Keeping your vehicle well maintained all year round is a necessary part of car ownership, but it is especially important in the winter months as poor conditions can exacerbate existing problems. It’s best to ensure your car is fully prepared for winter driving before you set off – we’ve provided some checks you can carry out to make sure you’re ready to tackle the bad weather. Carry out all checks when your vehicle is cold and parked on a level surface.
- The basics – Check that all your lights are working and that your oil level is adequate. Make sure you have more than enough fuel for the journey too – heaters and sitting in traffic will use up fuel faster so you’ll need to have enough to get you to your destination should there be hold ups.
- Coolant levels – Check that the engine coolant is between the minimum and maximum markers and that the concentration of anti-freeze is sufficient. If you’re uncertain it’s best to get your local garage to check. Anti-freeze is inexpensive and prevents the engine from freezing, which can cause costly damage.
- Screenwash levels – Carry out a similar check on your screenwash. Top up the amount and make sure the strength is enough for cold conditions. The bottle should tell you what temperature the product protects down to: -10oC is preferable for most regions of the UK. If you are travelling abroad where it may be colder or live in an area subject to greater extremes of temperature it’s worth opting for a screenwash that protects in temperatures as low as -20oC.
- Tyres – Ensuring your tyres are fit for purpose is important all year round, but never more so than in winter. If you have winter tyres, fit them when the temperature reaches 7oC or lower consistently. If you don’t, check the condition of your tyres regularly. Look for bulges or splits and check that the tread depth is high enough to provide good grip on slippy roads. Tread depth should be no less than 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tyre, but many specialists recommend replacing tyres once the tread reaches 3mm, especially in winter.
You will also need to check tyre pressure. Cold weather typically makes tyre pressure drop, so you may need to inflate tyres to the manufacturer’s recommendations for the winter season. If you inflate inside a warm garage, add 0.2 bar (3psi) to the recommended pressure to account for the drop when the vehicle is outside.
- Windscreen wipers – Wiper blades need to be checked for damage regularly. In cold weather, wipers can get frozen to the windscreen glass and it’s easy to damage them when freeing them up. Wipe off any dirt and check for tears.