Insurance & You

Monday, 04 January 2016

Essential tips for ensuring your car is Winter ready

Breaking down, experiencing serious delays or not being able to start your car are never welcome occurrences, especially not in Winter months. To minimise the likelihood of your car proving troublesome to start, or breaking down during a journey at this time of year, it’s essential to prepare it for the Winter.

Cars driving in the snow


Batteries - These are responsible for so many car problems in cold weather, when a car’s systems are placed under greater strain, with lights, air conditioning and other functions used more frequently. If your battery is around five years old, or is generally exhibiting problematic signs, it’s sensible to replace it.


Tyre tread - By law, tyres need to have at least 1.6mm of tread across the majority of the width. But in the Winter, when road conditions can prove treacherous, it’s recommended to replace tyres when tread falls below 3mm. If your budget allows, Winter tyres can prove a sound investment but aren’t essential. If you live in a remote area, snow chains or snow socks are a great way of improving grip.


Tyre inflation - It’s also important to make sure your tyres are inflated to the correct pressures as Winter approaches. Many modern cars are fitted with a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS), but otherwise, a visual inspection will normally indicate if pressures are low; or you may be able to feel a change when driving the car. If you don’t have a portable inflation device, most fuel stations have a tyre inflation machine available.


Wiper blades - They should be monitored and replaced when they start to leave smears across the windscreen or rear window on a regular basis. They’ll also need to be replaced if they become loose or less effective, as it’s vital to be able to see clearly, especially in rain, hail and snow. The windscreen itself should also be kept clean inside and out, using a cloth and suitable cleaning spray.


Anti-freeze and coolant - Levels should be checked manually in the run-up to Winter, particularly if your car doesn’t provide some kind of warning. Your car’s instruction manual should provide advice on topping the levels up at home; otherwise seek the advice of your garage or local fast-fit centre.


Screenwash - This can normally be checked and topped up easily, helping keep your windscreen clean and clear as a result. If your washer pump freezes and the fuse subsequently blows, it could result in your windscreen wipers no longer functioning. Consult your car’s handbook and cross-check that the screenwash you’re buying is suitable, especially for sub-zero temperatures.


Lights - They are of increased importance in the typically darker Winter months. If a bulb has blown, get it replaced without delay, and ensure your lights are kept clean and free of damage; ensuring you can see and be seen on the road.


Door locks - Spraying a small amount of WD40 on locks and around handles can help reduce the risk of them freezing up in cold weather.


Servicing - Highly recommended as Winter beckons, the garage will ensure your car’s filters, engine, battery, wipers, alternator, gearbox and other components are in good condition and working well. Many garages offer free Winter health checks, which are often worth the reassurance they can provide.


Mindset - As well as ensuring your car is prepared for the Winter, you need to prepare yourself for the Winter, too. So keep in mind that a smoother driving style is required, and journeys may take considerably longer than usual.


Useful items - Before setting off on a journey, it’s very sensible to kit your car out with Winter-busting paraphernalia, from a shovel, rug, hot flask, warning triangle and torch, to jump leads, a spare bottle of screenwash, bulbs, warm clothing, sturdier footwear, de-icer spray and an ice scraper. It’s better to be prepared than sorry.


Thanks to these useful tips, once implemented, you and your car will be Winter ready and prepared for whatever the harsher months have to throw at you.

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