Keeping your car roadworthy in winter

Monday, 09 January 2017

Although younger family members may greet winter months gleefully, most people of working age and those in retirement can’t help but think of the impact the weather can have on their routines at this time of year, especially if they need a car to get around. As with anything, good preparation is of the essence when it comes to keeping a car roadworthy throughout the winter months, with cold temperatures possible right up to March and sometimes even later. What steps can be taken?

Winter Tips

Our infographic gives you easier access to our winter tips. Click on it to investigate!


Batteries1 are vital as cars have no chance of getting anywhere if they won’t start in the first place. It can vary by make and model but is generally recommended to change a car’s battery every 3 years if possible or 5 years at the most and definitely if it’s causing problems when winter is setting in.

Lights help drivers see and also help their cars to be seen by others, which are both essential in winter months. With the clocks going back, it gets darker earlier in the evening and fog and other adverse weather can reduce visibility for road users. Some car parts stores can fit bulbs for customers, which is a welcome service for some trickier models or for older drivers. The headlights and rear lights must be clean, the fog lights must work correctly and a car’s interior lights need to function properly too.

Tyres legally need at the very least to have 1.6mm of tread across the central three-quarters2, but tyres should really be replaced well before this, particularly when heading into the winter. This is because stopping distances increase when ice, snow and even rain make roads more hazardous. Tread depth can be checked with a 20p coin, ensuring that the outer band of the coin is obscured when inserted into a groove. The spare wheel should be checked for roadworthiness as well and anyone who lives in notoriously wintry areas can invest in some snow chains/socks or winter tyres.

Brakes are of utmost importance at this time of year, not just because of the aforementioned increased stopping distances but also because pedestrians, cyclists, pets, fallen tree branches, blown-over wheelie bins and a host of other obstacles can be encountered. If a car’s brakes squeal, make other noises or generate any unusual feelings or sensations, it’s best to get them checked by a garage. When setting off in a car that’s been standing unused in cold weather for several days, set off gently in case the discs, callipers or handbrake have frozen up.

Cleaning a car regularly is advisable throughout the year but is particularly sensible in winter3 when maintaining clean windows, mirrors and lights is important to ensure visibility. Freezing temperatures and road salt or grit can play havoc with a car’s bodywork, especially if any previous damage has been sustained or rust has started to form. It’s recommended to wash and wax the paintwork thoroughly in the autumn and also to wash and seal the underneath to reduce the chance of brake and fuel line corrosion4.

Windscreen wipers are invaluable in winter months when rain, sleet and snow are more common. If blades are starting to fray, leave greasy smears across the windscreen or make suspicious noises, it’s time to replace them. To prolong the life of wiper blades and to prevent windscreens themselves becoming scratched, which can cause issues in low winter sun glare, it’s a good tip to periodically wipe the blades with a clean cloth at various times throughout the year.

Fluids should also be checked in the run-up to winter, ensuring that the correct levels of engine oil, brake fluid and coolant are maintained, along with screenwash, which is called upon regularly at this time of year.

Keeping a car roadworthy is of course a legal obligation. Cars in the UK require an annual MoT test when they reach 3 years of age5 but it’s possible for a vehicle to be rendered unroadworthy at a younger age or between MoT tests. Whether a motorist is a young driver or enjoying retirement, they are responsible for addressing any areas of concern before they’re allowed to escalate. Roadworthy cars mean safer, smoother journeys, with more time to focus on the family occasions this time of year affords.






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