Winter maintenance

Winter maintenance

As winter finally begins to bite, now is the time to make sure that both you and your car are as well prepared as possible for the colder months ahead.

Drawing of a car during winter, with snow on the top.
Drawing of a car during winter, with snow on the top.
Drawing of a car during winter, with snow on the top.

Winter car checks you can do at home

Tyres

Get in the habit of checking your tyre pressure regularly (every few weeks) in the winter. The typically variable temperatures of the colder months (cycling from relatively mild to freezing cold and back again) wreaks havoc on the rubber, causing it to shrink and expand. This process can lead to splits in the tyres or changes in pressure – which can be seriously bad news for your wheels. You can find the correct pressure for your tyre in your car manual or on the inside of the door pillars.

Wiper blades

These unsung heroes are the some of the hardest working and undervalued components of any car. But they need TLC too! Wiper blades are vulnerable to weather damage and could cause you to fail your MOT if they are overworn. Be on the lookout for cracks or other signs of wear and tear; don’t forget they will need replacing once a year.

Fluid levels

Check all the fluid levels in your car, such as oil, antifreeze (also known as coolant) and screen wash on a regular basis.

  • Checking your car oil regularly (and topping it up as required) will help keep your engine lubricated and performing at its best.

  • Antifreeze protects your engine from extremely cold temperatures, preventing engine fluids from freezing, expanding, and causing serious damage.

  • In general, you should check your screen wash or washer fluid level every two weeks, or more frequently in wintertime, when you use more of it. Be sure to use a winter screen wash with a higher alcohol concentration to stop the tank – and the windscreen – from freezing over.

Are all your lights working?

Fully functioning headlights, brake lights, fog lights, indicators and hazard lights are essential for your safety and the safety of other road users, so it’s vital to check them before any long journey. Not only is it illegal to drive without working headlights, it’s also an automatic MOT fail if you have any blown bulbs. Give them a regular clean in the winter months, too.

Fuel

Make sure you have a full tank, or that you’ve at least got more than enough for your journey – ignore the fuel light at your peril!

Winter checks for the garage to do

Early winter is a great time to book your car in for a service before the coldest temperatures set in. Here’s what the garage should focus on:

Battery

Did you know that battery failure is the biggest cause of breakdowns? If your car is more than five years old it requires regular monitoring, so no better time than now to have it professionally checked.

Worn brake pads can lead to poor stopping distances and can seriously impact your braking ability. This is bad news at any time, but never more so than in challenging wintry conditions.

Air-conditioning

This may sound odd, but it’s worth ensuring that your air con works (if you have any) in the winter. Air conditioning systems function like dehumidifiers in wintertime, efficiently demisting the windscreen. Be sure to switch it on every so often to keep it running smoothly.

Essential winter car kit: checklist

Before you head off on any journey this winter, whether you’re dashing to the shops or driving to the other end of the country for Christmas, be sure you have the following essentials in the car, just in case:

  • Ice-scraper

  • Torch

  • Warm clothes (blanket, gloves, hat)

  • Phone charger

  • Map

  • Bottled water and non-perishable snacks

  • First-aid kit

  • Jump leads

  • Warning triangle

  • Snow shovel

 


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