Cold weather can present some of the toughest conditions both for driving itself and, your vehicle. If your vehicle is already carrying potential faults then winter will expose these faults to the full. Damp, salt, grit can all add to long term problems for your vehicle.
The good news is it is possible to easily avoid a winter fall-out with some simple checks and maintenance. Of course, there are garages aplenty that can carry out the checks for you. If you’re due a service in wintertime then don’t skip it! If you don’t want to venture to a garage, it’s both quick and easy to do these checks from the comfort of your home.
All vehicles need attention and commitment. Here’s our recommended top 5 checklist to keep your car in tip-top shape and safe for winter.
1. Antifreeze. As suggested in the name, antifreeze stops the water freezing in the engine’s cooling system. To check how effective your antifreeze is you’ll need a tester that retails at between £5 – £10. Draper 35807 Antifreeze Tester came out highest in a number of tests. When the engine is cold, take off the coolant reservoir cap (usually next to the radiator). Pop the tube into the coolant and squeeze the bulb to collect some antifreeze. Inside the tester you’ll find a scale that will tell you the freezing point. Once you’ve established where it is on the scale, pop it back in the system and replace the cap.
2. Battery. If you’re making short and/or irregular journeys or your battery isn’t in the best condition, winter could finish it off. Is your car taking longer to start? You may need to replace the battery. In this case, although it is possible to check your battery at home with the correct equipment, it would be advisable to take it to a garage. If it needs replacing the garage will do so quickly and under the vehicle’s own power, without the need for jump-starting.
3. Tyres. In winter, tyre tread is crucial as the vehicle will need maximum grip. Your tyres are the only part of the vehicle in contact with the road so don’t neglect them. Ignoring the tread could lead to increased stopping distances. Legally treads should be 1.6mm but garages would recommend any tyres with tread under 3mm should be replaced as tread diminishes over time. This is a check you can do at home without the need to buy any equipment. Simply find a 20p coin, and insert it into the tyre’s tread. The outer rim of a 20p coin is 1.6mm thick so if, once you’ve inserted it, you can see any of the coin, your tyres need replacing.
4. Screenwash. Are you smudging dirt across your windscreens everytime you use your wipers? This is a simple fix and a situation that you want to avoid. Winter driving can often be in damp, wet conditions or in the dark, and clear vision is crucial. Simply open the windscreen washer cap under the bonnet and fill it up with screenwash.
5. Lights. Darker days in the winter brings with it a heavier reliance on lights. Check they’re all clean so they’re as bright as can be, give them a quick wipe especially if you have been out in the rain or muddy roads. Second and most importantly, every single light needs to work. Turn on your headlights and test them in their sidelight, dipped, and main beam positions. If your vehicle has fog lights, test them too. Enlist a friend to help with the rear lights. You want to tick off your red tail-lights, brake lights, rear fog lights, and reversing lights. Lastly, turn the indicators on and check you can see them both front and back.
If you are the proud owner of a classic car then follow our tips on how to maintain it. Classic cars will need an extra dose of commitment in the winter months. If you’re short on time or worried that you can’t carry out the checks as you should, then don’t panic. You can ask an expert to run a check for you. Winter checks at main dealers and garages are cheap and quick to carry out.