pounds, whereas an engine that cracks due to freezing can cost hundreds of pounds to repair.

Most modern cars use long-life antifreeze but some types of antifreeze need changing after only 2 years. Just make sure you use the right type and check your service schedule.

  1. Check your tyres

It is essential that your tyres are in a good condition at any time of the year, but perhaps more so in a winter when ice, snow and rain can make steering more challenging and you may be braking more often.

You need to check your tyres for pressure and tread depth; the AA recommends at least 3mm of tread for winter. It is not a legal requirement in the UK to fit winter tyres during the cold season, but if you are thinking about them, you might find this article from the AA useful.

  1. Check your lights

Your lights are so important in winter when visibility can be compromised. Make sure that all your lights, including full-beam headlights, fog lights and indicators, are working, clean and uncracked.

  1. Check your windows and wipers

Give all your windows – not just your windscreen – a thorough clean both inside and out. Check for chips, especially as these can easily grow in the cold weather. Make sure that you have antifreeze in your screenwash.

Your wipers also need to be working properly to keep your windows clear. Check for nicks and tears by running your finger down the wiper blades and replace if you need to.

In addition to maintenance, it also makes sense to carry essential items with you on every journey, just in case. This should include:

  • A fully charged mobile phone and power bank so that you can let your friends and relatives know if your journey is taking longer than you anticipated, or if you need help.
  • An ice scraper and gloves. If you are caught without a scraper, a bank card will do the trick but should not be treated as a substitute.
  • A can of de-icer, a torch and spare batteries.
  • First aid kit.

The AA advises that drivers also have a winter emergency kit, in the event you get stuck somewhere in poor weather. They recommend including the following:

  • Warm clothes, waterproofs and high-vis jackets
  • Sturdy footwear
  • Hot drinks and snacks
  • Shovel
  • Jump leads
  • Warning triangles

Always remember to allow extra time for winter journeys and factor in time to get your car prepared for driving – for example by de-icing windows or digging out a path through the snow. Try to drive on major roads if possible, which are more likely to be gritted.

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